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Neat – The Story of Bourbon

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Last night I attended a screening, hosted by the Bourbon Brotherhood , of the new movie NEAT: The Story of Bourbon  I had a chance to meet producer AJ Ockstead her and and hear a bit about his inspiration to make the film and why it is important.

NEAT explores this uniquely American spirit through its history, culture and lore and does it with the voices of its 2018 caretakers:  the distillers, bartenders, owners and generational employees whom, as it turns out, are far more entertaining and engaging that any actors it could’ve been hired. Having said that, however Steve Zahn (War for the Planet of the Apes, Modern Family, Escape from Planet Earth and Diary of a Wimpy Kid) keeps it all from going down too seriously and reminds us that bourbon is all about fun also.

Director David Altrogge and Producer AJ Hochhalter take us on a journey through bourbon history and its place in American history. The film is a beauty to look at, but the best thing going for the film is the cast. The master distillers featured are a real treat; Kentucky bourbon legends like Jimmy Russell from Wild Turkey, Fred Noe of Jim Beam, and Denny Potter of Heaven Hill, to name just a few. Their wisdom and insight into the category is inspiring.

In addition, there are stories from folks like Freddie Johnson and Marianne Barnes. Johnson is a third generation employee & tour guide extraordinaire for Buffalo Trace and Barnes is master distiller for Castle & Key—a new Kentucky distillery housed in the historic Old Taylor Distillery. Barnes, the first female master distiller in Kentucky since Prohibition, was trained by the likes of Chris Morris of Woodford Reserve, another legend featured in the film.

Whether you are a bourbon aficionado, novice or a teetotaler you will come away with an appreciation for bourbon as an American invention. No other product in America is as heavily regulated and restricted as bourbon. When you buy a bottle of bourbon that is exactly everything and nothing more, that you will get. No coloring, no flavoring, no preservatives, no additives. If anything is added to it, it becomes whiskey.

The film takes you through the history of settlers bringing stills to America, the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897, the 1964 congressional act defining “America’s native spirit” and the bourbon depression of the 1970s and 1980s. He reminds us that, in a world that currently revolves around instant gratification, bourbon needs time.

The film showcases several high profile people in the industry, including the first female master distiller since prohibition Marianne Barnes, Castle and Key, and Freddie Johnson, Buffalo Trace third generation employee, revered as one of the best tour guides one could ever have. Throughout the film, it is made clear that there are two things fundamental to bourbon: people and time.

Whether you’re a bourbon connoisseur or a novice who is just learning about the world of bourbon, this film is for you. Altrogge interweaves the simple history and facts about bourbon with stories of the people who love, create, enjoy, and drink it. The film takes you through the history of settlers bringing stills to America, the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897, the 1964 congressional act defining “America’s native spirit” and the bourbon depression of the 1970s and 1980s.

Altrogge and Hochhalter remind us that, in a world that currently revolves around instant gratification, bourbon needs time. It is made clear through the stories and imagery that bourbon is not just something you drink; it’s something you love.

I would recommend enjoying this film with friends. The film gracefully moves you through the bourbon industry, makes you want to soak up more knowledge and stories, and possibly make some of your own. It also makes you want to pour and enjoy another glass of America’s native spirit — bourbon.

The movie is available for sale or rent on Google Play, Amazon and iTunes.