Recently, I was given a new assignment at work. Whether I like it or not, the occasional organizational transfer is part of my chosen profession. It’s an aspect you grow accustom to, frankly. I spent almost 6 years in my last position, however, it was time to move on to a new and different adventure. To say I enjoyed my tenure in my last assignment would certainly be an understatement. It wasn’t the position, duties, responsibilities or even the nuances of the job that kept things fulfilling, nearly everyday was a completely new experience. It was the incredible and talented people I worked with that made coming to work every day so rewarding. They made the job easy and enjoyable. These fine men and women developed and maintained a culture of professionalism, dedication and accountability that I had not witnessed in my 20+ years on the job. It was hard to say goodbye. Truly!

On my last day, the group threw a “thank you, we’ll miss you” going away party as a means to celebrate our time together. I was extremely thankful and utterly spoiled, to be honest. They not only paid for my lunch but surprised me with several thoughtful gifts. Since my written word lacks sufficient capability to explain my level of gratitude and how wonderful these people are I will simply show you what they gave me.

Knowing I am the Bourboneer and a lover of the brown water, I was pleasantly surprised by a bottle of Hillrock – Solera Aged Bourbon Whiskey. A very delicious and very expensive bottle of bourbon. According to Clay Risen’s review in American Whiskey Bourbon & Rye, Hillrock has a high rye mash bill. “In the solera process, a barrel of aged whiskey is partially emptied and topped off with unaged spirit. After a few years the process is repeated…After a period of aging, the bourbon is “finished” in twenty-year-old Oloroso sherry casks.” I wanted to save the bottle for special occasions but I couldn’t resist, I just had to try a dram. I am glad I did! The nose was dense, filled with dark fruit, maple syrup, sweet tobacco with even a hint of leather. Chewy fig, raisin and notes of caramel and toffee were evident to the palate. So scrumptious!


If the bourbon wasn’t enough they also gave me a beautiful stainless steel cocktail shaker with a “To the Bourboneer” engraved inscription. Unfortunately in the picture below, I couldn’t capture the inscription successfully. Every attempt to get an effective shot only reflected my phone and fat head in the picture. My apologies.


Once again, I just want to say it was truly an honor to work with such professional, thoughtful and incredible colleagues. I am a better person for the experience. Thank you!

-The Bourboneer


Bourbon enjoyed while writing this article: Hillrock-Solera Aged Bourbon Whiskey, 46% ABV or 92 proof (NAS) Hillrock Estate Distillery, Ancram, NY.

References: American Whiskey Bourbon & Rye, Clay Risen, Sterling Epicure Publishing, 2013, New York, NY.

Essential Hardware


Every Bourboneer worth their mash bill knows that truly loving bourbon is to understand bourbon. Taking the time to educate oneself and absorb the wealth of knowledge available makes you a better bourbon drinker and, in fact, makes you a Bourboneer. There is so much wonderful information out there on the subject that it’s difficult to determine where to begin without feeling overwhelmed. Initially, I took to the internet, searching websites and links under the broad subject of bourbon. However, I quickly realized that without a foundation, that facile knowledge of whiskey as a distilled spirit, so much of what I researched was lost in translation or didn’t resonate enough to retain. That’s when I went to the professionals (the Bourboneer Operators and Masters). Amassing a small reference library of my own was the only way personally to benefit and learn at the depth I desired.

Accumulating enough material to form your own library may not be what you have in mind. Quite frankly it can be rather expensive. So, I have taken the liberty in providing what I believe to be “essential hardware” as a starting point for your bourbon education. Nothing will ever top a formal and practical learning atmosphere but there is a lot of outstanding material available to the public to get you on your way. Here is what I put together (in terms of a college course it would be similar to a Bourbon 101).

I believe, as with any good education, a knowledge of the parent subject is  very important. Therefore, my first suggestion would be to educate yourself on Whiskey in the broad sense of a distilled spirit. In that vein, there are two (2) definitive books I strongly recommend. As a caveat they are extremely comprehensive. But if so inclined then “Whisk(e)y” by Stefan Gabanyi or “Whiskey: The Definitive World Guide” by Michael Jackson are essential. These offerings are truly an entire education in and of themselves. Check them out but approach them as if you’re going to school:) However, as someone who seeks a more condensed or specialized read, one revolving around American whiskey, you absolutely can’t go wrong with “American Whiskey, Bourbon & Rye: A Guide to the Nation’s Favorite Spirit” by Clay Risen.


I love this book and have read it cover to cover more than once. Not only does Risen knit together the historical fabric of American whiskey, he provides a lesson into how it’s made and the difference between the types of whiskey. The second half of the book is an actual guide to “profiles, ratings and tasting notes for more than 200 whiskeys.” I use this as my “go to” reference and have done so in many of my articles. I’d recommend “American Whiskey, Bourbon & Rye: A Guide to the Nation’s Favorite Spirit” to anyone seeking a solid understanding of American whiskey as well as an introductory experience for a knowledge driven bourbon education.

Once you feel comfortable with your understanding of whiskey, it’s time to refine your research to bourbon. Dave Huckelbridge’s “Bourbon: A History of the American Spirit” and Wall-Street Journal Best Selling author, Fred Minnick’s “Bourbon Curious” are two reads that don’t disappoint. Huckelbridge immediately captures you with a detailed history of bourbon, masterfully seasoning your experience with little known and intimate facts of it’s creation. I was captivated from page 1. Minnick’s work provides a similar history lesson yet takes pride in deflating many of the existing “myths” that often mislead those curious about bourbon. Minnick also let’s you in on many  of the distiller’s recipes and production methods, including a sample tasting guide to assist you in the principles of enjoying bourbon.

Another crucial asset in furthering your bourbon education is a subscription to “The Bourbon Review” magazine. I have an online subscription but find myself collecting the hard copies as well. From the textured cover, to the interesting stories and stunning pictures, it’s hard to put down. The Bourbon Review supplies the cultural, artful side of bourbon’s heritage, both past and present. Each issue allows you to remain steeped in the ever-growing bourbon lifestyle.


Finally, as one of my favorite selections, “The Kentucky Bourbon Experience: A Visual Tour of Kentucky’s Bourbon Distilleries” by Leon Howlett, is a different style of book. While my other recommendations successfully focus on bourbon history, production and characteristics, renown photographer Howlett uses his offering to deliver a more visceral sensation to the reader. The “Kentucky Bourbon Experience” visually tours the eight (8) distilleries that make up the famous Kentucky Bourbon Trail (KBT) and gives an overview of each distillery to include a brief history and look into the product and production methods. This book is visually stunning! I feel transported to bourbon country with the turn of every page.


I hope you find time to enjoy these Bourboneer recommendations. They have been the essential hardware in developing the fundamental ground work of my ever growing education. However, there are so many equally wonderful publications to choose from don’t limit your search to just these offerings. Find the right book for you and your level of interest. But if you are looking to build a solid understanding of the American whiskey we love so much, there is no better place to start.

– The Bourboneer


Bourbon enjoyed while writing this article: Clyde Mays Alabama Style Whiskey, 42.5% ABV or 85 proof (no age statement) Conecuh Ridge Distillery, Auburndale, Fl.

References: American Whiskey, Bourbon & Rye: A guide to the Nation’s Favorite SpiritClay Risen, 2013 New York, NY.  Bourbon: A History of the American Spirit, Dave Huckelbridge, 2014 New York, NY.  Bourbon Curious, Fred Minnick, 2015 Minneapolis, MN. The Kentucky Bourbon Experience, Leon Howlett, 2012 Morely, Mo. The Bourbon Review Magazine, Summer 2016.