The State of Bourbon: Exploring the Spirit of Kentucky
“The State of Bourbon: Exploring the Spirit of Kentucky is overall a great travel guide with Ludwick and Hess making great travel companions.”
The past decade has witnessed an explosion in the bourbon industry, with more distilleries, more exclusive varieties and labels of bourbon, and more visitors to bourbon country than seen since the early 20th century. The growth of interest in bourbon, a corn whiskey closely tied to Kentucky’s history, is worldwide. In 2017 the number of visitors to The Kentucky Bourbon Trail distilleries was over a million, a 12 percent increase over the year before. The result is an increase in interest of all things bourbon related, and an influx of people wanting to know what to do and where to go during their visits to the land of bourbon.
Bluegrass natives Cameron M. Ludwick and Blair Thomas Hess have answered visitors’ questions with their new book, The State of Bourbon: Exploring the Spirit of Kentucky, published by Indiana University Press. The first in a trilogy of books exploring Kentucky’s traditions (Famous Kentucky Flavors, and Presidents, Battles and Must-See Civil War Destinations: Exploring a Kentucky Divided, both to be released in 2019 by Indiana University Press), and the follow up to Ludwick’s History Press book, My Old Kentucky Road Trip: Historic Destinations & Natural Wonders, the book sets out to discover the culture and history of bourbon using a road trip format as your guide.
Ludwick and Hess’ style set the book apart from the growing number of travel guides for Kentucky bourbon aficionados. Written in a narrative style with a young and fresh approach, the reader gets the sense that the two are in the back seat, commenting as the trip goes along.
Additionally, each chapter ends with helpful links that allow a more in depth exploration for the curious. The tone of the guide is down to earth, addressing bourbon legends, the history of bourbon, individual distilleries, and the cast of characters distilling has brought to us over the centuries in an informal, yet informative manner. With brief chapters, plenty of side bars, and a dependable format, the book is easy to reference and a fun read.
Throughout the guide are numerous recent images by Hess’ husband as well as historical photographs. Although an inset of 16 color plates accompanies the text, the well-done black and white images sadly fade in comparison with all color bourbon country guides currently available. Nonetheless, sacrificing color for black and white photos allows for a lighter weight paper, making this book easy to carry. The volume is thin enough to truly pack along on a road trip and keep in the glove compartment “just in case” but without sacrificing information that is essential and interesting.
The State of Bourbon: Exploring the Spirit of Kentucky is overall a great travel guide with Ludwick and Hess making great travel companions. It is an essential addition to the library of anyone considering a trip to Kentucky to explore bourbon country, and a must have for any Kentuckian who will inevitably have out of town guests looking for bourbon related adventures. Cheers!