Dreams Of My Father...And His Liquor Cabinet: 10 Old-School Spirits Revisited For Father's Day

06/16/2011 09:40 am ET | Updated Aug 16, 2011
  • Tony Sachs Drinker of Spirits, Listener of Music, Watcher of Baseball, Writer of Words

As I prepare to celebrate my first Father's Day as a father, I've been reminiscing about my own father as he was when I was growing up, before my parents divorced when I was six. The smell of his pipe tobacco (which he no longer smokes). The feel of his mustache (grown in the early '70s and still proudly sported today). The bottles in his liquor cabinet.

No, it's not like I drank any of them. Dad may have occasionally sat me on the kitchen counter and given me a sip of beer, but I think his head would have exploded if he'd caught me guzzling whiskey. Anyway, I wasn't interested, at my tender age, in drinking whatever was inside those mysterious, oddly shaped bottles on the bottom shelf of my parents' living room armoire. I loved just looking at them. The names I'd never heard of, the words I didn't recognize, the artwork which may or may not have had anything to do with the contents of the bottle -- it all felt like a big mystery, the secrets of which could only be fathomed by people as old as my parents.

You'll notice that most of the brands mentioned below are whiskeys, with an emphasis on Scotch. I wasn't sure if I remembered an inordinate amount of Scotches, or if my dad really did have more of it than other spirits -- and if so, whether it was a personal preference or people just drank more Scotch in general back during the Watergate years. So I went to the source, and here's what Dad told me:

"Yes, Scotch was big in those years -- Cutty, Dewar's, Johnnie Walker, J&B (known as Jewish Booze). None of the really expensive stuff. Don't ask me why. The Scotch drink of choice was with water or soda, or straight/on the rocks with a water or soda chaser. No cocktails a la Rob Roy. The myth was that sticking to Scotch was the way to avoid a hangover -- I was able to prove the falsity of THAT."

Now that I've inherited the mantle of designated drinker in the Sachs family, I've decided to go back and sample some of the brands I remember seeing in that liquor cabinet back when the hardest stuff I drank was Mott's and Tropicana. I've consumed some of these spirits regularly since I was old enough to imbibe; others I've barely thought about since I was a kid. Just about anyone who drinks knows most of these brands by name. But they're so ubiquitous, so taken for granted, that the all important question -- how do they taste? -- is often ignored. So I laced up my drinking shoes and jumped in. Here are the results of ten spirits I tried:

10 Old-School Spirits Revisited

The armoire that used to hold Dad's liquor is now in my living room, filled with my spirits bottles, and the inquisitive child who will likely soon be snooping around in there is my daughter. And who knows -- one day she may be sitting down to write about her father's favorite booze. My gosh, when did I get so old? I need a drink....

Do you remember your father's favorite spirits? Did he introduce you to any of your favorites? Don't be shy, chime on in at the "Comments" section for your own trip down memory lane!