Whisky Magazine Issue 20
This article is 12 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.
Copyright Whisky Magazine © 1999-2013. All rights reserved. To use or reproduce part or all of this article please contact us for details of how you can do so legally.
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...