By Richard Thomas
Good Dads deserve good whiskey. It sounds like a simple proposition, but the socks and ties that so many Dads get stuck with every year say otherwise. Here are a dozen whiskeys, covering a range of gift budget price points and the gambit of bourbon, rye, Irish whiskey and Scotch whisky.
Budget Bin Winners
While Papa might deserve a fine bottle of whiskey, that doesn’t always mean you have the cash to spend on it. Thankfully, a light pocket book means you don’t need to abandon quality. These whiskeys are classics from the “bang from the buck” category, delivering major quality at low price points.
Henry McKenna Single Barrel 10 Year Old Bourbon ($30): Many of the aged small batch bourbon brands founded in 1980s and 1990s have bitten the dust and been converted into no age statement (NAS) whiskeys, but this one is still around. It’s a single barrel, it’s 10 years old, and it’s still priced like it’s 2010.
James E. Pepper Rye ($30): Among the bottled Ryes sourced from Indiana’s MGP Distillery, the James E. Pepper Rye is a major standout. It’s cheaper than some of its rivals and bottled at 100 proof, stronger than most of its peers.
Speyburn 10 Year Old ($25): Along with The Glenlivet 12 and The Glenfiddich 12, Speyburn 10 is one of the classics of quality, moderately priced Speyside single malts. The difference is that it’s not as famous as the other two. If Papa likes Scotch, buy him this and maybe you will introduce him to something new.
Tullamore Dew ($25): Light, fruity and flavorful, Tullamore Dew is arguably the best of the mass market Irish whiskeys.
Most likely, your budget falls into the premium price range, which is a double edged sword. It means you can get Father something very nice, but “premium whiskey” is a stuffed-to-bursting category, and not everything called and priced as “premium” deserves the appellation. Here are four choices that do:
Baker’s Bourbon ($45): Of all the bourbons of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection, introduced in the early 1990s, Baker’s is the only one that has gone unchanged. Basil Hayden and Knob Creek lost their age statements, while Booker’s has gradually been dialed back from averaging 7 1/2 years old to 6 1/2 years old. All the while, Baker’s is still a 7 year old, 107 proof Jim Beam-made bourbon.
Benromach 10 Year Old 100 Proof Scotch Single Malt ($75): The name is somewhat misleading and should probably read “high proof,” because these days this expression from Benromach is being bottled at 114 proof (57% ABV)! So, it’s much stronger than the usual Scotch whisky (40 to 46% ABV), and achieves a lovely balance of peaty and Sherried whiskies.
Green Spot Irish Single Pot Still ($50): Two brands define and dominate the single pot still category, Redbreast and the Spots. As the entry level whiskey of the latter, Green Spot offers plenty of malty, spicy single pot still goodness.
Old Maysville Club Bottled In Bond Rye ($65): This newest release from fan favorite Old Pogue Distillery is an entirely in-house creation, is a bottled in bond, and made from 100% malted rye. If Father likes rye whiskey, he needs to have this one.
Splurge! But Don’t Hurt Yourself
Do you have a three digit budget to show Dad how much you appreciate him? Here are some suggestions for how you should spend it.
W.L. Weller 12 Year Old ($190): Because it has been known as “Baby Pappy,” Weller 12 Year Old has become one of those bourbons with a wide gap between its official price and its market price, and is now rarely seen on store shelves. Even so, it costs about a hundred dollars less than the next cheapest bourbons in that scarce class. Getting this will put a smile on the face of any true bourbon lover.
Highland Park 21 Year Old Scotch Single Malt ($200): Does Dad like Scotch with smoke and salt in it? For the novelty, steer away from the staples of Islay and give him some Orkney whisky! Many Scotch fans adore Highland Park, and look at the 21 Year Old as the distillery’s best expression.
Hochstadter’s Family Reserve 16 Year Old Rye ($200): If your Dad likes rye whiskeys like WhistlePig and Masterson’s 10 Year Old, then he should love this. Those brands are sourced from Alberta Distillers in Canada, as is Hochstadter’s. The difference is that this bottling is much older and done at cask strength. Hochstadter’s 16 Year Old has earned high marks from critics, and considering that Booker’s Rye (a cask strength 13 year old) was listed at $300 and often fetches 2 1/2 times that, it’s actually quite reasonably priced.
Midleton Barry Crockett Legacy ($240): This nod to Irish whiskey living legend Barry Crockett draws on both the usual ex-bourbon barrel stock plus, in an uncommon touch, whiskey aged in new oak casks. It’s a sweet, delicate masterpiece of an Irish whiskey, one that lives up to the reputation of its namesake. Dad should be proud to have it in his liquor cabinet.