Being a Kentucky native, NEAT: The Story of Bourbon is a film that’s after my own heart.
Narrated and directed by documentary filmmaker David Altrogge, the intriguing documentary does exactly what it promises by giving us the story of bourbon. Among the many people interviewed include Steve Zahn, an actor who also doubles as a bourbon distiller.
The film also features the first female master distiller since prohibition, Marianne Barnes. A Kentucky native, she is the master distiller for Castle & Key. Castle & Key sits on the land that was once owned by Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. in Millville, Ky., when it was known as the Old Taylor Distillery.
At one point early on, it is said that “every phase of American history is bourbon history.” It’s a fascinating phrase. Bourbon is a spirit that is native to America but especially Kentucky. If there’s a state that’s known for it’s bourbon, it’s Kentucky–sorry, Justin Timberlake but please don’t give other states credit that they shouldn’t be getting. If it’s not made in Kentucky, it’s not bourbon.
“All bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon,” says Heaven Hill master distiller Denny Potter. This statement is true. Scotch whiskey certainly isn’t bourbon nor is Tennessee whiskey. Or any other whiskey for that matter. Heaven Hill has been owned and operated by the Shapira family since 1935.
What makes it bourbon? There’s a few things. According to the film, in order to be considered as bourbon, it’s required to be American-made, made in barrels, made from corn, distillation-proof, entry-proof, fill-proof, and genuine.
At one point, Zahn is asked about the history of bourbon. Zahn initially credits Elijah Craig as the first person to discover bourbon. Craig founded a distillery in 1789 but it’s not really known if he’s the first to have made bourbon. By the time that Bourbon County had been formed in 1785, there had already been several distillers making corn-based whiskeys so Craig could not have been the first to make the discovery. Craig has been credited with being the first to char a barrel.
If you’re from Kentucky, you’re going to want to watch NEAT: The Story of Bourbon. If you’re a Kentucky native living outside the Commonwealth, such as myself, this film will make you nostalgic. The overhead shot of the Louisville skyline caused a wave of nostalgia for this film critic.
While the 76 minute running time may be one of the documentary’s flaws (there’s a longer film, if not mini-series that can tell the history), Neat: The Story of Bourbon offers a good time.
Premering at the Kentucky Theater in September 2017, The Orchard releases Neat: The Story of Bourbon through VOD and Digital HD platforms on February 20, 2018.
Some interesting history on the film:
‘Neat, The Story of Bourbon’ a documentary about Kentucky’s drink, to debut next year (Kentucky.com)