Whisky That Will Earn Dad's Seal of Approval
Last year I wrote a Father’s Day gift guide that matched wine, beer and spirits with famous fictional dads. When crowd-sourcing the characters for the article, a friend said to me, “You should really include your own dad, because I still can’t believe he’s real.”
I know what he means. He’s quite a unique man. Another friend once said, “Some people think the world revolves around them. For your dad it just somehow does.” It’s true. Things just have a way of falling into line where he’s involved. Not in a sinister or even oppressive way, per se. He isn’t a violent or mean person by any sense. He’s just one of those people who’s a happening maker and he’s particularly skilled at it. Or maybe it’s luck. Or some other explanation known only to the cosmos.
We haven’t always been in agreement, but one thing I’ve learned from him is an appreciation of good things to eat and drink. Because of this, it’s been particularly enjoyable to share new things I’ve tasted with him over the years, especially new whisky. Here are a few I am looking forward to sipping with him that your own force-of-nature pater familias might appreciate as a gift for Father’s Day too.
Crown Royal Noble Collection Wine Barrel Finished: Apart from whisky, my father is a serious wine connoisseur with an extensive private collection, so something that satisfies both these interests would be quite a treat. Finishing whisky in wine barrels - meaning that after initial aging in classic barrels such as American oak the whisky spends a few weeks/months in a cask that was used for aging wine - is nothing new. However, it is a relatively new thing for a high end blended Canadian whisky such as this one. Says national brand ambassador Stephen Wilson: “With Crown Royal Wine Barrel Finished, we wanted to explore flavor by taking our signature blend of Crown Royal Deluxe through a second maturation in [Paso Robles] Cabernet barrels from California. As a spirit or wine matures and works itself in and out of the barrel, it picks up flavors and characteristics from the wood. At the same time, it leaves bits of its personality behind. The secondary maturation in wine barrels allowed some of the richer tones of Crown Royal to shine through while picking up some of the flavors left behind by the Cabernet." The result is a bolder, richer expression that will satisfy drinkers who like some oooomph in their glasses. $60, 40.5% ABV
Westland Garryana 2nd release: Westland is one of the leaders in the American single malt movement, experimenting with different finishes and expressions, but with a keen precision that doesn’t make the drinker feel like a lab rat that's been overcharged at the bar. Being a scientist, my dad would appreciate Master Distiller Matt Hofmann’s curious nature and thoughtful research in creating the second outing of the Garryana expression, which uses native Pacific Northwest’s rare Garry oak (Quercus garryana) for its aging. Not an easy feat since the parameters of the project require the lumber to be pre-fallen instead of chopped down, and dry enough to handle the necessary cooperage and contact with the whiskey. This second release in the series is darker and richer than the first. Hofmann used unpeated barley this time, which picks up more of the spicy clove and ginger flavors of the wood, as well as some wild berry notes. There are only 2,600 bottles available at $125 each, 50% ABV. (Note: this is so new that many stores might not have it in yet if they plan to carry it. However, it’s worth putting in an advanced order and letting papa know it’s coming!)
Slane Irish Whiskey: Another fun, scientific experiment with wood is featured in this new Irish whiskey, the marriage of whiskeys aged in three different types of casks - ex-Oloroso sherry, seasoned casks (ex-Tennessee whiskey and ex-bourbon) and virgin oak (the latter two types were seasoned and built at the proprietary Brown-Forman cooperage). The whiskey is spicy, complex and fun to drink with (much like my dad himself). It's delicious neat or on the rocks, but it's flavorful kick holds up well in cocktails too. $30, 40% ABV
Highland Park Valkyrie: Dad is a massive opera buff. He follows productions of Richard Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung the way some people follow a Grateful Dead tour. The most explosive of the four operas in the series is Die Walküre (yes, the “Kill the Wabbit” one with the soprano on the rock in the viking helmet), and I’d venture to guess he’s seen it performed in various parts of the world at least 30 times. So, this new whisky named for the legend of avenging, horse-backed viking angels with swords who swooped onto battlefields to defend fallen soldiers is a no-brainer, right? The Scotch from this famed Orkney distillery is always slightly peaty, but this one turns the smokiness up a few notches to reflect its fiery namesake. Skål! $80, 45.9% ABV
Basil Hayden’s Rye: I am an only child, but my dad is the oldest of two brothers by five years. They didn’t always get along, but in the past decade or so, they’ve cultivated a warm-hearted bond. Basil Hayden’s bourbon has been a favorite with bourbon aficionados who take to its spicy rye flavors, so years later they finally released a sibling to satisfy rye drinkers. The trademark spiciness is there in a subtle form, along with baked fruits, caramel and a hint of toffee. Also, it just won double gold in the 2017 New York International Spirits Competition! $45, 40% ABV
Try it in a Porch Swing!
- 2 oz rye or bourbon whiskey
- 6 oz brewed tea (make your own, or try one of the flavors from Owl’s Brew)
- splash sour mix (1:1 lemon juice and simple syrup), optional
- soda water
- garnish: mint sprig
Add the whiskey and tea to a highball glass with ice. Also add sour mix if the tea is unsweetened and needs additional flavor (don’t add this if using bottled tea with lemon or other flavors). Roll this mixture a couple of times between another mixing glass and then let it land in the highball glass with ice. Top with soda water. Stir. Garnish. Kick your feet up and shoot the breeze!
Booker’s 2017-02 “Blue Knights Batch” Bourbon: Booker’s bourbon is named for the late Jim Beam distiller Booker Noe, and, to reflect his personality, the whiskey is known for its big, generous (and high proof) flavors. The second in this year’s barrel selection series is his son Fred’s tribute to his dad’s long friendship with the Blue Knights motorcycle club, which is made up of active and retired officers of law enforcement who share a passion for riding the open road. Admittedly, my dad has probably never been on a motor bike, but the man is certainly larger than life and lives a nonetheless high octane, adventurous life. He’d appreciate this whisky for its characteristic bold, rich flavors of malted corn cereal. This release has an added touch of medicinal black cherry, banana and black tea flavors to balance out the sweetness. Watch out for its barrel strength, road warrior kick! $75, 63.7% ABV
Cheers to you, Dad!