Literature and Liquor: ‘The Secret History’ and Knob Creek Bourbon


Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, named after the creek that bends by Abraham Lincoln’s childhood home. ( Steven Guzzadl /Creative Commons Flickr)

Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, named after the creek that bends by Abraham Lincoln’s childhood home. (Steven Guzzadl/Creative Commons Flickr)

Donna Tartt’s debut novel, ‘The Secret History’ is an incredibly enthralling and sophisticated tale that expertly modernized the classic Greek tragedy. Set against the backdrop of the Vermont wild, this meandering tale follows lonesome narrator Richard Papen through his peculiar experiences at Hampden College.

As Richard slowly becomes integrated into an inner circle of students studying classics under the tutelage of their eccentric Professor Julian Morrow, he stumbles upon a convoluted murder plot. At first Richard struggles to fit in with his wealthy and pompous classmates, lying about his blue collar roots and spending his paltry savings on ostentatious clothing. As he becomes more comfortable around the classics clique, Richard begins to realize that each member of the group is a misfit in one way or another. However his sense of camaraderie is short-lived, as the closer he grows to the classical clique, the deeper he becomes entrenched in the psychosis and betrayal that lies beneath the surface.

Revealing the murder victim at the very start of the prologue, Donna Tartt artfully writes as if Richard were recounting the events that led him and his classmates down such a depraved path. This story-telling technique allows Tartt to disclose bits and pieces of the story slowly over time, keeping the mystery alive while alluring curious readers with tidbits of information from the very start. Although the plot is riveting and her prose is elegant, Tartt’s vivid characters are what sets her apart from her contemporaries. Professor Julian Morrow is a particularly intriguing character who manages to be outlandish, brilliant, charismatic and intense all at the same time. Morrow treats his students as if they were elite members of a secret society, and his pupils reciprocate by fervently venerating his every word and whim.

Richard aside, the other members of the classic’s clique are a colorful cast. Inscrutable Henry leads the group, a mountainous yet stoic genius who is as absurdly wealthy as he is intelligent. Charles and Camilla are two enigmatic twins, rich with not only fortune but also good looks, who are so close that they practically connected at the hip. Slim and dapper Francis is just as affluent as Henry and the twins, but more uptight and irritable than his peers. The last member of the band is the erratic Bunny, an uncouth yet chummy character who often takes advantage of his peers’ goodwill. Despite their differences these students all have one thing in common (excluding their devotion to Julian of course): an unfluctuating penchant for alcohol.

A liquor that seems fit to drink alongside these bacchanalian scholars is Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Named after the creek that bends by Abraham Lincoln’s childhood home, few brands of whiskey are even comparable to this legendary and widely renowned Bourbon for good reason. Remarkably affordable at around $30 per 750ml bottle, Knob Creek is 100 proof and packs a spirituous punch with every swig.

Although this bourbon may initially seem harsh upon a first sip, it exhibits one of the most complex tastes on the market. Full-bodied and bursting with flavorful heat, Knob Creek slides smoothly down the gullet. The aftertaste is sweet with the hints of warm oak, almond, cinnamon, walnut and the slightest trace of maple syrup. If you consider yourself a bourbon aficionado, Knob Creek is an essential whiskey to broaden your palate as you are swept along Donna Tartt’s tale of intrigue and calamity.

Dean Ravenola is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at

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