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Issue 31 - Natural born swiller

Whisky Magazine Issue 31
June 2003


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Natural born swiller

Hunter S. Thompson's Wild Turkey intake is legendary: and ‘wild' is definitely the word

In 1970, the now defunct Scanlon's Monthly sent a young journalist named Hunter S. Thompson to his hometown of Louisville to do a piece on America's premier horse race, the Kentucky Derby. Thompson wasn't the icon he is today. Although he had published his first book on the Hell's Angels in 1966, he was still a vagrant hack in the process of inventing himself as America's leading provocateur-freak. And his visit to Louisville, as recounted in the essay The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved, begins with a brilliant act of provocation.

In the air-conditioned lounge I met a man from Houston who said his name was something or other – “but just call me Jimbo” – and he was here to get it on. “I'm ready for anything by God! Anything at all. Yeah, what are you drinking?” I ordered a Margarita with ice …

Picture the scene: Thompson, decked out in a fedora, a wide-collared shirt and sunglasses to hide his dilated pupils, smoking a Marlboro through a cigarette holder and ordering a tequila in the middle of bourbon country. As he himself later remarked, he was lucky to get out alive.

In a nod to the local mores, Thompson compromises on a double Old Fitz with ice and listens, as Jimbo explained what he has gotten himself into.

“Look … I know this Derby crowd, I come here every year, and let me tell you one thing I've learned – this is no town to be giving people the impression you're some kind of faggot. Not in public, anyway. Shit, they'll roll you in a minu...

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