With the dramatic rise in interest in all things bourbon in recent years, and the nearly $2 billion bourbon boom, a plethora of publications have been created to satisfy the insatiable need for this traditional American-born whiskey.
Similar to the ever-increasing number of bourbon bottles on liquor stores these days, there is an almost limitless number of books about this popular spirit. Fortunately, we’re here to help you narrow them down to our top picks.
This selected selection will satisfy every type of bourbon aficionado, from the bourbon curious to the hard core geeks, with industry-focused tomes and deep dives into the rich and intricate history of making whiskey. Here are the greatest bourbon books to get this year, some of which are already instant classics and others which are more obscure or new to the market.
Best Overall: Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey
This is the book for you if you’re interested in the economic history of bourbon. Reid Mitenbuler investigates the complexities of politics, organized crime, capitalism, people, and craftsmanship that have molded the bourbon category over time in his book “Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey.”
Of course, the past is often used to predict the present and future of an industry, and Mitenbuler’s predictions for the future of the bourbon sector are no exception. This book aims to deconstruct the romanticization of bourbon stories, which is common among those who market it.
Best Lifestyle: Which Fork Do I Use with My Bourbon?
This comprehensive and entertaining book is the ideal present for the bourbon connoisseur in your life. Peggy Noe Stevens and Susan Reigler, both American whiskey royalty in their own right, take readers on a tour through every aspect of throwing a great bourbon tasting party in a way that’s easy to understand for both novices and experts. Furthermore, the photography is quite pleasing to the eye.
“These residents of Kentucky are incredibly knowledgeable about all things bourbon. For years, they’ve been encouraging women (and men) to enjoy whiskey and have elevated bourbon tastings to an art form.” Editor, Prairie Rose
Best Educational: The Bourbon Bible
While there are arguably too many whiskey books with the word “bible” in the title, author Eric Zandona’s incisive and caustic view on the bourbon industry through his deconstruction of 140 different bourbons puts his money where his mouth is.
Zandona, who works as the Director of Spirits Information at the American Distilling Institute, examines each bourbon separately, including crucial statistics, aroma and tasting notes, and 20 cocktail ideas, all while noting the industry’s legacy of colonization and slave ownership. Consider your sipping, mixing, and learning needs to be met.
Best General: Whisk(e)y Distilled: A Populist Guide to the Water of Life
“Whisk(e)y Distilled: A Populist Guide to the Water of Life,” by Heather Greene, is a comprehensive yet succinct look at the international whiskey scene as a whole, as well as how bourbon fits into it.
Heather’s expertise of spirits extends far beyond whiskey, according to Marianne Eaves, Kentucky’s first female master distiller and pioneer of the Eaves Blind tasting experience. “This book offers a novel perspective on worldwide whiskeys, particularly artisan American bourbon distillers, and highlights the beauty in the subtleties of their production.”
“The book does a fantastic job of actually opening your eyes to the world of whiskey in a way that is both easy to read and consumable. I’d strongly advise drinking a quality whiskey while reading this book.” — Jon Dubin, Knappogue Castle Irish Whiskey’s brand director
Best Cocktail Book: The Bourbon Bartender: 50 Cocktails to Celebrate the American Spirit
There are innumerable drinks (both classic and unique) that are distinguished by bourbon’s delicious roundness, and no two authority are better equipped than New York City cocktail legends Jane Danger and Alla Lapushchik to explain how it all works behind the bar than Jane Danger and Alla Lapushchik. This is the book for you if you’re a cocktail connoisseur who like bourbon.
Best Cookbook: The Best Bourbon Cookbook: Booze-Infused Sweet & Savory Recipes.
Baking with bourbon, which is probably more of a science than simply pouring a few ounces of the liquor into a bisque, is not for the faint of heart. Author Christina Tosch lays out recipe after recipe for both savory foods and diverse desserts, as well as a few easy-to-make cocktails, in “The Best Bourbon Cookbook: Booze-Infused Sweet & Savory Recipes.” Although this book was self-published, it is widely available online.
Best History: Bourbon Women: The Untold Story of How Women Saved Bourbon, Scotch, and Irish Whiskey
While a female author would have been preferable for this article, whiskey specialist Fred Minnick does an excellent job relaying the stories of the bourbon industry’s unsung heroes. Women have always had an important role in brewing, distilling, and winemaking, but they are rarely given credit for it—tales Minnick’s of some of the most significant women in whiskey history are fascinating to read.
“I wasn’t aware of the role of women in the whiskey industry until I read this book, and it introduces you to the ladies behind Bushmill’s and Maker’s Mark. It’s fantastic to see women in positions like this.” — Chelsea Napper, Ygenin Chicago’s bar manager
Best Memoir: But Always Fine Bourbon : Pappy Van Winkle and the Story of Old Fitzgerald
Learn about the historical Stitzel Weller distillery, which is linked to the Van Winkle family’s history, in this artistically attractive whiskey book written by Sally Van Winkle Campbell, granddaughter of the iconic Pappy Van Winkle, and covering the Van Winkle tradition in striking detail. This coffee table book is perfect for whiskey connoisseurs, collectors, and historians.
Pappyland: A Story of Family, Fine Bourbon, and the Things That Last
Author: Wright Thompson
Julian Van Winkle III (third generation leader of his family’s business) struggled to preserve the taste of Pappy Van Winkle, some of the best bourbon money can buy, in Pappyland, another Amazon Editor’s pick.
This New York Times bestseller is a must-read for bourbon fans (especially if you’re lucky enough to own a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle).