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Issue 20 - A Walker on the wild side

Whisky Magazine Issue 20
December 2001

 

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A Walker on the wild side

Jefferson Chase kicks off a new feature looking at whisky in literature. Step forward Walker Percy, as we salute you …

American writer Walker Percy is not so renowned outside his native land, but he should be ensconced in the heart of bourbon lovers worldwide. A doctor of medicine as well as a writer of fiction, the Southerner achieved fame with his first novel The Moviegoer (1960), and won the National Book Award in 1962. Before his death in 1990, Percy published a number of novels and collections of essays. Among the latter is a charming 1975 piece entitled simply Bourbon, which should be mandatory reading for any fan of Southern sippin' whiskey.

But Percy is hardly a connoisseur, as he himself admits:

“I can hardly tell one Bourbon from another, unless the other one is very bad. Some bad Bourbons are even more memorable than good ones… I recall being broke with some friends in Tennessee and deciding to have a party and being able to afford only two-fifths of a $1.75 Bourbon called Two Natural, whose label showed dice coming up 5 and 2. Its taste was memorable. The psychological effect was also notable. After knocking back two or three shots over the period of a hour, the three male drinkers looked at each other and said in a single voice: ‘Where are the women?'”

Who hasn't had a night like this? That's what cheap hooch is for.

For Percy, bourbon drinking is an aesthetic experience independent of demonstrations of connoisseurship and inebriation:
“But, as between these evils [alcoholism, cirrhosis, oesophageal haemorrhage, cancer of the palate] and the aesthetic of Bourbon dr...

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