Reviews for Pappyland

by Wright Thompson

Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

An amiable journey, courtesy of ESPN sportswriter Thompson, into the arcana of American whiskey. The author notes that he originally pitched this book as a biography of Julian P. Van Winkle III, a genial whiskey-whisperer whose wares are to booze as a Stradivarius is to violins. It morphed, however, into a blend of biography and meditation on any number of themes, including Southernness, or what musician Patterson Hood calls “the duality of the Southern Thing.” Though a progressive, Thompson admits to a tear in the eye when hearing “Dixie” at the Kentucky Derby. “Being Southern means carrying a responsibility to shake off the comforting blanket of myth and see ourselves clearly,” writes the author, a native of Clarksdale, Mississippi. There’s not much better a comforting blanket, if one with undeniable consequences if too frequently applied, than a good slug of bourbon. That takes Thompson deep into the history of American whiskey, stuff that blends art and science but that has few firm rules. As he notes, for instance, American whiskey can be made with whatever grain grows best in a given place; in Kentucky, that means corn. Van Winkle is as steeped in that history as anyone alive (he also knows his wine and other forms of adult beverage), and through his lens Thompson informs us about the hard work and heritage that goes into a bourbon well and truthfully made, such as the 23-year-old Pappy (about $300 per bottle) that serves as social lubricant and social glue among the cognoscenti. Thompson is well versed in the history himself, and, like Van Winkle, he is quick with a delightful and spot-on opinion—e.g., “vodka is for the skinny and scotch is for the strivers and bourbon is for the homesick.” If you’re a fan of the magic that is an artful bourbon, this is just the book for you. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Kirkus
Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

An amiable journey, courtesy of ESPN sportswriter Thompson, into the arcana of American whiskey.The author notes that he originally pitched this book as a biography of Julian P. Van Winkle III, a genial whiskey-whisperer whose wares are to booze as a Stradivarius is to violins. It morphed, however, into a blend of biography and meditation on any number of themes, including Southernness, or what musician Patterson Hood calls the duality of the Southern Thing. Though a progressive, Thompson admits to a tear in the eye when hearing Dixie at the Kentucky Derby. Being Southern means carrying a responsibility to shake off the comforting blanket of myth and see ourselves clearly, writes the author, a native of Clarksdale, Mississippi. Theres not much better a comforting blanket, if one with undeniable consequences if too frequently applied, than a good slug of bourbon. That takes Thompson deep into the history of American whiskey, stuff that blends art and science but that has few firm rules. As he notes, for instance, American whiskey can be made with whatever grain grows best in a given place; in Kentucky, that means corn. Van Winkle is as steeped in that history as anyone alive (he also knows his wine and other forms of adult beverage), and through his lens Thompson informs us about the hard work and heritage that goes into a bourbon well and truthfully made, such as the 23-year-old Pappy (about $300 per bottle) that serves as social lubricant and social glue among the cognoscenti. Thompson is well versed in the history himself, and, like Van Winkle, he is quick with a delightful and spot-on opinione.g., vodka is for the skinny and scotch is for the strivers and bourbon is for the homesick.If youre a fan of the magic that is an artful bourbon, this is just the book for you. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Sportswriter Thompson (The Cost of These Dreams) uncorks a fast-paced and colorful history of 20th-century Southern culture, told through the story of charismatic cult-bourbon maker Julius P. Van Winkle III. “He’s a man around whom others tend to revolve,” Thompson writes. The story begins at a recent Kentucky Derby, where Thompson meets Van Winkle III amid a crowd of people with “seersucker stuck to their thighs” who “hold liquor like ninth graders.” In digging into the Van Winkle family’s saga of loss and internal conflict, he recounts three generations of successes and failures: It starts with patriarch Julian Proctor “Pappy” Van Winkle introducing Old Fitzgerald, a top-shelf 100-proof bourbon in 1935 and ends with the family’s reluctant sale of its distillery in 1972, due to “an eroding business and family politics.” However, the wildly successful Pappy Van Winkle bourbon that Van Winkle III created, is “a chance to soothe the pain his father felt when he lost what Pappy had built.” But it can’t revive a fading Southern culture that was largely mythical in the first place. “Being Southern,” Thompson writes, “means carrying a responsibility to shake off the comforting blanket of myth and see ourselves clearly.” Thompson more than fulfills that burden with insight and eloquence. (Nov.)

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