Maybe it's stereotyping, but there’s something about dads and whiskey that just seems right together. Just ask Amy Murray, a buyer and manager at Cask, a San Francisco liquor store known for its selection of fine bourbon, Scotch, and rye. Murray sees a surge in whiskey sales in the run-up to Father’s Day. “I wish I could say that we get a spike in sales for Mother’s Day,” Murray says, “but whatever.” We asked Murray to recommend whiskeys in a range of styles, all special enough to be worthy gifts for Dad. And hey, if Mom ends up tapping the bottle, well—call it a belated Mother’s Day add-on.
Elijah Craig 12-Year-Old Bourbon, $24.99
At less than $30, the flavor-to-value ratio here is high. So is the smoke: Aged in barrels with a lot of interior char, this is a bourbon with plenty of toasty richness. Plus it’s 94 proof, which makes it a prime candidate for dilution in the glass, either with water or the ingredients of a well-made Manhattan or Old Fashioned. Murray calls this one a good choice for someone just starting to explore American whiskeys.
Kentucky Vintage 17-Year Bourbon, $64.95
This is similar in style to the ridiculously hard-to-find Pappy Van Winkle's, a bourbon with a cult following. This one’s wheated, meaning that wheat serves as the secondary, or flavor, grain (naturally, corn is the dominant one). As a result, it has softer, more caramelly undertones than bourbons made with a high proportion of rye. But it's also got a hint of fruit: Murray says its bright cherry notes really make it sing.
Willett 5-Year-Old Family Bottled Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey, $38.99
Whiskeys distilled from a high proportion of rye are tricky to pull off, since the grain gets sticky and tends to foam during distilling, but you’d never know it, tasting this offering from a classic Kentucky distiller. Murray think this 5-year is perfect: old enough to have a subtle, floral quality, but young enough to retain its robust rye spice and tanginess. And priced just under $40, it’s a good buy.
Yamazaki 18-Year Single Malt Whisky, $145.99
Japanese whiskies have been hot for a few years now, and this one (distilled by Suntory) is one of the best currently available in the U.S. It has subtle smoke over notes of black tea, much like certain single malts from the Highlands region in Scotland, whisky's fatherland. But don't be scared off by the notion of smokiness: Murray calls this one very easy to drink—assuming you don't choke on the price first.
Rattray's 19-Year-Old Selection Blended Malt Scotch Whisky, $89.99
Blended Scotch is enjoying a revival at the moment, and this new brand from A. D. Rattray Ltd. shows blending at its best. It’s a mix of four single malts with the telltale mellow, fruity profile of whiskies from Scotland's Speyside region, all aged in sherry casks, each chosen for a different characteristic (smoke, cinnamon, sweetness). Murray calls it well-rounded, a good gateway Scotch for somebody who hasn’t yet developed a taste for mega-peaty single malts, or who simply doesn't like them.