Concerning the next few postings...
This started out as a letter of praise for Chuck Cowdery and his latest Bourbon Country Reader article on Michter's whiskey. Then, as more and more of what he brings up began to hit home, it grew way too large for even one of my or Gary's long-winded messages (and you can bet the Vatman will be contributing copiously to this thread as well
). Also, it tends to switch focus back and forth from being addressed to Chuck and being written about him. Sorry, no time left for grammer editing. Here goes...
, I just read your latest edition of the Bourbon Country Reader. Nice work!
For those of you who don't already subscribe to Chuck Cowdery's excellent bi-monthly newsletter, a sort of pre-internet, hardcopy bourbon blog, you certainly should. Here's a link: http://home.netcom.com/~cowdery/page2.html
This quarter's issue is somewhat of a "single barrel" itself, being completely dedicated to a single story. Considering the subject, that's not surprising. Chuck presents, as best one can, considering the scareness of information and the unreliability of what is available, an interpretation of the Michter's story. And the A.H. Hirsch story as well, since without that tie-in to Kentucky Bourbon the Michter's story would be of no more interest to BCR readers than would be any of the hundreds of other defunct Pennsylvania and Maryland whiskey distilleries (nor would the many non-bourbon Kentucky ones, for that matter), each with its own equally murky history.
I commend Chuck on his work; I understand how difficult it is -- there is only so much information out there, and what there is can't be accepted at face value, no matter how adament may be its source (and they usually are with this particular icon). The best one can ever do with a mythical Holy Grail such as Michter's or Stitzel-Weller (or maybe both, in this case) is reasoned speculation, and the contribution of writers such as ourselves and Chuck is to bring some of our prior knowledge of whiskey-related things (pot stills and labeling laws, for example) to apply to stories told by marketers, family members, and newspaper reporters, so as to make some sense of it all.
Chuck's article, and the points he questions are strongly similar to those we published on our own website back in April of this year. Chuck, you can't believe how honored that makes me feel. Back when my idea of "bourbon" was that it was brown and two thirds of it came in a bottle with a black label (Jack Daniel and Evan Williams) and the other one had a white label, it was largely from articles written by you that I gained interest in the subject and later the inspiration to write about it. Beginning with "How Bourbon Really Got Its Name", you showed me a style of writing that dismisses the first two or three layers of marketing hype and popular myth and presents a far more believable and supportable view. Okay, nothing new about "exposes"; they're everywhere. But your writing does that while never failing to convey your love of the spirit and the industry, including the very institutions and icons whose myths you're currently debunking. Those have always been my feelings as well, and I've tried hard to capture and make that characteristic of the work on our website. Your version of the Michter's article makes me feel I've succeeded.
Back in April, we felt ourselves to be treading on thin ice, as we offered a view of a cult icon that ran counter to those commonly expressed by authoritive sources (including Chuck, then). Sure enough, within a few weeks we were deluged with new (and conflicting) information and "suggested" corrections to things we'd included. By July we felt we should put a temporary hold on the story until more could be learned. That's a luxury that a website affords over print media. Since then, we really haven't learned anything both new and reliable, until some intriguing notes that Chuck has brought up in his story. But the fact that he's gone ahead and published what pretty much amounts to our own findings has made me reconsider, so I've now restored the original Michter's page as it appeared from April to July of this year. Chuck, I'll be happy to refer any irate reader response to you ;:).Let 'em subscribe to BCR if they want corrobarative testimony.
What I AM likely to do with the existing page (besides correcting a couple of authentic errors) is to incorporate some of the additional points from the BCR story.
More on that in the following post...