Film Review: NEAT: The Story of Bourbon

It’s not everyday I get to review a film here on this blog, much less one about my favorite subject: whiskey.  With NEAT: The Story of Bourbon, director David Altrogge has crafted a thoroughly engaging story about not only bourbon, but the people who make it, live it, love it, collect it, mix it, dig it, and drink it.

The documentary follows the chronological timeline of America’s native spirit, from the distillation of whiskey by early pioneers to the current thriving bourbon environment.  Distillers from the major American bourbon distilleries move the history along, preaching their love of the spirit along the way.

Two people anchor the film: Castle and Key Master Distiller Marianne Barnes and third generation Buffalo Trace employee Freddie Johnson.  Barnes shares some firsts on camera, like buying corn and filling barrels, as viewers join in her journey of reviving a historical distillery with a new brand.  Johnson continues to wear his passion for bourbon on his sleeve with every story he tells.  It’s clear after watching that both Barnes and Johnson have bourbon running through their veins.

Occasionally, Altrogge interjects bourbon facts presented by none other than actor Steve Zahn.  Keep an eye on that fox!  The comedic interludes also prove educational, informing viewers of important milestones in the spirit’s history, like the Bottled-In-Bond Act.

NEAT is the eye-candy equivalent of a that first sip of bourbon hitting your tongue, featuring mesmorizing images captured with flair by cinematographer Michael J. Hartnett.  Magic hour photography, backlit bottles, and slow-motion pours (and that bokeh – oh my!) only add to the beauty of the storytelling.

Grab a glass of your favorite bourbon, turn down the lights, and take a trip down bourbon lane.  Altrogge’s NEAT is a film for the whiskey drinker, both experienced and novice, filled with knowledge, passion and heart.

Highly recommended. 🥃🥃🥃🥃

NEAT: The Store of Bourbon is now available to rent or purchase on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon.


The 2018 New Orleans Bourbon Festival


New Orleans Bourbon Festival 2017: a chat with Fred Noe and Eddie Russell, moderated by yours truly.  Photo courtesy of New Orleans Bourbon Festival

Back for its second year, the New Orleans Bourbon Festival really didn’t have to change much from its first outing in 2017.  It wasn’t just a successful first year festival.  It was a successful festival, period.  But the festival’s founders aren’t resting on their laurels.

Tracy Napolitano, one of the festival’s founders, is the only full-time employee.  After taking a short breather following last year’s festival, Tracy and fellow founders took all the feedback they received to heart.  Their mission was to improve upon their first outing without losing its spirit.

The festival takes place Thursday, March 8th through Saturday, March 10th.  Festivities kick off with several bourbon dinners at restaurants around New Orleans, each sponsored by a different brand.

Like last year, this year’s festival features two Grand Tasting nights filled with pours from both large and craft brands.  The biggest change is the inclusion of all American whiskey.  The first festival was generally limited to bourbon only.  That means a whole lot of rye whiskey, Tennessee whiskey, and more.  More than 100 different whiskies will be poured.  If you happen to see me at one of the Grand Tastings, please say hi.  I’ll be the guy with the glass of whiskey in his hand.


You can’t drink whiskey and not smile.  Photo courtesy of New Orleans Bourbon Festival

In addition, this year’s VIP ticket holders are getting more attention.  Some really special pours can be expected in the VIP area.  I’ve been told the list confidentially, and yeah… those VIPs should definitely heed the phrase ‘first come, first serve.’  Better yet, “the early bird gets the worm.”  There’s also a special welcome reception for VIPs entitled “Bourbon & Burlesque.”  ‘Nuff said.

Again this year is a whiskey judging by Ultimate VIP ticket holders.  From what I’m told, these tickets sell quickly.  We’re less than three weeks away.  Go get your tickets now.

Seminars have been spread over two days, now taking place the Friday and Saturday of the festival, which gives folks more access to attend more seminars.  This year’s speaker lineup is a doozy, featuring Fred Minnick, Michael Veach, Peggy Noe Stevens, Bernie Lubbers, Maggie Kimberl, Trey Zoeller, and many, many more.

The festival’s theme this year is “Generations,” a theme very important in American whiskey.  I again have the pleasure of moderating not one but two panels related to that theme. On Friday, I’ll chat with Jim Beam Master Distiller Fred Noe and his son, Freddie.  Saturday, you’ll find me moderating Eddie Russell and his son, Bruce.  I simply cannot wait!

Festival proceeds go to Kids Can Nola, a new non-profit benefitting the welfare of children.  It’s a classy touch from the festival founders.

I’m sure this year’s festival will far surpass last year’s wonderful inaugural event.  NOLA and bourbon are made for each other.  If Kentucky is bourbon’s wife, New Orleans is definitely the whiskey’s mistress.


Review: Redemption Barrel Proof Whiskies


Photo courtesy of Redemption Whiskey

Back in the fall of 2017, Redemption Whiskey released a trio of barrel proof whiskies consisting of two bourbons and a rye.  These are the same MGP-distilled whiskies used in Redemption’s core line, but carry higher age statements of 9 and 10 years.  They have been ‘minimally filtered’ and are available for $99.99.  Let’s take a look…


Bottled at 108.2 proof, Redemption’s Barrel Proof Bourbon comes from a mash bill of 76% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley.  The aromas are packed pretty tight, featuring hints of roasted corn, minerals, maple syrup and a sprinkling of leather.  On the palate, a nice array of flavors present themselves in a bold way, including hints of caramel corn, spice cake, as well as a touch of flint and sweet oak.  The warming finish sticks around for a while.  I don’t think water is needed for this one.  It doesn’t come across as “hot.” Rather, it’s a great example of a barrel proof whiskey whose flavors are well rounded and best enjoyed as is.  8.5/10


Slightly older is the 10-year-old High-Rye bourbon, with a mash bill of 60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% malted barley.  On the nose, the extra rye is evident as we find a boost in the spice department.  Hints of baking spices abound.    In addition, slightly darker caramel, vanilla bean and espresso notes are present.  Taste-wise, big flavors paint the picture: Mexican chocolate, nutmeg, caramel, and sweet oak.  The finish is long and chest-warming, with lingering hints of dark chocolate-covered toasted almonds and toffee.  Like the 9-year-old bourbon, this expression, bottled at 114.8 proof, doesn’t need any water.  It’s a well made whiskey, that’s for sure.  9/10


Last but not least, Redemption’s 10-year-old rye whiskey features a familiar MGP mash bill of 95% rye and 5% malted barley.  It’s bottled at 116.2 proof.  The nose leans a bit towards the herbal, with hints basil and fennel sitting alongside fresh ginger and caramel.  The palate closely follows the nose.  More basil and dill at first, punctuated by dark chocolate, vanilla cream and dark toffee.  Oak spice and cigar box develop soon afterwards.  The finish is long and a touch dry, as expected, with hints baking spices, red pepper flakes and toffee.  A wonderfully aged rye whiskey that balances spice, herbs, and sweetness.  8.5/10

Thanks to Redemption Whiskey for the samples.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.