Have you ever been up late at night flipping channels and you stumble upon an hour long special about some product or service? What you are watching is extremely well produced and includes very informative subject matter experts and the like, but you get the sense just the same it is out to sell you really hard on the allure of what it is all about? That’s the feeling I had in part after watching the recently launched and very well done Kentucky Bourbon Tales: Distilling the Family Business documentary, which is airing on Kentucky’s public television network KET at the moment.
The documentary, which you can also view online like I did (a trailer for it is below), is certainly a slick piece of work, don’t get me wrong. I loved all of the interviews with the major figures in the bourbon industry and the history you learned about America’s native spirit. There are also plenty of gorgeous shots of distilleries and the Kentucky countryside, definitely making you feel like you should be wandering the backroads of the Bluegrass State, Kentucky Bourbon Trail Passport in hand, to experience all this wonderful part of the country has to offer.
image via Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History
All of this being said, I did feel about three-quarters of the way through this show like I was seeing a big commercial for the bourbon industry. They were certainly involved in “partnership” with those who made it, with the Kentucky Distillers’ Association (minus a few notable distilleries) working with the University of Kentucky Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History “to document the history of bourbon in the state.”
To be specific, the likes of “Wild Turkey, Heaven Hill, Brown-Forman, Woodford Reserve, Bulleit, Maker’s Mark, Four Roses and Jim Beam, as well as the new Michter’s Distillery and Independent Stave Cooperage” were among those, according to the University of Kentucky, that got some mention. It should also be noted as well that at least part of the documentary’s name is one of a handful of “trademarks/service marks of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association.”
Now, if you don’t mind all of this, it is a fascinating watching experience if you have the time because, like I said before, there are the really great oral history interviews conducted with the likes of bourbon distilling legends like Parker Beam and Jimmy Russell. Just keep in mind going into seeing it that you may desire to buy a bottle of bourbon or three by the time it is all done. Speaking of which, I think I’ll head over to my local liquor store now to do just that.
Nino Kilgore-Marchetti is the founder and editor-in-chief of The Whiskey Wash, an award winning whiskey lifestyle website dedicated to informing and entertaining consumers about whisk(e)y on a global level. As a whisk(e)y journalist, expert and judge he has written about the subject extensively, been interviewed in various media outlets and...