Celebrating National Bourbon Heritage Month

The following includes contributions from John C. Tramazzo and Brian F. Haara. 

September is National Bourbon Heritage Month. Each September, American whiskey enthusiasts gather in Kentucky to celebrate “America’s Native Spirit” at events like Bardstown’s Kentucky Bourbon Festival and Louisville’s Bourbon & Beyond. Several major distilleries release limited edition whiskeys in September, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association inducts new members into its Bourbon Hall of Fame, and well-known bourbon writers like Michael Veach and Fred Minnick offer presentations and lead tastings for members of the public.

This winter, the press will do its part to advance bourbon heritage by publishing two important additions to the bourbon library: John C. Tramazzo’s Bourbon & Bullets: True Stories of Whiskey, War, and Military Service and Brian F. Haara’s Bourbon Justice: How Whiskey Law Shaped America.

Tramazzo, an Army officer, and Haara, a Kentucky attorney, are long-time bourbon enthusiasts and bloggers. Both authors leverage their deep knowledge of American whiskey history and tell its story through unique lenses—military service and litigation.

Bourbon and Bullets explores the relationship between military service and some of the bourbon industry’s most notable distillers and executives. Men like William Larue Weller, Thomas Handy, George Stagg, Julian Van Winkle, Jr., and Tom Bulleit all experienced combat before they became household names for American whiskey enthusiasts. Tramazzo also delves into stories behind several dozen veteran-owned whiskey distilleries currently in operation.

Bourbon Justice tells the history of America through the development of commercial laws that guided our nation from an often reckless, laissez-faire mentality, through the growing pains of industrialization, and past the overcorrection of Prohibition. Indeed, Haara shows that bourbon lawsuits are responsible for the growth and maturation of many substantive areas of the law, such as trademark, breach of contract, fraud, governmental regulation and taxation, and consumer protection.

Readers will enjoy Haara’s thorough coverage of fiery trademark disputes like the one between influential distillers Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. and George T. Stagg, who together operated the O.F.C. Distillery for a decade. After they split ways in 1887, Taylor sued Stagg, asking the court to stop him from using the company name “E. H. Taylor, Jr. Co.,” and from using Taylor’s script signature on bourbon bottle labels.

EH Taylor label 1913_1

After thirteen years of litigation, Col. Taylor ultimately prevailed and Stagg was forced to develop branding with his own name. A century later, the current owners of the property where the O.F.C. once stood recaptured Col. Taylor’s name by purchasing the brand from Beam, Inc., and in recent years have relied heavily on Col. Taylor’s legacy.

Readers will also enjoy a snapshot of George T. Stagg’s life as a younger man in Bourbon & Bullets. Before Stagg was a major player in the bourbon industry, he served as an officer in Kentucky’s Twenty-First Infantry Regiment, an oufit that remained loyal to the Union. Captain Stagg led men during violent engagements against rebels at Perryville, Stone’s River, Chickamauga, Kennesaw Mountain, Franklin, and Nashville. According to Brigadier General Jefferson C. Davis, “no regiment exhibited a higher state of discipline and efficiency in the whole army than the Twenty-First Kentucky Infantry.” In the end, Stagg’s regiment lost 218 men to combat and disease. Following the war, Stagg accepted a job selling wholesale whiskey in bustling St. Louis, but he eventually returned to Kentucky and developed several major distilleries.

George Stagg_2

According to Mark Brown, the president and chief executive officer of the Sazerac Company, “the bourbon industry has long been filled with military veterans, but never have their valuable contributions been so finely documented until now. John Tramazzo’s investigative book not only weaves together these veterans’ military contributions but also provides an enlightening look at the impact they made on the spirits industry today.”

According to bourbon historian and author Michael Veach, “Bourbon Justice uses a groundbreaking approach to tell the history of the bourbon industry—the lawsuits that provide the true origin stories of famous brands. I believe this book will quickly become a classic work in the field of bourbon history and of distilled spirits as a whole.”

Bourbon & Bullets and Bourbon Justice are currently available for pre-sale. Both books will be released on November 1, 2018 from Potomac Books.

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