Whiskey: The History And Today's Industry

This Program Is Rebroadcast From February 15, 2013

From pure pot still, to Kentucky’s finest, the spirit is having a comeback. We’ll ask what and why.

Barrels at the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Kentucky. (Flickr/Adam Sonnett)

Barrels at the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Kentucky. (Flickr/Adam Sonnett)

“Whiskey is all right in its place,” said the famous evangelist Billy Sunday, “but its place is hell.” Well, a lot of people might disagree lately.

For a long time, whiskey seemed to have gone out with the Rat Pack. The Mad Men era. That’s over. Whiskey’s back. With more range of flavors and connoisseurs than ever. Sippers talking about it like wine. “Drizzled with honey and almonds…custard cream, toasted barley… banana bread and vanilla fudge.” Wow.

This hour, On Point: the history and return of whiskey.

-Tom Ashbrook


Michael Veach, associate curator of special collections at Kentucky’s Filson Historical Center. Bourbon historian and a member of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame. Author of “Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American Heritage.”

Joy Richard, bar and beverage manager at the Franklin Restaurant Group. Her newest restaurant, Boston’s Citizen Public House boasts a list of over 150 whiskeys from around the globe, with 5 hand selected single barrel whiskies. (@joyrichard)

From Tom’s Reading List

Time Magazine “Fans of Maker’s Mark whiskey have a message for the company that has brought them their favorite bourbon in trademark red-wax-sealed bottles for nearly 60 years. They’d like it neat, please. Maker’s Mark, based in Loretto, Ky., announced over the weekend that the company would begin watering down its iconic whiskey in order to boost supply. The response was lightning fast and deeply felt.”

Star-Tribune “Shots of courage. Lightning in a bottle. Bottoms up. Whiskey has its own liquid poetry. Sip it and you talk, or sing. My Scottish cousins can be almost eloquent about the drink itself. It is, they say, an education. As richly cultural as wine.”

Reuters “Spirits companies sold 3 percent more liquor in 2012 in the United States than in 2011, fueled by flavored drinks and a big thirst for Irish whiskey and single malt Scotch, an industry trade group said on Wednesday.”

Excerpt: Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey: An American Heritage

Whiskey Playlist

Tom’s Whiskey Adventure


Tom’s Whiskey List

On air, Tom sampled:

Willett Pot Still Bourbon — Bardstown, Kentucky

Rittenhouse Rye — Bardstown, Kentucky

Red Breast Pot Still Whiskey — Ireland

Caol Ila Scotch — Islay, Scotland

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