Book Review: Which Fork Do I Use With My Bourbon?

Editor’s Note: This book was provided to us as a review sample by The University Press of Kentucky. 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.

Bourbon is easily recognized alongside Coke, Pepsi and Kool-aid as a distinctly American beverage. So much so that the process behind its distilling and labeling as bourbon is regulated by the government to ensure the strictest standards of this uniquely branded beverage. Even with its rules and regulations behind its production, it ranges in price, flavor profile, texture, and color. It is lauded as both the common man’s beverage and the drink of choice for the discerning palate.

Whether you drink well whiskey or top shelf, you can find a bourbon that will please the palate and inspire conversation and enhance any gathering.

With the book, Which Fork Do I Use With My Bourbon?, the authors, Peggy Noe Stevens and Susan Reigler, take the idea of bourbon as the after dinner go to, and present the idea that bourbon can be the center piece, either as an elaborate tasting event, or as a contributor to the elements of a finely tuned dinner party.

Laid out in the book are ideas for multi-tiered gatherings, simple comparative tasting tours and everything in between. From the crack of the spine, this hard bound coffee table book guides the reader down the road of flavor profiles, history, and most importantly, party planning.

The writing is entertaining, the expertise of the authors is second to none and, with multiple bourbon books penned between them, it is not hard to argue that the information contained within is from passionate aficionados of whiskey and bourbon. I appreciated the chapter devoted to the history of bourbon and the process of successfully tasting this beverage. The flavor descriptions and instructions are excellent guides on how to hone one’s palate and nose to identify the flavors and aromas that can feel dauntingly locked away from the pedestrian drinker.

This book provides excellent ways to break down the drink and some enhancing nibbles to have at hand to evoke the desired notes, no matter the style of bourbon(s) you choose to bring out for your guests.

Where this book lost me a bit, was in the mass of pages detailing the place settings, decorations, and high concept events. It makes the argument that bourbon tastings do not have to be the randomized sharing of trusted and unique labels that many private tastings embody. Instead it goes into great detail on how to fabricate a party around the tasting.

I only take umbrage with this approach because it is not everyone that has the time, organization, money, or desire to provide a catered event months in the planning and whose backdrop and purpose of sharing and tasting bourbon, will easily get lost in the pomp and circumstance of the flash of coordinated place settings.

There are some wonderful aspects of this book that every drinker can take advantage of. There are fun recipes for party food and exciting cocktails and as mentioned before, a lovely guide to tasting bourbon. But I feel the intent of bringing the tasting to the home gets lost in the desire to impress, leaving this insightful offering to be lost amongst the bookshelf or other coffee table books that litter the average household.

All this being said, the information within is definitely worth a read for the serious bourbon enthusiast.