As a dad in good standing (last I checked, anyway) for the past eight Father's Days, I think I can say with some authority that what we, the fatherhood at large, would like more than anything for Our Day is blessed solitude, peace and quiet, an opportunity to watch whatever the hell we want on TV, to eat the grub of our choosing, perchance to nap, without the siren call of Family to disturb us. But since that's not going to happen (not in my apartment, anyway), we'll gladly settle for a bottle of booze. But not just any booze. Don't put a ribbon on a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red or Tito's Vodka and think we're going to be impressed. Oh, we'll love you just as much, of course, We'll just be a tiny smidgen disappointed.
Put a little thought into your liquor store purchase this Father's Day is all I'm saying. And barring that, read this article for some good ideas. The dads in your life will be grateful. There's something here for most price points and tastes, barring the teetotalers for whom I have much respect but no liquid suggestions.
FOR THE CLASSIC ROCK-LOVING DAD:
Heaven's Door Tennessee Bourbon (45% alcohol by volume, suggested retail price $50), Straight Rye (46% ABV, $80), and Double Barrel Whiskey (50% ABV, $50). These whiskeys are... well, it almost doesn't matter what they are. They are Bob Dylan's whiskeys, and for many a dad who's worn out a copy of two of Highway 61 Revisited or Blood On The Tracks, His Bobness' imprimateur should be enough. But for Dylan fans who are also discerning whiskey drinkers, they're pretty decent drams. Bob didn't distill them, but he supposedly had a big hand in selecting the flavor profiles, so sipping them may give Dad a little window into Zim's soul, or at least his palate. The rye, which is robust and spicy with hints of bitter chocolate, is my favorite. At $80, it ain't cheap, but isn't Dad worth it?
FOR THE GLOBETROTTING DAD:
Paul John Kanya Single Malt Whisky (50% ABV, $275). So Dad thinks he's seen it all. His liver is acquainted with the remotest distilleries of Scotland, he's drained Kentucky end to end, he's sipped his way through Ireland, he's seen Canada through a rocks glass... but has he tried Indian whisky? India is at the vanguard of the world whisky movement, largely fueled by two brands, Amrut and Paul John. Amrut is the more established of the pair, but Paul John is coming on strong thanks to terrific single malts like this one — a special edition that's limited to a mere 432 bottles in the States. Proclaimed Best Asian Whisky of 2018 in Jim Murray's Whisky Bible, it's aged in ex-bourbon casks for a scant seven years; the hot climate ages whisky a lot faster in India than in Scotland. Lots of vanilla, butterscotch and toffee, with hints of ripe apricots and a lightly spicy oak backbone, will open Dad's eyes to a whole new world of whisky — or at least a new country for getting the good stuff.
FOR THE MIXOLOGICAL DAD:
Italicus Rosolio Liqueur (20% ABV, $45). If your old man fancies himself an amateur bartender (or hell, even if he's a pro), here's a great liqueur to add to his arsenal alongside the Cointreau and the Cherry Heering. Rosolio is a type of Italian liqueur that was last widely popular, oh, 150 years ago, give or take. But last year it was revived by cocktail/spirits authority Giuseppe Gallo, whose grandmother made her own version of it. Gallo toned down the lavender/rose sweetness and added bergamot, an Italian citrus which you're probably familiar with from Earl Grey tea. It's also got a slightly bitter edge thanks to gentian, which was a key ingredient in old-school rosolino. It's lovely for sipping on the rocks or with a splash of soda, but let Dad go nuts and experiment with it in cocktails — an easy starting point is subbing it for vermouth in a gin martini.
FOR THE BARBECUING DAD (AND/OR FANS OF MATTHEW McCONAUGHEY)
Wild Turkey Longbranch Bourbon (43% ABV, $40). I still don't get how or why an actor, even one of McConaughey's stature, was allowed to collaborate on a whiskey with Wild Turkey's Master Distiller and Bourbon Hall Of Famer Eddie Russell. (Yes, it's jealousy talking, I admit it.) Fortunately, it not only doesn't suck, it's actually quite good. Longbranch is an 8-year-old Kentucky bourbon that's been charcoal filtered, like Tennessee whisky, but instead of using maple for the charcoal, Texas mesquite and American white oak are employed. The result is a light, flavorful whiskey with hints of mesquite smoke, especially on the finish. along with a combo of sweet vanilla, dry oak, and light spice. Think Gentleman Jack with a twist. A great accompaniment to a day spent grilling in the backyard with the dad in your life.
FOR THE NO-NONSENSE DAD:
Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye (59.8% ABV, $70). If you've got a dad who doesn't like to mess around with complicated cocktails, fancypants amari, or hoity-toity single malts, this knock-your-socks-off whiskey is the one for him. Knob Creek's been around for more than 25 years now, and while it's often lost amidst the tidal wave of exciting newer brands, it's still one of the best bourbons around. Their rye, which they launched in 2012, is excellent as well. This 9-year-old number is the first Knob Creek rye to be bottled at cask strength, making it perfect for a dad who doesn't like his whiskey sissified with water. He won't need to add any when he's drinking it, either — it's big and rich and spicy and velvety, but without the alcoholic heat you'd expect from a rye that's damn near 120 proof. A great whiskey that takes no guff from nobody.
FOR THE COLLECTOR/HOARDER DAD:
El Tesoro 80th Anniversary Extra Añejo Tequila (41.5% ABV, $200). Know a dad who loves to show off his cool and rare stuff? Well, you might have to fight him to crack open this very limited edition, but it'll be worth it. El Tesoro isn't the best known tequila in the world, but the brand's master distiller is the legendary Carlos Camarena, one of the most celebrated figures in tequila's history. Carlos' grandfather, Don Felipe Camarena, founded the La Alteña distillery in Jalisco in 1937. To celebrate its 80th anniversary, Carlos pulled out all the stops, aging eight barrels of tequila for a whopping eight years, and bottling it at 83 proof. The problem with a lot of extra añejos is that all that time in wood obscures the agave. Not so here. There's a lot of oak, along with vanilla and butterscotch, but the grassy, almost vegetal notes of the agave still come through loud and clear. This is already pretty tough to find, and should you score one for Dad, he'll likely be tempted to keep it on the bar as a trophy bottle of sorts. It's your job to convince him otherwise, because this tequila needs to be sipped and savored.
FOR THE RETRO-MINDED DAD:
J.H. Cutter Whisky (48% ABV, $50). Back in the 1800s, so the story goes, a bottle of J.H. Cutter whisky went for the princely sum of $5. More than a century later, the price has only increased tenfold, which makes it quite the bargain, relatively speaking (by that measure, a newspaper would be 10-20 cents nowadays; a pound of sirloin would cost about a buck-fifty). How close is Hotaling's relaunch of J.H. Cutter to the original? Alas, I have no firsthand knowledge, although if someone has a vintage bottle and would like to "research" it with me, let me know. But it's a blend consisting mainly of Kentucky bourbon, along with smaller amounts of Hotaling's (formerly Anchor Distilling) 18th Century Old Potrero Rye and Old Potrero Straight Malt Whiskey finished in port casks. None of it is aged for more than four years and change, which is very old-school. And if this is anything close to what 19th century Californians were drinking, they had some very fine hooch indeed. It's a fascinating combo of bourbon sweetness, rye spice, and a hint of the port cask finish. And the old-timey label is sure to please the retro-minded as well.
FOR THE DAD WHO GAVE YOU EVERYTHING
The Last Drop 1870 & 1970 Centenario "Old Colheita" Tawny Port Duo (20% ABV, $4,850). If you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth, here's a wonderful way to thank Dad for the cutlery. And if you're a self-made success, it's a beautiful thank-you for the helping hand he gave you on the way up. The Last Drop is a company dedicated to sniffing out the rarest and most delicious spirits on the planet, mainly whiskies and cognacs. But for their first ever port — and only the eleventh release in the company's decade-long history — they've outdone themselves. The package contains two single-harvest Tawny Ports from the same Douro Valley estate, made a century apart — 1870 and 1970 — for the ultimate compare-and-contrast session. The younger wine is redolent of figs and almonds, with a surprisingly vibrant bouquet, while its 148-year-old sibling tastes darker and woodier, with more gravitas in the form of molasses, tobacco, and candied orange peel. Limited to only 770 packages worldwide, the bottles come in an elegant box that includes a 50 ml sampler of each port, so you and Dad can have a taste without breaking open the big bottles. They think of everything at The Last Drop, don't they?