Behind the Scenes

Posted: April 3, 2008 in Culture, Taste

I’m not sure when it began exactly, but manufacturers, producers, and creators of all manner of goods, services, and entertainments now typically include some sort of behind-the-scenes or under-the-hood content for the general public. It can be observed in many manifestations. For example, the intricacy of analog wristwatch mechanisms is too tantalizing to hide behind a clock face, so many watches are now designed to expose their inner workings.


In another example, some high-end restaurants now offer seating not in a private dining room but at the kitchen table, which is literally a table in the kitchen of the restaurant. The noise, bustle, and harsh lighting of that location couldn’t possibly offer an very intimate or enjoyable venue, but the opportunity to observe the inner workings of a restaurant kitchen is apparently worthwhile to some diners.

kitchen table

Bonus features on a typical DVD, which weren’t available on VHS, are a better example of true added value in behind-the-scenes content. Typically, consumers have access to deleted scenes, “making of” featurettes, and commentary tracks. The best examples of these do not discuss merely technical aspects of filmmaking, which are primarily of interest to other filmmakers (and boring to the general public), but reveal decisions made to strengthen the narrative structure or coax better performances out of the players. One major failing of commentary tracks is typically the heaping of praise on celebrities, as though they were curing cancer or negotiating peace treaties. A few slice-of-life anecdotes are preferable.

I had the opportunity a week ago to travel the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, which is a modest two-lane road linking a variety of whiskey distilleries, large and small, that offer tours and tastings. I never knew such a thing exists and wasn’t especially interested even when I found out about it. However, due to his enthusiasm, I agreed to accompany a friend to the Maker’s Mark distillery in Loretto, Kentucky. The tour was free, and I was surprised to discover how interesting the history and process of making bourbon whiskey turned out to be. Pictures of the distillery from the 1950s revealed an small, modest industrial site of little distinction or appeal. Since then, the campus has been turned into an almost Epcot-like attraction, with the greater part of the actual distillery operation presumably taking place out of view. One striking detail on the trail was the four-story barns scattered around the county, clearly visible from the road, filled to capacity with “bourbon-eligible spirits” that age in five to seven years into the real stuff.

Already having an insider’s view of a number of different industries, processes, and endeavors, I’m not always very interested in pulling the curtain back to reveal other men and women doing their respective things. But I was charmed by the low-key approach at Maker’s Mark and will be less hesitant to detour off the beaten path in the future. Of course, if things go well, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail could become a victim of its own success, with swarms of people descending on the various sites like locusts.

  1. brooklynblue says:

    Your prediction at the end may be spot on. The bourbon trail is now part of Frommer’s top destinations to visit in 2008.


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