Burgoo, Barbecue & Bourbon Book Review

Greetings from a booze book nerd.

I’ve read a plethora of books involving American booze history. Today, I’m presenting “Burgoo, Barbecue, & Bourbon: A Kentucky Culinary Trinity” by Albert W.A. Schmid. I reside in Owensboro, KY where the local tourism slogan is “Bourbon, Barbecue, and Bluegrass.”  What’s not to love?  It’s a triumvirate made in Heaven.

The background behind this book is that Schmid got access to a wealth of historical cookbooks from Kentucky and went through them with a fine-tooth comb to look for trends in Kentucky culinary treats over the years. While “bourbon” is likely one of the first words we think of when we think of Kentucky, for many, barbeque and burgoo are not too far behind. This book definitely leans toward being a cookbook every bit as much as Jim Beam’s profile leans toward tasting like peanuts. However, Schmid interweaves the history of the foods as it relates to Kentucky as he provides historical recipes. What we have here is a Kentucky culinary history and recipe book.

If you’re from Kentucky, you’ve no doubt tried burgoo a couple of times in your life. If you’re not from Kentucky or Illinois, you may never have even heard of burgoo. Burgoo is a stew with vegetables and various types of meat that is cooked low and slow. Burgoo is a staple of most BBQ restaurants in western Kentucky. Burgoo has its in origins in being a “clean out the pantry dish.”  If your household had food that needed to go, but didn’t want to be wasted, you tossed it into a large kettle. Voila!

Historically, burgoo is made in very large batches intended to feed dozens to hundreds of people. The design to feed large crowds of people made it a popular food to serve to large political rallies in Kentucky. In fact, historic political rallies in Kentucky were often referred to as a “burgoo.”   This book contains historic recipes for making large scale burgoo. As for today: burgoo doesn’t have to be made in massive quantities similar to most flagship bourbon expressions. If you’re interested in quantities of burgoo that would be considered small batch or single barrel, this book also provides recipes to feed your family and not half of the town.

Following the detailed history of burgoo, the bulk of the book provides historic recipes for BBQ sauce and cooking techniques that have significance to certain people and regions in Kentucky. Pork and beef are both included, but extra attention is given to mutton due to its special significance in Kentucky culinary history. Just as tasting well-aged Kentucky bourbon is like tasting a glimpse of history, so too is tasting these historic recipes. Perhaps we can look at these recipes as akin to dusties?  Dusty bourbon brings different flavors and character as compared to modern bottles, thus dusty barbecue recipes do the same.

Several of the recipes in the book contain bourbon as an ingredient. However, Schmid notes that the large bulk of historic recipes he studied did not contain bourbon. While this may sound odd today when considering Kentucky cookbooks, Kentucky was still largely dry when the majority of these cookbooks were written. Seeing as how bourbon was not readily available in many counties (at least, legally), authors tended not to include recipes that used bourbon.

There are couple of recipes included in the book that might be of particular interest to modern bourbon lovers:

Booker Noe is quite the character in bourbon lore. Booker made noe secret about his love for beaten biscuits. This book provides a recipe for beaten biscuits so you, too, can taste something that Booker Noe loved so much.

Dixon Dedman is known for his whiskey blending acumen and The Beaumont Inn. This book includes the recipe for the corn muffins at The Beaumont Inn.

Schmid features several historic cocktail recipes that feature bourbon. If you’d like to embrace your inner Don Draper or simply want a good bourbon & apple cider punch for holiday guests, this is a good place to start.

Here are some fantastic dessert recipes that you might fancy:

“Run for the Roses Pie,” a stellar imitation of Derby Pie.

Biscuit pudding with bourbon sauce

Mint julep ice cream with bourbon sauce

I hope you’re as fascinated by this book as I was. Grab a pour of Kentucky bourbon and do the Kentucky Chew as you chew on these Kentucky culinary delights.

Now that we’ve talked books, let’s talk bourbon. I live in Owensboro, KY and we self-proclaim to be the “BBQ Capital of the World.”  I fully get that Kansas City and Memphis might take issue with Owensboro’s claim on BBQ dominance, but here we are. Our BBQ is indeed fantastic. It seems only fitting that we talk about a bourbon that was distilled in Owensboro.

Broken Barrel Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is not a brand owned by Green River Distilling, but is distilled at historic Green River. The brand initially launched as “Infuse Spirits Broken Barrel,” but recently underwent a rebranding as Broken Barrel Whiskey. I must note that the previous bottling of cask strength Broken Barrel did not have “straight” on the label. Bottlings now, and going forward, are straight.

Broken Barrel starts with two-to-three year old Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey distilled at Green River, that was aged in a traditional manner. The mashbill is 70% corn, 21% rye, and 9% malted barley. You may recognize that as one of MGP’s mashbills…  however, this is not MGP.  Broken Barrel’s bourbon was aged in a rickhouse composed of clay tile without any of the dreaded TerrePure method for rapid aging.

What makes Broken Barrel unique?  Their traditional straight bourbon is finished, but not in the typical way. Broken Barrel vatted their bourbon and then tossed in three types of barrel staves to soak in the vat for some undisclosed period of time. While we’re all familiar with the term “mashbill,” Broken Barrel likes to also talk “oak bill.”  Broken Barrel plays with a plethora of oak barrel stave combinations when finishing their whiskies.

For this particular bottle of cask strength bourbon at 115 proof, the oak bill is 40% ex-bourbon barrels, 40% new French oak, and 20% sherry cask oak. I’m quite familiar with the standard 70/21/9 mashbill profile coming out of Green River Distilling and the finishing process used by Broken Barrel does in fact produce a profile that is significantly different.

Retail price on Caskers is $45.

Let’s get into the glass!

Broken Barrel Cask Strength – Review

Color: The bourbon presents with a nice copper color. Based on the color, you’d never assume you’re looking at a bourbon that is at most 3 years old. The finishing process likely plays a part in adding a bit of color.

On the nose: I’m finding a nice herbal scent accompanying vanilla, crème brulee, and a bit of sweet kettle corn. It’s not the most complex nose in Kentucky, but it’s still enticing.

On the palate: I’m picking up candy corn, baking spices, vanilla, hazelnut, and a perhaps a touch of banana bread. On the banana bread, it’s nowhere near as strong as what is present with Jack Daniel’s. The finish lingers on and on. It’s definitely not a short finish. The finish brings dark fruits such as blackberry, caramel, organge peel, corn, and some cinnamon.


For less than $40 (the price I paid), it’s a delicious bottle that I highly recommend picking up!  You’ll be satisfied.

Score: 6/10

Note: This book was provided by The University of Kentucky Press for review.

Jacob Kiper

I’m your resident American booze history book nerd. I’m currently camping at 360+ completed books on booze history. I started reading on bourbon because I realized how little I knew… and then I realized I wanted to know it all.

  1. Andrew says:

    Really interesting read there Jacob – I think this is you’re first piece on Malt and I like!

    Bourbon fascinates me. I originally liked it but discarded it early on in my Malt Journey and too simplistic and one note. I realise now it isn’t they’re just more nuanced and I’m not sure I’m good enough to detect those nuances. I do, however, really enjoy drinking it and find it’s a much better summer drink too.

    It’s much harder to get access to the full depth and breadth of American Whiskey over here in the UK (or it feels like it is to me at least!) so I try and read as much as possible about it. Getting food info thrown in at the same time is the cherry on the cake, keep iot coming.

    1. Jacob Kiper says:

      Hi Andrew. This is indeed my first contribution to Malt Review. I’m glad you enjoyed the piece. I got into bourbon books a few years ago to learn about my new hobby… and now I can’t stop reading.

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