The new bourbon documentary that looks as good as bourbon tastes
AJ Hochhalter makes music for movies. And every time he goes to a film festival he makes sure to bring along a nice bottle of bourbon. It's a celebratory thing. It's also a matter of pride. He's Kentucky bred, still lives and works here from his studio in downtown Lexington, and he gets a kick out of sharing a little bit of the Bluegrass State with the Sundance types who've never had the pleasure. He pours them a couple fingers of something nice and watches as the warmth, that feeling that you're being dipped in bronze, overpowers them.
He says, "That comes from where I come from."
Hell yeah it does.
Then, one time, totally off the cuff, he says to his buddies, "Hey, we should make a documentary about this stuff."
It was one of those ideas that's so good you don't take it seriously because you figure somebody else has surely done it already. Well, they hadn't. And so they did.
NEAT is a feature length documentary about bourbon that is currently in production and slated to be done filming by the end of the year.
AJ, the executive producer, enlisted the help of fellow Kentuckians and co-producers Corey Maple, Gannon Diggs and Micah DeYoung in order to make the film a reality. Other friends in the industry came through with all the hot cameras and drones to deliver some insanely beautiful cinematography.
"We tried to make a bourbon documentary that looks as good as bourbon tastes," AJ says. "The visuals don't rush the story. It's not all Ken Burns floating pictures. It's more cinematic. We love the history behind bourbon but we also wanted to cast the vision forward."
Check out the trailer and you'll see what he means. It's like the images themselves have been barrel-aged for eight years.
It's a weird thing to wrap your head around. All that time and risk and patience and reward.
In order to explore these themes to their fullest the producers interviewed the whole spectrum of players in the Kentucky bourbon game, from distillery tour guides to the governor himself.
"I loved talking to Governor Beshear," says AJ, "because he has such a birdseye view of what bourbon does for Kentucky, how it indirectly influences so much of our business, culture and pop culture."
They even got some all-access insight from Franklin County Sheriff, Pat Melton.
Sheriff Melton was the lead investigator on the infamous Pappy Van Winkle heist that's been all over the news.
NEAT also has the distinction of being the first documentary to take advantage of some generous new tax credits signed into effect earlier this year. Up to 35% of their Kentucky-based expenditures could potentially be reimbursed.
Not only does that entice big studios from across the country to shine the spotlight on our area for a change, it gives local guys like AJ, Corey, Gannon and Micah the peace of mind they need to slow down. To do it right. To let nature take its course. Just like master distillers.
After all, a new appreciation for those exact values is what led to bourbon's ferocious resurgence in the first place.
"I think that, for the most part, my generation is trying to get away from things that are fake," says AJ, "things that are processed, from a media standpoint as well as a food and beverage standpoint. The time, effort and patience that goes into bourbon lets you know that it's real. It's authentic. I think that's the appeal."
So which bourbon is most appealing to him?
He's only been lucky enough to come across it a couple times, but it's Jefferson's Presidential Reserve. The 18 year. He says it tastes like brown sugar syrup.
You should drink it alone if you ever get the chance, with your eyes closed, and think about how it would sound as a song.
Contact AJ Hochhalter at email@example.com