Reflections on Neat: The Story of Bourbon and What Bourbon Means to Me

by Colonel Steve Akley


Reflections on the Film, Neat: The Story of Bourbon Causes Me to Reflect About What Bourbon Means to Me

February 11, 2018... the last day I will ever be in my 40s. Tomorrow, I will wake up and magically be 50... granted, I will remind everyone I was born at 5:09 p.m. and thus, technically still 49 until then... but, that's more of someone grasping at straws than reality there. 

"Hold on to your 40s as long as you can... change come 'round real soon making old women and men." - A twist upon the lyrics of John Mellencamp (I think we all figured out why he was John Cougar at the time he wrote that song).

So, I spent this morning doing something that is going to stick with me for a while. I watched the documentary, Neat: The Story of Bourbon. I anticipated it would be good, I mean I love everything about bourbon, how could it not be? I didn't anticipate it would cause me to reflect back upon my life in the way that it did, thinking about what bourbon means to me as I stand at the doorstep of fifty... the big 5-0.

The movie will be coming out on February 20. Renee and I got screener copies to watch so we could prepare for an interview for The Bourbon Daily. With a few birthday activities going on over the weekend, my daughter Cat came home and I didn't want to watch it while she was home taking away time from her. I decided I would watch it first thing in the morning on Sunday since Cat typically sleeps in until at least 10:00 a.m.

Since I had a one-day delay in getting to view the movie, Renee watched it first. She texted me to tell me how great it was... like, really, really great. She mentioned she cried a few times and didn't know why... it's just that good.

That's a pretty powerful review. Renee is just like me in that she loves the history of bourbon. The people of bourbon. The narrative of how it came about. I was officially really stoked about this viewing.

So, sure enough, this morning I get up and watch the movie. Renee was right on. It was so powerful. I'm watching the movie and it's so different than anything I've ever watched before. These are our people... our friends on the screen. They've been on shows with Renee and I and there they are in this beautifully made movie that is scored, written and choreographed so incredibly. It's amazing. You also realize how powerful bourbon is. How it touches people's lives in an amazing way with this fantastic story that anyone involved, no matter how big they are at the time, will end up being a blip in its history as it keeps going with new fans, new generations discovering it and carrying it forward, using the traditions and history for consistency, but adding a little something to it themselves as well.

I have to admit... I got a little weepy as well. Freddie Johnson. I love that guy. He truly is a gem. A national treasure. If his stories don't get to you, I'm not sure you have a heart, much less a bourbon fan. Anyway, my official review was that it's a love story. It's a love story of bourbon. We may say we love bourbon... the taste of it... collecting it... sharing it with friends... but you will walk away from this movie with a better understanding of yourself and how much you are "in love" with bourbon which is even more deep than simply just loving it after watching the film.

As the credits rolled, I began to think about bourbon and what it means in my life. At the age of 49, I was let go from a job I had held for almost 20 years in what corporate America likes to soften it by saying it was a "reduction in force"... a RIF. I wasn't fired, laid-off, tossed-aside. I was "RIFed." It may sound nicer to them, but the result is the same for me and my family: I'm now a 49-year old guy without a job.

Despite the creative skills... the tangible skills like the fact I developed and implemented sales training for 15 of my 20 years there and also the fact I've been in sales my whole life... I'm a writer... no one wants to hire me. Even though I was willing to take an entry level salary... when I was working hard to find a job in the months following my "RIF", I found nothing but dead-ends. Not a single phone call, interview, or bit of interest.

What I had going, though, was bourbon. For the last several years, I've been working on getting involved in the world of bourbon. It was something I hoped to do in retirement, after my daughter was out of school. Instead, with no job prospects, I went to work on seeing I could ramp up my efforts to make this my job and not just a side-gig I had going on.

I'm happy to say it's been going great. The bourbon world is amazing and doors have opened for me and my company. You, the listeners, the fans of what we do at the ABV Network LLC, are truly amazing as well. You support our advertisers, buy my books, and have become Patreon sponsors.

It's mind-blowing as I think about all of this.

Things are going well and my daughter is still in school, we still have a house, and I've found myself truly happy with what I'm doing for a living for the first time in... well, ever!

What does bourbon mean to me? A lot. I whole lot. 

Check out Neat: The Story of Bourbon when it comes out February 20 and think a little bit about what bourbon means to you as well. (You can pick it up on iTunes by clicking here.)