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History of Bourbon  By  cover art

History of Bourbon

By: Ken Albala, The Great Courses
Narrated by: Ken Albala
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Publisher's summary

Is bourbon the quintessential American liquor? Bourbon is not just alcohol—the amber-colored drink is deeply ingrained in American culture and tangled in American history. From the early days of raw corn liquor to the myriad distilleries that have proliferated around the country today, bourbon is a symbol of the United States.

This course traces bourbon's entire history, from the 1700s, with Irish, Scottish, and French settlers setting up stills and making distilled spirits in the New World, through today's booming resurgence.

On their tour of bourbon's fascinating, turbulent, and uniquely American evolution, listeners will explore the mysterious origins of the whiskey’s name and meet the men and women who have been championed as its inventors and made it so popular - from Daniel Boone's cousin and Baptist minister Elijah Craig to Jacob Beam and Evan Williams.

In this 10-lecture journey through the story of an undeniably American libation, listeners will:

  • Hear the stories behind the earliest bourbon whiskies right up to the current "bourbon bubble"
  • Learn how a contemplative spirit went from agricultural product to industrial commodity
  • Explore how - and why - bourbon played such a large role in the years of the early republic
  • Get the facts on when and why Congress passed whiskey-protection laws
  • Discover the surprising importance of bourbon distilleries during World War II, when the spirit became war material
  • Go inside the Golden Age of Bourbon - a remarkable proliferation of new brands and niche markets happening now
  • Witness the growth of brands like Jim Beam, Heaven Hill, Bulleit Bourbon, and Old Taylor
  • Gain insights into why distilled spirits, like clothes and cars, project a message about who we are and the cultures to which we belong

Join Dr. Ken Albala, a history professor who has written numerous books on food, as he lays out in expert detail the critical role bourbon has played throughout the cultural and political history of the nation.

©2019 Audible Originals, LLC (P)2019 Audible Originals, LLC.

Our favorite moments from History of Bourbon

Chapter 5, Lecture 4: Bourbon in Early America
  • Chapter 5, Lecture 4: Bourbon in Early America
Prodigious consumers of whiskey
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Chapter 8, Lecture 7: Bourbon and WWII
  • Chapter 8, Lecture 7: Bourbon and WWII
Major brands emerge
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Chapter 11, Lecture 10: The Present and Future of Bourbon
  • Chapter 11, Lecture 10: The Present and Future of Bourbon
The market is booming
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  • Chapter 5, Lecture 4: Bourbon in Early America
  • Prodigious consumers of whiskey
  • Chapter 8, Lecture 7: Bourbon and WWII
  • Major brands emerge
  • Chapter 11, Lecture 10: The Present and Future of Bourbon
  • The market is booming

About the Professor

Dr. Ken Albala is Professor of History at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, where he teaches food history and the history of early modern Europe. He is also a visiting Professor at Boston University, where he teaches an advanced food history course in the gastronomy program. Dr. Albala earned an MA in History from Yale University and a PhD in History from Columbia University.

He is the author or editor of 16 volumes on food. His books include the four-volume Food Cultures of the World Encyclopedia; Three World Cuisines: Italian, Mexican, Chinese, which won the 2013 Gourmand World Cookbook Award for Best Foreign Cuisine Book; Food in Early Modern Europe; and Beans: A History. Dr. Albala is also co-editor of the journal Food, Culture & Society and general editor of the series Studies in Food and Gastronomy. In 2009, Dr. Albala won the Faye and Alex G. Spanos Distinguished Teaching Award at the University of the Pacific.