Spirited Gifts for Father’s Day

by Jim Clarke
June 2004

Skip the tie this year - instead of getting Dad something to wear to work, give him something that’ll help him relax when he gets home. Wine is good, but after rough days he may want something stronger. Here are a few distilled beverages that can add a special touch to Dad’s special day (prices may vary):

If you didn’t save up to buy Dad that Caribbean holiday he’s always wanted, Plantation Rum’s Grande Reserve Barbados may be the next best thing. The nose of this rum is redolent of brown sugar, vanilla, and tropical fruits. It’s lighter in the mouth than you’d expect, with a palate darker than its nose – molasses, chocolate, and pepper dominate. The finish is remarkably long, making this a rum you definitely want to savor neat or on the rocks; mixers would just obscure what’s already a rich palate of flavors. And since it retails in the teens, maybe you can put away something toward the trip for next year. ($15)

Gentleman Jack is the choice if you want to let your father know you appreciate his sophistication. This whiskey from the people at Jack Daniels enjoys a second trip through their famous charcoal filtering process to create a smooth, elegant drink. Instead of the punch that Jack normally displays, this whiskey has a richer character that opens up with citrus and brown sugar aromas which develop into toasty, spicy flavors on the palate, backed up with a touch of licorice. On the finish, the spiciness evolves into a cinnamon character and a Meyer lemon note reemerges. At the end of a long day, Gentleman Jack settles into a deluxe recliner instead of throwing itself across the couch. ($40)

For fathers who turn to clear liquors when summer rolls around there’s an outstanding vodka named for the Father of Polish Music: Chopin. One of the few vodkas available made exclusively from potatoes instead of grains, this spirit brings an accent of green apple to its full, round mouthfeel. It goes great in cocktails but also stands well alone; its more forward flavor and alcohol is typical to the vodkas of Eastern Europe. ($36)

If your father is a fan of single malt scotches but finds them too pricey to indulge in very often, do him a favor by introducing him to the oddly named Sheep Dip. This scotch is not to be confused with its namesake, a nasty chemical mix used to protect sheep from pests (yes, the sheep are literally dipped into the stuff). The beverage is a classic pure malt whisky, aged in casks for eight years. It’s a lighter, heathery scotch, with some grassy notes and a touch of caramel and citrus. It may not be to the liking of those who prefer lots of peatiness, but Highland and Speyside scotch drinkers should enjoy a wee dram. The price isn’t wee exactly, but does come in well below most single malts. ($35)

Del Maguey produces and imports a rare and unusual product that will appeal to family patriarchs who like scotch, cognac, or especially tequila: Mezcal. Like tequila, mezcal is made from the agave plant, but comes from outside the five Mexican states authorized to call their product tequila. Del Maguey’s mezcals are each made in individual villages in the hinterlands of Oaxaca, following traditional methods and using the agave plant as their sole ingredient. The resulting mezcals have a depth of complexity and richness that puts them among the best of the world’s spirits. The San Luis del Rio starts with a blend of clove, smoke, lemon, and kumquat on the nose and develops into a creamy palate and clean, sweet finish. A higher-end product, this is a luxurious and satisfying drink to sip on after a long day. ($70)

If your father is more of a vinophile or already has a suitable bar – or if you’ve already invested in a tie - get him something he can take with him when he’s away from home. Swiss Army Knives aren’t allowed in carry-on bags, but the classic waiter’s corkscrew is, and is about the same size. Look for the sleek, newer variety with the hinged lever; this added feature makes even difficult bottles easy to open because it gives you greater leverage. It also lessens the sideways pressure on the cork, decreasing the chances of breakage. And if you make it that much easier to open a bottle, you might even get him to share. ($6-25; available in most wine shops; Pulltap is a reliable brand)