The Whisky Exchange

Book Review: Bulleit Proof

Editor’s Note: This book was provided to us as a review sample by Wiley. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

Bulleit Proof is the short title of Bulleit Bourbon founder Tom Bulleit’s memoir. In large, transparent font to substitute a colon is “How I Took a 150-Year-Old Family Recipe and a Revolver, and Disrupted the Entire Liquor Industry One Bottle, One Sip, One Handshake at a Time.” With a subtitle like that and puns like “Bulleit Points,” Tom’s memoir fits right in on my bookshelf full of hokey business motivation books I read in college. 

To the contrary, don’t expect to gain full insight on how to climb to the top of the liquor industry yourself. Furthermore, actual details of making Bulleit are vague like the family recipe. The memoir’s chapters are broken up by Tom’s “rules and observations of making it in business…and in life,” but they’re a loosey-goosey way of tying together his timeline.

Tom Bulleit’s timeline is still going strong albeit with multiple hiccups. As Frank Sinatra sang it, “That’s life.” Covering his transition from lawyer to whiskey mogul, Bulleit Proof is packed full of trials and tribulations. The struggle is what makes Tom Bulleit relatable.

Launching the Bulleit brand in 1987 was practically a spur of the moment idea. We’ve all had those what-am-I-doing-with-my-life moments. Move forward a little over thirty years, the Bulleit brand is a household name and in bars across the globe. Finally, if you read Tom Bulleit’s Bulleit Proof, you will see how close Bulleit almost bit it. 

Overall, Bulleit Proof is kind of jumbled trying to be three types of books in one. The tone of the book is specific and careful, almost as if it is a marketing ploy. It seems more of Tom Bulleit’s, and Diageo’s, quick attempt to quell the allegations against him by his daughter. On one hand she is mentioned a few times— all in good light—  but on the other hand she is absent in the photo section.

Tom is the hero, the good guy in his own story. While his life experiences are relatable, you see bits of his ego seeping through a guise of humbleness. What is the point of having an “About the Author” section in a memoir that isn’t just on the dust jacket?

The book would be more successful if it was about Tom’s two greatest loves – whiskey and his wife, Betsy. In fact, Tom dedicates his memoir to her. When Tom writes about Betsy, it is with utter sincerity. Bulleit whiskey would not exist without Betsy. Their partnership in marriage, life, and building a brand should have been the focus.

Buy Bulleit Proof: How I Took a 150-Year-Old Family Recipe and a Revolver, and Disrupted the Entire Liquor Industry One Bottle, One Sip, One Handshake at a Time On Amazon


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