When you arrive in Kentucky and start asking around about who is the “go-to” expert for American whiskey, the name Michael Veach comes up quite a bit. He is known as “bourbonveach” on Instagram and truly is the library of knowledge that everyone portrayed him as. Before I reached out to him I read one of his books called Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey- An American Heritage. This is an all-encompassing, true history of the brown spirit and how it came to be what it is today. The amazing part of this read is that many of the names you hear as significant contributors to American whiskey’s history are names you already know from bottle labels. Elijah Craig, George Dickel, Jack Daniels and many others.
When I wrote to him and he agreed to meet, I didn’t know exactly what to ask him. I had to be honest that bourbon and American whiskey were a weaker point of mine. If you asked me about Scotch, Irish or Japanese whisky- out spewed a million ideas, thoughts and questions. Now all of a sudden I am with the official “historian and record keeper” of bourbon. I decided to go in with a few questions, but also let the conversation flow naturally. He is the expert after all.
The conversation evolved and progressed into topics I didn’t realize he was involved in. Not only is he an author and historian, but he’s got quite the nose! Another book I bought immediately after meeting him was his Bourbon Tasting Notebook book with Susan Reigler. As a female, this is my new go-to resource. You get two opinions, both male and female on many popular American whiskeys. You can research him and see his background beyond being an author, but I’ll give you the quick version. He was the Bourbon Historian at the Filson Historical Society in Louisville until 2014. In 2006 he was inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame and now has his own consulting firm. He works with many American whiskey brands on realizing their history.
He also hosts classes and educational events both for tastings, industry history and a combination of both. This is where I really enjoyed the conversation, because possibly getting into educational work within the industry is something I have been thinking about. Especially since the lack of focused whiskey education program's is why I planned this 6 month trip I am on. The whiskey industry leaves a lot to be desired in regards to structured education like wine has with Master of Wine and Sommelier programs. Streamlined programs are few and far between and if there is something, it is usually on the technical/chemistry side of distillation. Although Michael’s classes are typically held in Kentucky and the surrounding states, they are a great start to get industry and tasting experience. These are just a few examples:
- Monthly historical classes at the Silver Dollar in Louisville--https://www.gotolouisville.com/events-calendar/monthly-historical-bourbon-class-with-bourbon-historian-michael-veach/
- Bourbon Academy - This used to be run through the Filson Historical Society, but I would write directly to him to find out specific details.
One of the most exciting ventures he has coming up is in regards to cigar and whiskey pairings. If you follow him on Instagram, you will see he has many interests beyond whiskey including cigars and pipes. Whiskey and food pairings are very popular right now and I believe cigars are next. I am a cigar novice and of course know, just like with whiskey, there can be serious consequences to this hobby, but it is part of whiskey culture and history. I find this especially interesting for women, since not only is whiskey a huge market for women, but I think cigars are soon to follow. You will see that Mr. Veach has been working on many studies on what cigars go well with what whiskies and I hope to see this as his next venture and maybe even publication. All I know is that it was an honor to meet him and Rosemary, and I am excited to see what he has planned next.