The Best American Whiskey For Every Kind of Father (Who Likes Whiskey)

When I was a teen, sometimes I’d wake up at two in the morning and head downstairs. And there would be my dad, strumming his guitar and sipping on some Jack Daniel’s after the night shift. I found it comforting and inspiring. Later, I’d give my dad a nice bottle of whiskey each Father’s Day. Some he loved, and some didn’t measure up to Jack and Jim. But it always beat a pair of socks.

This year, I predict Father’s Day to be epic, following months of quarantines where birthdays, weddings, and graduations were celebrated on Zoom or via lame car parade. So if your dad — or dads, or grandpa, or mom who delivers dad jokes like a boss — likes whiskey, we’ve got you covered. For socks, you’ll have to go somewhere else:

The Grilling Dad  

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked ($55, 45.2% ABV)

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked

The Grilling Dad tends to like the classics, and Woodford Reserve has certainly reached that status. Distiller Chris Morris’s own father was in the bourbon business, working for Brown-Forman for over 40 years. “When thinking about Dad and his relationship to our brands, I always remember his feeling of pride in their quality. That feeling stays with me to this day.” Step up your giving game with Woodford Reserve Double Oaked, where the whiskey is aged first in oak that’s been toasted inside and out, then transferred to a second barrel that’s been lightly charred but toasted for a longer time. Or grab the latest Woodford Reserve Batch Proof 123.6 ($130, 61.8% ABV), a limited edition cask-strength blend of bourbon barrels that intensify the dried fruit and spice notes found in the standard Woodford expression.

The Rock and Roll Dad 

Heaven’s Door Trilogy Collection ($60)

If Dad grabs the air guitar every time Zeppelin or Nirvana comes on, Heaven’s Door from veteran singer-songwriter Bob Dylan is gonna score. This year the brand offers a “Trilogy Collection” via ReserveBar: 200ml samplers of Tennessee Straight Bourbon (45% ABV), Double Barrel Whiskey (50% ABV) and Straight Rye (46% ABV), providing a tasting flight opportunity for dear old Dad while he rocks out.

The Dad With a Heart  

Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey ($60, 50% ABV)

Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey

For the dad who seeks an authentic story in his whiskey and is driven by making the world a better place, Uncle Nearest is a great place to start. Named for the slave distiller who is credited with teaching Jack Daniel a thing or three about whiskey, the black-owned label is a damn fine product. “This is such a pivotal time in American history,” says co-founder Fawn Weaver. “What we are doing, at this moment, we are doing for our fathers, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers who could not do this for themselves.” The 1856 expression blends 8- to 14-year-old barrels into a complex toffee-coffee-leather profile. Except for Weaver’s dad, who was a teetotaling Southern Baptist preacher, she notes, “I’ve never met a man who would not prefer a stellar premium whiskey over anything else for Father’s Day.” 

The Adventurous Dad

Westward Single Oregon Stout Cask American Single Malt ($90, 45% ABV)

Westward Single Oregon Stout Cask American Single Malt

Portland, Oregon’s House Spirits Distillery has been at the vanguard of the American Single Malt movement, and its beer and wine cask-finished expressions of Westward are no exception. Dads who relish stepping out of their comfort zones will dive into this. After the whiskey has matured in new oak, the barrels are sent to local breweries to age their stouts. When the beer-soaked casks are returned, the whiskey goes back in for at least a year. The result is a layer of pecan, milk chocolate and rich clove spice over a distinctive malted barley whiskey. If you find yourself in Oregon, run don’t walk to snag the Pinot Noir Cask Finish expression.

The Too Cool for School Dad

STR American Single Malt ($65, 46% ABV)

STR American Single Malt

If the father figure in your life spends his days listening to deep cuts from obscure bands, still seeks out experimental theater, and geeks out on one-off experiments from nanobreweries, you’re not gonna want to hand him a bottle from a Kentucky mega-distillery. The label, from San Jose-based 10th Street Whiskey offers both peated and unpeated versions of its fruit-and-vanilla-driven American single malt whiskey. STR is the unpeated version, featuring domestic two-row barley and non-chill filtering. Even geekier? You can only find it in California, or order it via their website.

The Aficionado Dad

Barrell Batch 024 ($80, 56.95%ABV)

Barrell Batch 024

If Dad has a fairly extensive collection of bourbons already, then it’s the rare catch you’re after. Barrell is a highly respected blender of cask-strength sourced whiskies, and its fans wait eagerly for each new, unique release. Batch 024, out this month, marries three high-rye Bourbons aged 9, 10, and 13 years with just enough 15-year to soften the rough edges, bring down the proof and add some citrus highlights. The final palate is rich with dark chocolate, orange, and black pepper notes. Seeking an even more elusive white whale? Check out Barrell’s new Private Release series — 150 or so bottles each of Barrell’s 18-year whiskey, custom finished in secondary barrels for different restaurants and exclusive whiskey clubs (finishes include such exotics as a Washington State Ice Wine barrel or a Ratafia de Champagne barrel).

Every Kind of Dad

Four Roses Small Batch Select Bourbon ($55, 52% ABV) 

It’s important to remember father figures come in all expressions: Fathers, Grandfathers and Uncles, of course; Also moms who fill the Dad role and dads who fill the Mom role; There are role models, caregivers and influencers. For all of these amazing human beings, you can’t go wrong with Four Roses Small Batch Select Bourbon, a sort of rarified version of the brand’s Small Batch expression. Where the latter incorporates four of the brand’s 10 unique bourbon recipes, Select throws in two more, and ups the proof. What you get is a richer, more complex sipping whiskey, with tons of spice notes.

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