Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Nary a Glimpse of Bourbon in "Glimpses of Kentucky"

Back in the days when movie theaters showed something other than coming attractions before the feature, one common short was "Traveltalks," whose presenter was James Fitzpatrick. In 1940, he presented "Glimpses of Kentucky." It's a nice, little ditty you can sometimes catch on TCM.

An outline of the film would look something like this:
  1. Cumberland River
  2. Bluegrass state
  3. Cumberland Falls
  4. Sheep farming
  5. Fort Harrod
  6. Henry Clay monument
  7. Daniel Boone grave
  8. "My Old Kentucky Home"
  9. "Old Black Joe"
  10. Thoroughbred horses
  11. Mint julep
  12. Other horses
  13. Horse farms
  14. Famous dead horses
With the exception of a brief nod to mint juleps, recommended as a refreshment after horse riding, there is no mention of bourbon whiskey. The bourbon industry was certainly active in Kentucky in 1940, but it followed the repeal of Prohibition by less than a decade. Kentucky made bourbon and its government was happy to collect the industry's taxes, but they didn't brag about it.

Kentucky just didn't tout its bourbon industry in those days. It never did until the recent era, beginning with the administration of Steve Beshear (2007-2015). Matt Bevin, the current governor, has continued that support. He shows up at most major industry events, such as the recent opening of Michter's Fort Nelson facility in downtown Louisville.

One of the most valuable forms of backing is indirect, the commonwealth's support for bourbon tourism. Bill Samuels of Maker's Mark tells the story of the hoops he had to jump through to get the Transportation Department to erect signs to guide people to his distillery. Years later, after the Kentucky Distillers Association established the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, brown 'attractions' signs appeared for all of the distilleries that welcomed visitors.

Although neo-prohibitionist types object, the economic development argument has proven persuasive to Kentucky's government and the governments of most other states that have distilling interests, which is quickly becoming most of them. A new "Traveltalk" for Kentucky would probably still feature a lot of horse stuff, but you can bet bourbon would be front and center too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Neo-prohibitionist types"... scary, isn't it? Can you all imagine? Can you wrap your head around Prohibition 2.0? What if it lasts 10 years? How many bottles do you need in your collection to just peacefully and responsibly enjoy a nightly dram? In my calculations, which are based on 50ml per night (I rarely drink more than 30ml)... you need about 15 twelve-bottle cases per person! Wink-wink :)