Breaking the monotony of Father’s Day gifting is no mean feat. Our dads know what they like. It’s far less risky to gift them something we already know they will enjoy than to go out on a limb. But if you, like so many, elect to fulfill your annual Father’s Day obligation via a bottle of the best spirits, know this: Your dad has already tried his favorite spirit, many times over. His favorite bourbon? He’s already got a bottle. That gin you’ve watched him whip into pre-dinner martinis since you were a kid? He’s got some of that too, and extra in his golf bag.
We’d never discourage readers from picking up a bottle of their old man’s favorite tequila or whiskey as a means of saying “thanks for tolerating and teaching me for all those frustrating years.” But breaking the monotony of the Father’s Day gifting ritual is as easy as thinking about what the giftee typically drinks and seeking out kindred spirits on other shelves in the bottle shop. Whether you’re looking for something whiskey-adjacent—a rum or cognac rested in ex-bourbon casks is not such a huge leap for a seasoned bourbon drinker, for instance—or something completely outside of his comfort zone, the bottles listed below can help you in your search for something a little different this Father’s Day.
Plantation Xaymaca Special Dry Rum
Plantation Xaymaca Special Dry Rum took home the best of class award for “dark/gold rums” at the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, and for good reason. This 100% pot still rum combines liquids from two separate Jamaican distilleries, each imparting its own unique flavor to the blend. The liquid is married and aged in bourbon casks before traveling across the Atlantic to Maison Ferrand in the south of France for an additional year of aging in former cognac barrels. Out of the bottle it supplies a nose full of classic Jamaican pot still funk alongside pronounced tropical notes; pineapple, banana, orange peel, and vanilla up front with a dose of pastry, baking spice, and flambéed banana on the back end. You’ll be hard pressed to find another spirit of this quality for $25.
Courvosier Avant-Garde Bourbon Cask Edition
As a category, Cognac has both benefitted and suffered from the strict regulations governing its production. These rules ensure the quality of every bottle labeled “cognac,” but they can also stifle innovation within the category. Courvoisier has walked the tightrope between tradition and innovation admirably in recent years, experimenting both within the cognac’s regulatory box (it released a lovely sherry cask-finished cognac last year) while sometimes coloring just outside the lines. Its new Avant-Garde Bourbon Cask Edition isn’t technically cognac; by rule, spirits labeled “cognac” can only mature in casks that previously held other grape-derived liquids. Rather, it’s cognac finished in used Kentucky bourbon barrels, packing all those bright, fresh, energetic characteristics of Courvoisier’s VS cognac underneath secondary notes of vanilla, oak, honey, and spice indicative of time spent in slightly used American oak. Tailor-made for those who like to mix a cocktail with something leaner and more elegant than heavier-handed bourbons or ryes, it’s also perfectly satisfying all on its own.
Montelobos Mezcal Joven
The expanding universe of agaves, regions of origin, and styles of mezcal arriving on store shelves can make it a challenging category to navigate. Montelobos Mezcal Joven stands out precisely because it does such an excellent job of expressing what makes mezcal great without resorting to the esoteric. “The idea was to make a mezcal that could explain the whole category,” Montelobos founder Iván Saldaña says. He’s done so via an Espadin-based mezcal that possesses agave-forward vegetal notes that speak to the liquid’s origins and terroir alongside flavors of salt, herbs, citrus zest, vanilla, and cracked pepper, all seasoned with a whiff of earthy smoke. It’s mezcal made in a classic style (from organic agave, no less) that drinks easily both straight from the glass and in cocktails, making it an excellent entry point into the mezcal category.
London No. 1 Distilled Gin
Produced in pot stills in the heart of London by legendary distiller Charles Maxwell, London No. 1 is bottled with a slightly blue tint, a nod to the unique mix of botanicals used in the production of this gin. Beyond the typical juniper, coriander, and orange peel, London No. 1 also integrates less-likely ingredients like iris flowers and bergamot oil. It’s a gin so expertly balanced that once it’s in the glass one can easily forget just how much is going on here in terms of flavor. European readers may be able to find a just-released, low-production iteration of London No. 1 that’s been rested in sherry casks for a few months (and, if you do, we’d highly recommend you buy it); unfortunately distribution disruptions related to the pandemic delayed deliveries to the United States. But dedicated stateside gin drinkers will find that settling for the original blue-hued London No. 1 isn’t settling at all.
Rhum J.M X.O
Rhum agricole is distilled directly from pressed cane sugar (rather than from sugarcane byproducts like molasses, the source of much classic rum), giving it a much more vegetal, terroir-driven flavor than your standard cane spirit. Take a solid Martiniquais rum agricole, age it for five years in used bourbon barrels, finish it for another year in French oak, and you end up with something uniquely sprightly, green, tropical, and earthy topped with cinnamon, candied nuts, and honey. For fans of barrel-aged spirits like cognac and whiskey, Rhum J.M X.O can slip almost unnoticed into the regular rotation. For those that already love r(h)um, it adds additional dimensions of barrel spice and roundness to what is already an exceptional spirit.
El Tesoro Extra Anejo
Long before “extra añejo” tequila was a thing, El Tesoro Master Distiller Carlos Camarena and his late father Don Felipe were aging some of their agave-forward yet superbly balanced spirits beyond the minimum one year required to classify them as añejo tequilas. So it’s no surprise now that extra añejo is an official designation (signifying that a tequila has aged for a minimum three years) that El Tesoro makes some of the best. Aged in ex-bourbon barrels for between four and five years, this extra añejo takes a vibrant, green, herbal foundation of punchy agave notes and tops them with vanilla, coffee, bitter chocolate, and caramel. Sub this in for a typical after-dinner whiskey or cognac and you’ll wonder why you didn’t think to do so sooner.
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