Bourbon has been riding high in the U.S. for the last 20 years
Fred Minnick was a Future Farmers of America reporter in his Oklahoma youth. When he was 15, he wrote a story about a pig show that wound up in the local newspaper and the sight of his byline was intoxicating. He knew then and there that writing was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
Credit him with perseverance. When he told a high school teacher about his goal, she was a little dubious. As he recalls it, “I was also taking a welding class at the time and she said, ‘Well, you should probably think about becoming a welder.’ I think ever since that’s made me push the envelope to be more than I am.”
He’s pushed pretty well. Minnick did become a writer after attending college at Oklahoma State University, specializing in agriculture and science articles until he deployed as a U.S. Army Staff Sergeant to Iraq and later wrote his first book, Camera Boy: An Army Journalist’s War in Iraq. In 2006, he wrote his first story about bourbon, and the barn doors flew open.
Minnick is arguably now the country’s premier bourbon expert in roles as author, critic, editor and, with the co-founding of the Bourbon & Beyond festival, the third of which will be held in Louisville this weekend, Sept. 20-22, a showman. Though he has also written books about mead and rum and extensively on wine, his three books on bourbon have become benchmarks: Whiskey Women, Bourbon: The Rise, Fall & Rebirth of An American Whiskey, and Bourbon Curious, a tasting guide just out in a second edition.
Bourbon has been riding high in the U.S. for the last 20 years. The reason, Minnick suggests, is simple: “Bourbon is cool. And it’s being consumed across generations, from kids in college to graduates to young professionals to older professionals.”
What is not cool in Minnick’s world is vodka. In his frequent social media postings his punctuates his animus toward the spirit with the hashtag #vodkasucks. Don’t ask him to suggest one.
It could all have been different if Minnick had stuck with golf. He played a lot in college, interned briefly at South Central Golf magazine (now Golf Oklahoma), and can still recall how well he hit his 3-wood for a tap-in eagle many years ago.
Minnick, now 41, moved to Louisville after his Iraq tour to be with the woman who is now his wife and the mother of his two young children. With all the other plates he’s spinning, golf is a vanished art: “When I’ve gone out lately I’m a cross between Charles Barkley and a kid learning how to play. I fantasize a lot about getting back into it, but in truth I’ve turned down offers to play out of sheer embarrassment.”
But Minnick, editor of Bourbon + Magazine, remembers what it’s like out there, and he knows his bourbon. So he thoughtfully related the following:
◼ Since it might be hot and you might want to be refreshed, you’d have to have Four Roses Single Barrel, a 100 proof bourbon with a giant cinnamon note. It’s very spicy with nice hints of caramel and vanilla, and good enough that it could take your mind off a bad shot and let you concentrate on the flavor.
◼ For an icing on the cake celebratory moment, go with a Woodford Reserve Double Oaked. It’s extremely sweet, with some chocolate and maple syrupy notes. It feels like dessert. But don’t drink the whole bottle because you’ve still got some golf to play.
◼ For those times when you’re ready to say, F#%k it, I’m just giving up — I’m assuming that happens to some of your readers — Wild Turkey Rare Breed. It’s a high proof bourbon that is really tasty, with notes of nutmeg, cinnamon, caramel, a nice host of flavors; but it will also help you move on those days you decide you’re just going to sit in the cart, drink bourbon and make fun of your friends.
◼ If you score an ace, shoot par or under par or have your personal best, then it’s time for cracking open something a little harder to find like Henry McKenna Single Barrel [Minnick’s 2018 American Whiskey of the Year], the Barrell Crafts Spirits 15-year-old, or a Booker’s. For a great moment you want a great bourbon to celebrate.
◼ If it gets hot you might want to bring along some ice or have some ginger ale in the cooler, but under no circumstances can you allow anyone in your golf party to have vodka.