Pappyland: A Story of Family, Fine Bourbon, and the Things That Last (Paperback)

Pappyland: A Story of Family, Fine Bourbon, and the Things That Last By Wright Thompson Cover Image

Pappyland: A Story of Family, Fine Bourbon, and the Things That Last (Paperback)


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The New York Times bestseller!

“A warm and loving reflection that, like good bourbon, will stand the test of time.” —Eric Asimov, The New York Times

“Bourbon is for sharing, and so is Pappyland.”—The Wall Street Journal

The story of how Julian Van Winkle III, the caretaker of the most coveted cult Kentucky Bourbon whiskey in the world, fought to protect his family's heritage and preserve the taste of his forebears, in a world where authenticity, like his product, is in very short supply.

Following his father’s death decades ago, Julian Van Winkle stepped in to try to save the bourbon business his grandfather had founded on the mission statement: “We make fine bourbon—at a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always fine bourbon.” With the company in its wilderness years, Julian committed to safeguarding his namesake’s legacy or going down with the ship.

Then he discovered that hundreds of barrels from the family distillery had survived their sale to a multinational conglomerate. The whiskey that Julian produced after recovering those barrels would immediately be hailed as the greatest in the world—and soon would be the hardest to find. Once they had been used up, a fresh challenge began: preserving the taste of Pappy in a new age.

Wright Thompson was invited to ride along as Julian undertook the task. From the Van Winkle family, Wright learned not only about great bourbon but about complicated legacies and the rewards of honoring your people and your craft—lessons that he couldn’t help but apply to his own work and life. May we all be lucky enough to find some of ourselves, as Wright Thompson did, in Pappyland.
Wright Thompson is a senior writer for ESPN and the bestselling author of The Cost of These Dreams and Pappyland. He lives in Oxford, Mississippi with his family.
Product Details ISBN: 9780735221277
ISBN-10: 0735221278
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: May 30th, 2023
Pages: 256
Language: English
“Bourbon is for sharing, and so is Pappyland.” —Wall Street Journal

“A soulful journey that blends together biography, autobiography, philosophy, Kentucky history, the story of bourbon’s origins and an insider’s look at how the Van Winkle whiskey is made and marketed . . . Thompson, an ESPN senior writer by way of Mississippi, comes off as the Boswell of bourbon country here—a keen literary observer and respectful fanboy with an obvious affection for his subject . . . Pappyland moves smoothly through the family lore with the subtle nuances of a well-aged bourbon; it has top notes of stoicism and melancholy and a lingering finish of pride, even when recounting the hard times.” New York Times Book Review

“A warm and loving reflection that, like good bourbon, will stand the test of time.” —Eric Asimov, The New York Times

Pappyland is as invigorating as the smell of freshly cut Kentucky bluegrass, and goes down as smoothly as a glass of Pappy's beloved bourbon.” —Shelf Awareness

“An amiable journey, courtesy of ESPN sportswriter Thompson, into the arcana of American whiskey [. . .] If you’re a fan of the magic that is an artful bourbon, this is just the book for you.” Kirkus 

“A fast-paced and colorful history of 20th-century Southern culture, told through the story of charismatic cult-bourbon maker Julian P. Van Winkle III. . . . ‘Being Southern,’ Thompson writes, ‘means carrying a responsibility to shake off the comforting blanket of myth and see ourselves clearly.’ Thompson more than fulfills that burden with insight and eloquence.” Publishers Weekly (starred)

“One of Wright Thompson’s many gifts is his ability to give language to those intangibles of life that are, to the rest of us, indescribable. So his account of the Van Winkle family and its elusive, masterful bourbon is justly rendered in profound, utterly compelling fashion. Success and failure; legacy and sacrifice; the commitments to family and the fight to reclaim something lost to time—Pappyland fits neatly alongside the traditions and scope of great Southern literature and, like the bourbon at the center of the story, captures a special kind of lightning in a bottle.” —Ashley Christensen, James Beard Award–Winning chef, fan of brown water on ice with a lemon twist

“In Wright Thompson’s beautifully written and delightful book, Julian Van Winkle’s odyssey to make whiskey in the spirit of his beloved Pappy becomes a story about how we keep faith with the past—with our ancestors and with the legacy of a great craft—and how we move on from it. Pappyland is a beautiful antidote to false sentiment; I cherished it.” —Walter Isaacson

“A bourbon-laced Book of Hours heady with history, soul-searching, southern shrines, and meditations on fatherhood. Thompson goes in search of Kentucky’s most potent heritage and slowly circles round to his own. It’s a story meant for sipping, rough and sweet on the tongue.” —Burkhard Bilger

“Frankly I don’t give a damn about bourbon. But I do care greatly about family and children, about fathers and sons, and about tradition and legacy, and it’s out of these ingredients that Wright Thompson distills this beautiful and life-loving book. Pappyland is the story of bourbon master Julian Van Winkle, told by a master writer reaching across generations for meaning. Which means it is nothing less than the story of mastery itself.” —Tom Junod

“Only Wright Thompson could tell the story of something as beloved as Pappy and make me admire it more. This is a profound book that is every bit as nuanced and lasting as the whiskey it’s about. It made me reconsider the power of mythology, history, family legacy, and the stories we tell ourselves. I also learned a lot about fine bourbon.” —Eli Saslow, winner of the Pulitzer Prize winner and author of Rising out of Hatred

“In Pappyland Wright Thompson takes his reader on a journey, indeed a pilgrimage, across times, places, and generations all deeply rooted in the bluegrass country of Kentucky in search of the almost mythical Pappy Van Winkle. In elegant prose Thompson embarks on an odyssey which, like all such endeavors, ultimately returns the hero to home, both for his subject, Julian Van Winkle III, and for the author.” —Dr. Paul M. Pearson, Director of the Thomas Merton Center