In Bourbon Curious: A Simple Tasting Guide for the Savvy Drinker, award-winning whiskey writer and Wall Street Journal-best-selling author Fred Minnick debunks bourbon myths, provides distillery production methods (such as recipes and barrel-entry proofs!) and creates an easy-to-read interactive tasting journey that helps you select bourbons based on flavor preferences and bourbon styles. Using the same tasting principles he offers in his Kentucky Derby Museum classes and as a judge at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, Minnick’s Bourbon Curious cuts to the chase, dismissing brand marketing and judging what’s inside the bottle.
The above description is typical of bourbon books and the “debunking” is usually something bland like “all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon”. However, I was pleasantly surprised reading Bourbon Curious to see Fred digging into issues that concern Bourbonr’s. Minnick comes out swinging in the first chapter “Bourbon Politics”. He talks about Michter’s history and the controversy surrounding it as well as other Non-Distiller Producer’s (NDP’s).
What I like most about the book is how he lays out his bourbon tasting into four groups: Grain-Forward, Nutmeg-Forward, Caramel-Forward and Cinnamon-Forward bourbons. I agree with his assessment that most bourbons have the one over-arching flavor note that defines it. Bourbon Curious does an excellent job of segmenting bourbons into these four categories while also giving plenty of information about each bourbon. Each review states the bourbons proof, age, mashbill, grain origin, distillation, barrel entry proof, aging, release timing/how to find and barrels per bottling. While not all of these items have an impact on taste barrel entry proof (and its affect on taste) has been an interest of mine for quite some time. To have all of this information in one place helps to hone in your taste preferences.
Biggest takeaways from the book. Minnick confirmed that Michter’s contract distilled with Brown-Forman. While most have speculated this assumption, Bourbon Curious confirmed it. Bourbon Curious should serve as the starting point for any tasting. It’s an easy read but also serves as a reference guide for the curious Bourbonr.