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Bourbon 101: A New Tome On An Old Favorite

Albert W.A. Schmid

Fun fact: There are more barrels of bourbon in Kentucky than there are people in the bluegrass state. While it’s Kentucky’s state beverage and adored the world over by drinkers and collectors alike, there’s much to discover about bourbon and its beginnings. And no one is more excited to talk about bourbon than award-winning author and chef Albert W. A. Schmid, who  takes readers through a crash-course of all-things bourbon in his latest book. Aptly named “Bourbon 101,” Schmid delves into the history, production and cultural identity of the American-made spirit.

Though we weren’t able to sit and clink drinks together, Schmid spent time with Beyondish talking about bourbon’s beginnings, as well as why everyone thinks all bourbons are made in Kentucky.  

What made you want to write a book on bourbon?

I love bourbon! I love the story behind bourbon and I love that even with all of the regulations surrounding bourbon, there are many different bourbons to try. My father was a bourbon lover so it was on my radar from an early age. Also, I attended school in the French Quarter in New Orleans just off Bourbon Street. When I moved to Kentucky I found myself in Bourbon country. I feel like this was a book that I needed to write.

This truly is a definitive guide to bourbon. Who would you say this book is for?

Anyone that wants to start drinking bourbon and for the bourbon lover who wants to learn a little more. I find that I am still a student of bourbon and I find new bourbons all the time.

 Is there anything misunderstood about bourbon? Something surprising?

I have found that many people think bourbon must be made in Kentucky. Some people think that bourbon has to be made in Bourbon County. I think that is the most common misunderstanding. I am surprised that other states produce wonderful bourbons. I am also surprised that the people of Kentucky are very lucky because some of the bourbons that are common in Kentucky stores are unicorns in almost every other market.

What is your favorite way to enjoy bourbon?

1) Two-fingers with a couple of ice cubes.

2) In the Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail and the Manhattan Cocktail, both made with bourbon.

The real answer to the question is tied to the situation: if I am at dinner or if I am at home and what is on the menu.

I find it really funny that you are in fact allergic to corn, which bourbon is made with. Explain this irony to us.

I found out that I have an allergy to corn when I was in college. In the United States it feels like everything is made with corn – breakfast cereal, soda, corn as a sweetener, etc. My father loved bourbon, so I was really bummed that we could not share a drink together. When I found out that I was not allergic to bourbon I was thrilled! I agree it is ironic but I am not complaining.

How would you compare the process of writing a book to making bourbon?

I love this question! Writing starts by putting words on a page (this is sort of like the raw materials of bourbon). I go through a manuscript several times making changes and edits (this is sort of like fermentation). Then the manuscript goes through a transformation as the editor and I apply the final touches and get rid of words that do not need to be in the final work (this is like distillation).

Any advice for a novice bourbon drinker?

Anyone that is beginning to drink bourbon should listen to their palate. Only use the expert’s advice as a guide to similar ones you enjoy. If you like the bourbon you are drinking, that is good, and that is the bourbon you should be drinking.


Elizabeth Hazard

Elizabeth Hazard is a writer, producer and photography editor. Her work has appeared in various publications and she writes frequently about art, culture, fashion and history.



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