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

Posted: 06/16/11 03:15 PM ET

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:

Wild Turkey Kentucky Bourbon
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WILD TURKEY Kentucky Bourbon. I remember being fascinated by Wild Turkey because of the picture of the turkey on the label. What was in the bottle -- turkey juice? Gravy? The answer, as I later found out, is a damn fine bourbon. It's smoother than any 101-proof whiskey has a right to be. Taken neat, it's rich with wood, vanilla and brown sugar; throw in an ice cube and it becomes both sweeter and spicier, with peppery notes moving to the fore. It's got enough of a kick on the back end to remind you that you're not toying with an 80-proof bourbon, but without the alcoholic burn you might expect. It makes for an excellent Manhattan or mint julep, or you can drink it the way Master Distiller Jimmy Russell does -- chilled, straight out of the freezer.

Speaking of Jimmy, he and his son, Associate Distiller Eddie Russell, are partnering with Operation Once in a Lifetime (OOIAL), a non-profit organization that provides resources to U.S. Service members. During the month of June, if you buy a bottle of Russell's Reserve (another fine Wild Turkey bourbon), a donation will be made to OOIAL to help provide flights home for members of our Armed Forces. Pick up a bottle for your father (or yourself) and you can help our soldiers get home to celebrate Father's Day with their families.
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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!

 

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