I celebrated the one-year anniversary of Bourbon Justice this weekend as an author invited to the Kentucky Book Fair—everything in that statement is still a little surreal.
On the drive home from Lexington, my mind meandered through the past year since Bourbon Justice was released. It’s been a year of significant pain, but family and friends—including many friends who I only met because of a shared appreciation of bourbon—comforted me.
It has also helped to meet even more people who have supported me along the way and people who just want to talk about bourbon. The discussion usually involves current brands, new bourbons to try, and rock-star Master Distillers, but my hope is that Bourbon Justice may have had a small role in piquing a broader interest in the uniquely-American history of bourbon.
Old friends and new acquaintances are surprised that the phrase “brand name” originated with bourbon and that, in the late 1800’s, the federal government apparently cared less about protecting citizens from dangerous products and adulterated food than it cared about ensuring that whiskey was pure. People want to learn about bourbon history.
They’re visiting distilleries in record numbers too. Visitors to the Kentucky Bourbon Trail® have skyrocketed and, in the last decade, Kentucky has gone from 8 to about 70 distilleries. While the seemingly-insatiable appetite for bourbon and bourbon knowledge is striking, in the past year I’ve been perhaps even more surprised that bourbon is still at the leading edge of American commerce and law.
I had not anticipated how timely of a topic bourbon is today, both for those domestic topics and for international relations. Bourbon is playing a crucial role in the current-day trade war with counter-tariffs targeted against farmers who grow our grains and even more specifically targeted against bourbon, presumably because 95% of it is still made in Kentucky, a state that voted “red” and that is home of the Senate Majority Leader.
Best of all though, the past year has shown me that bourbon is not just a welcome diversion from current events, but it also provides much needed common ground. Despite plenty of room for disagreement, it’s unifying and gives us a sense of collective pride. That’s partly why bourbon is uniquely American, just like the complex experience of being American. We need each other, and bourbon can help bring us together.
I appreciate everyone’s support and raise a toast to our future.