... a soulful journey that blends together biography, autobiography, philosophy, Kentucky history, the story of bourbon’s origins and an insider’s look at how the Van Winkle whiskey is made and marketed ... Thompson comes off as the Boswell of bourbon country here — a keen literary observer and respectful fanboy with an obvious affection for his subject ... moves smoothly through the family lore with the subtle nuances of a well-aged bourbon; it has top notes of stoicism and melancholy and a lingering finish of pride, even when recounting the hard times. Everyone drinks a lot of really excellent whiskey and Thompson admits: 'To be honest, it gets repetitive after a while, I know. I know.' But he soldiers on in order to thoroughly report what goes into each coveted bottle bearing the Van Winkle name ... Although flecked with humor and lighthearted moments, Pappyland takes a critical approach to the corn-squeezing culture, busting up myth as needed to reveal lesser-known tidbits ... Although it sometimes feels as if Thompson goes around the block (with a stop for pie and coffee) with some anecdotes, his ability to zoom in and out from the global to the personal level puts things in perspective.
Pappyland reads as a dramatic three-act tale, tracing the rise, fall and redemption of the Van Winkle family and fortune through the eyes of the third-generation Kentucky bourbon baron Julian Van Winkle III ... Pappyland is not only for fine bourbon aficionados. A celebrated sportswriter, Mr. Thompson brings to this authorized biography the same immersive and often personal perspective that make his profiles of athletes must-reads, whether or not you’re a sports fan. In between demystifying the Pappy mythos, Mr. Thompson unravels the complicated familial relationships within the Van Winkle clan while meditating on the meaning of his own family: welcoming the birth of his baby daughter and, particularly, mourning the loss of his beloved father, whom the author’s many fans will remember from past essays. At its core, this is a book about loving, lovingly written; about fatherhood and friendship, the South and its favorite drink and, as Mr. Thompson writes, 'the great communal joy of being alive.' Bourbon is for sharing, and so is Pappyland.
In Thompson's capable hands, Pappyland blossoms into a moving exploration of his own family history and of his search for life's meaning as he's about to become a father for the first time ... Thompson is a sympathetic chronicler of the Van Winkle family saga, and of Julian's dogged quest to resurrect Pappy's brand ... Thompson reflects eloquently on balancing his flourishing writing career with the impending demands of fatherhood ... as invigorating at the smell of freshly cut Kentucky bluegrass, and goes down as smoothly as a glass of Pappy's beloved bourbon.
... a fast-paced and colorful history of 20th-century Southern culture, told through the story of charismatic cult-bourbon maker Julius P. Van Winkle III ... 'Being Southern,' Thompson writes, 'means carrying a responsibility to shake off the comforting blanket of myth and see ourselves clearly.' Thompson more than fulfills that burden with insight and eloquence.
An amiable journey ... Thompson is well versed in the history himself, and, like Van Winkle, he is quick with a delightful and spot-on opinion ... If you’re a fan of the magic that is an artful bourbon, this is just the book for you.