Mar 6th 2018 by atlasobscura • 24 Questions • 4091 Points
Hi everyone! I am Niall Ferguson. I am the Milbank Family Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a senior fellow of the Center for European Studies, Harvard, where I served for twelve years as the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History. I am also a visiting professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing, and the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation Distinguished Scholar at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC. I have written fifteen books, including The Pity of War, The House of Rothschild, Empire, Civilization and Kissinger, 1923-1968: The Idealist, which won the Council on Foreign Relations Arthur Ross Prize. I am an award-making filmmaker, too, having won an international Emmy for my PBS series The Ascent of Money. In addition to writing a weekly column for the Sunday Times (London) and the Boston Globe, I am the founder and managing director of Greenmantle LLC, an advisory firm. I also serve on the board of Affiliated Managers Group. My new book, The Square and the Tower, was published in the U.S. in January.
You can find me online here:
EDIT: And that's it folks. It's 11:02am in Stanford and I have to get back to my day job. Thanks to all of you for really great questions. My RSI is now killing me, but it was fun!
Hi Denny! Some of my favorite Heaven Hill bourbons are the old, affordable Bottled in Bond brands. Are there any plans to help promote and push these brands for greater distribution? Much like how Henry McKenna and Rittenhouse were revitalized. Perhaps add age statements and premiumize them? Re-designed labels? I am talking brands like JW Dant, JTS Brown, TW Samuels, Old Fitzgerald and Heaven Hill.
In your recent interview with Sam Harris, you seemed to sidestep criticisms of Kissinger by saying that if he's a war criminal, then so is Obama, etc. Since this is not a political question but a legal one, and since many of us are perfectly willing to follow you on your point about Obama, what is an actual substantive argument for your lenient stance on Kissinger's actions?
I’ve loved history ever since I can remember. I wanted to know more about how we got to where we are. And I had a fascination with Alexander Hamilton way before it was cool to like him--he was my first “history crush”: https://prologue.blogs.archives.gov/2012/02/22/history-crush-alexander-hamilton/
Yes, a great example of this is the recent announcement about the Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond (check out link below for details). Old Fitzgerald is a historic brand with a history in decanters. Much like our Pikesville Rye, we champion these bottlings and look for opportunities to promote them or reintroduce them to a wider audience.
I haven't begun writing vol. II, so I wasn't side-stepping Sam's question, just making sure I didn't preempt myself. My argument is for consistency. My hunch is that either there are a lot of war criminals who have led the State Department / U.S. government or none, depending on your definition. What seems highly implausible to me is that there is only one, and that is Kissinger. Remember, the main basis for this claim is a really shoddy little book by my old friend Chris Hitchens. He was many things, but a lawyer wasn't one of them.
What is on the back of the Declaration of Independence and what would happen if I stole it?
Thanks for doing this. Visited the distillery last summer and had a blast.
1) How closely does HH follow r/bourbon, if at all? Are you aware of how highly regarded Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is there?
2) What is one recent, readily available bourbon or rye (i.e. not secondary market or super $$) from a different distillery that made you say "Damn, that's good"?
If you answer, I commit to 3 fingers of Pikesville tonight in your honor.
Is it true all tweets are held in the national archive? Or was that just a rumor that people put out there when I was in high school.
big fan of heaven hill brands. elijah craig barrel proof, in particular. i have a few questions:
do you have any favorite independent or small distilleries you think we should be watching? people who are doing it right and not rushing product to market?
any chance of barrel/high proof offerings of other heaven hill labels?
what is heaven hill doing to stymie the oncoming pop to the bourbon bubble? does heaven hill even think this is a bubble or does hh see the current fervor as a sea change for the whiskey world?
Do you really have a warehouse with the Ark of the Covenant?
And is that where y'all have squirreled away my military medical records?
How aware and tapped into the secondary/black market are you? Have your recent pricing increases for limited edition bottlings been related to prices you've seen on the secondary? or more from sales increases and market research?
as a consumer, i lament the price increase, but as a fan, it's good to see the higher end bourbon releases starting to get luxury prices more in line with products in the same family (ie, scotch)
What are some items that most people would be amazed that are in the National Archives?
Hey Denny! Thanks for opening your doors to Heaven for a little bit.
Can you speak on the Bourbon industry and where you think it's going. Everyone claims the bubble is about to burst.
Also, can you explain the farm to distillery relationship and where you might get your corn, wheat and rye from? I've heard that a lot of distilleries, HH included use GMO products to keep up with demand. Any shift towards organic!
Who’s been the most influential historian in your career? Most overrated? Most underrated?
And why is Cambridge better than Oxford?
Tupac because I assume he would also be a fan of the Hamilton musical.
A few black history months ago I bumped into a showcase of documents Tuskegee airmen, including flight/ bombing plans on northern Italy. My late father had a close encounter with an aviator in one such eposode, of which he shared vivid remembrance. In which facility can I find those documents to learn more? I tried looking in your online DB but records are scattered and not identified other than by military designators. Thanks!
Hi Denny! Where do you see the future of brands like Old Fitzgerald, and Heaven Hill 6yr BiB headed? Is it a focus to see these brands nationwide?
Long live BiB!
Thank you for doing the AMA! I wrote a term paper on The Pity of War in college and thoroughly enjoyed your challenges to the conventional wisdom about WWI—I’ve even read the book a second time independent of any course work.
Do you consider yourself to be a historical contrarian? If so, at what point in your education and/ or career do you think you realized this? What do you think has led you to view many historical events and phenomena differently from other historians and commentators?
I love that show! It’s hilarious. I would love to be on it. And my favorites are all the ones that deal with Hamilton.
My SO has taught me a considerable amount about wine and I've taught her a lot about bourbon. I've really grown to appreciate wine and I feel like my experience with tasting bourbon has made it easier to pick up tasting wine.
Do you find that bourbon has expanded your palate while tasting other things? Other than bourbon, what other types of alcohol do you enjoy in your down time?
In a previous answer, you said you believe the benefits of the British Empire outweighed its costs for a long time. Can you talk more about this? Benefits/costs for whom?
Yes, tasting American Whiskey over the years has certainly helped expand my palate, or at least improved my ability to explain what I’m tasting. As for other types of alcohol, I love aged rum. I actually ran a rum distillery in the Caribbean for 3 years and fell in love with the rum making process and the people that make it happen.
For humanity. The argument is there in Empire, as well as in other works (The Cash Nexus, Colossus, Civilization -- also War of the World). I have a paper that I never published that pulls the economics together, but I decided it was futile as the post-colonial types aren't interested in quantifying welfare or considering counterfactuals (which you have to do).
I appreciate what you guys are doing at Heaven Hill. Does Heaven Hill have a place where I can find events that you guys participate in? Festivals, dinners, shows etc.
Hi Niall, many thanks for doing this AMA.
What do you think will cause the next recession? (In the UK)
We do keep this page (http://heavenhilldistillery.com/visit-us.php) updated specific to events happening at both of our visitor centers, the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in Downtown Louisville and the Bourbon Heritage Center in Bardstown. We also participate in all 4 WhiskyFests and Whisky Live!
The Fed. Or the People's Bank of China.
Hi Denny, first off thank you for doing this AMA & making such a wonderful product. My question is how did you become a master distiller? What was your experience, education, and other factors that contributed to you landing such a wonderful job?
Whats up Niall! Big fan of your work!
I'm curious to hear any strategies you have when wanting to learn about some topic, and how you go about finding work that is accurate and not overtly bias. How do you gauge it's validity?
I enjoy your work particularly bc you delve into topics with the understanding that there's good and bad things about everything and everyone.
I've posted an answer to this question here: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/82gpva/im_denny_potter_master_distiller_at_heaven_hill/dva0m1b/
Doing history well is all about the ratio of pages you read to pages you write. For many books it's close to unity. I shoot for 1000:1. There's no substitute for being comprehensive. It's only by reading as much as possible that you are able to screen out the garbage and identify the quality research -- the stuff based on deep archival research. And then you go to the archives yourself.
Hey Niall. I always read your books because they provide two things: a personal touch to go with the information (I like how you start your sections with someone involved in the history's perspective, maybe through a letter, and go from there) and always a clear argument to be mulled over while reading.
Sometimes, though, I read your books and am overwhelmed by the amount of info. How do you recommend readers of history go about tackling history books? Read first and last chapter's first, read intro and conclusion chapter sections first, read first and last sentence of paragraphs first, or go straight through like a novel?
Hopefully this makes it up there.
Great question. Most people who are close to my kids in age have concentration issues because of all the messages, emails, alerts in their lives. So a bit of mental fitness helps: get your brain to read faster and in a more focused way -- like taking your head to the gym. Then read ruthlessly. If it's boring, skim. Read intro, then conclusion, then dip. If it's good, you'll get drawn in. If it's not so good, you can be done inside half an hour and know all you need to know. A total lack of respect for authors is important. The truth is that most books don't deserve more than half an hour of your life.