Neat: The Story of Bourbon is a feature-length documentary that dives into the incredible world of bourbon. From its rich history of establishing itself as America’s native spirit to its fall from grace through the late 60s, 70s, and 80s thanks to the rise of clear spirits to its return to the spotlight as drinkers once again sought quality and authenticity, the path bourbon has taken to go from mash to fermentation to aging to bottle to glass is one of inspiration, one of innovation, and one that exemplifies how powerful the virtue of patience can be.
PRO TIP: Before reading this review, grab a bottle of your favorite bourbon, pour yourself a generous glass, sit back, and enjoy the magical creation that is bourbon whiskey. You’ll be glad you did.
Fermented beverages have been interwoven with the fabric of America from the days settlers arrived here on the Mayflower. History tells us the ship’s captain docked at Plymouth Rock because the crew’s supply of beer was nearly kicked. The decision to dock versus traveling further south to warmer climates where crops could be planted was made because of the lack of beer. That says a lot.
When America’s founders gathered at the first Constitutional Convention, George Washington’s bar tab for 55 people from the farewell party after framers signed off on the Constitution read something like this: 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, eight bottles of whiskey, 22 bottles of porter, eight bottles of hard cider, 12 bottles of beer, and seven bowls of alcoholic punch.
God Bless America.
As our great country took shape and move further west, whiskey rose to prominence. Settlers crossed the Appalachian Mountains and founded Kentucky, making sure to have their stills in toe. At that point, they were still making rye and barley whiskey. However, encounters with Indians who were influenced by the Spanish and corn whiskey, more popularly known as moonshine, led to a mixing of corn, rye, and barley whiskeys. This created the original flavor of bourbon that we’ve come to know and love today.
Neat, by definition, is a liquor served at room temperature without any mixers, water, or ice. It is the authentic, finished product in its purest form. Neat: The Story of Bourbon represents an authentic cinematic tapestry rich with stories, history, processes, and even a little comedy thanks to actor and bourbon enthusiast Steve Zahn. Whether you’re a novice dabbling in bourbon for the first time or you’ve been enjoying bourbon for years, Neat will provide you with a new appreciation for this historic American-made spirit. And, one thing’s for sure – once you’ve consumed this story, you’ll walk away realizing what happens outside of your drinking glass far with the people you love far surpasses the magical liquid inside of it.
DID YOU KNOW: Bourbon can only be made in America? That’s right. You can take every step necessary to produce a quality bourbon. But if it’s not made in the United States, you can’t call it bourbon – thus making it our native spirit. Bourbon is a whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. It comes down to ingredients and the process it takes to create bourbon that defines whiskey as ‘bourbon.’ As I mentioned before, it must be made in America. It must be made of 51% corn, the ingredient that gives bourbon its sweet characteristics. It must be aged in brand new charred white oak barrels, a wood that creates the rich vanilla and caramel notes you find in the finished product.
It must come off the still no higher than 160 proof and when it goes into its barrel for aging, it must be less than 125 proof. This is for the best as the higher the proof, the more flavors are lost in pure alcohol.
Bourbon is genuine – meaning no flavors or colors can be added. Bourbon goes in the barrel clear and, once it reaches maturity, comes out golden brown thanks to the work of the white oak.
The history of bourbon is a story beautifully captured in Neat – from its birth in Kentucky through its near-death during Prohibition to its return to prominence to its decline up against clear spirits to the renaissance we are reveling in today, bourbon has stood the test of time and has shown how patience not only leads to a fantastic finished product, but helps an entire industry bounce back and move forward.
The people that make bourbon so special are the ones that drive this story home. In Neat, you’ll meet MariAnne Barnes, Master Distiller at Castle & Key and America’s first female master distiller since Prohibition. You’ll also meet Freddie Johnson, a third generation employee at Buffalo Trace, and many more influential bourbon authors and historians who’ve helped shape the platform that helps bourbon shine today and for years to come.
Their passion for creating a product that brings people together, touches lives, and builds memories once again proves an axiom I’ve believed for years: the liquids we enjoy among loved ones are a byproduct of the relationships we have with those people. Cherish those moments…and be thankful quality products are present to enrich them.
Neat: The Story of Bourbon is produced by AJ Hochhalter and directed by David Altrooge. Producers on the film include Jennifer Brown, Corey Maple, and Gannon Diggs. Neat was written by AJ Hochhalter and David Altrooge and edited by Altrooge, Andrew Calvetti, and Michael J. Hartnett.
Now that you’ve read my take on Neat: The Story of Bourbon, it’s time to see the film for yourself! On Thursday, April 19th at 7:00pm at Ace Hotel, the Pittsburgh premiere of the film will be gracing the screen. To get the full experience, join the filmmakers and fellow bourbon enthusiasts for special VIP Pre-Party starting at 5:30 that’ll include free signature bourbon cocktails, light refreshments, a chance to mingle with the creators of the film, opportunities to win some swag, and VIP seating for the movie premiere.
Tickets for the event are selling fast! Click the link below and reserve your seats for the Pittsburgh premiere of Neat: The Story of Bourbon.
To learn more about the creators of Neat, click here.