Chef John Murcko was named “Best Chef in Utah of 2011” by Salt Lake Magazine. Let me say that again: He’s not just the best chef in Park City, the pristine ski town known for its upper-class residents and proximity to one of the biggest indie film festivals in the world, but in the whole irregular hexagon that is the state of Utah. He oversees two dozen or so spots in Park City, and his award-winning philosophy is to simply care about the environment and insist upon knowing not only where all of his organic, mountain-grown ingredients come from, but knowing the people who bring him that food. A life dedicated to the industry affords him those types of relationships.
Screw the tie clip, the sweater, the lawn-care implements. A card is nice if you actually write something in it, but if all you’re going to do is sign the thing, save your $3.99. Absent absurdly expensive toys, Dad bought himself what he wanted long before you knew he wanted it. In fact, forget all that traditional Father’s Day stuff. You’ve put Pops through a lot over the years, and since you can’t give him back the youth you stole from him, the least you can do is give him a brief respite from the noise of the world: Give your dad a good bottle of booze this Sunday. Here are a few favorites that I’d totally expect my brood to offer up if I didn’t already have them.
Whisky: Perhaps the iconic dad spirit, it’s hard to go wrong with a bourbon, rye, or Scotch. I’d be happy uncorking anything from Jack Daniel’s, Dewar’s, or Johnnie Walker. Give dad a great drink and a Scotch education with a fifth of Glenlivet Nadurra 16 ($60), which is bottled at cask strength and is non-chill filtered. It has the flavor of apricots and oak and a healthy kick. If you’re ready to spend some serious – but not quite insane – cash, Talisker 30 is worth every one of the 350 dollars you’ll pay for it. With notes of vanilla, sandalwood, and caramel, he’ll forget about how you took out the lawn gnomes with his Buick that one time.
Tequila: Perhaps your dad prefers an agave-based spirit. If so, head straight to the tequila section of your local booze-mart, where you’ll find an amazing selection of quality bottles that simply weren’t around when he was coming up. While cheaper tequilas work well in margaritas, I’d definitely spend some extra scratch on the primo stuff if he’s just going to be sipping it. Milagro Select Barrel Reserve Silver ($53) has just a touch of grapefruit in its flavor profile, while Jose Cuervo Platino ($60) has citrus notes and a fun assortment of botanicals that dance on the tongue. I absolutely love Gran Patrón Platinum ($200), and offer it to guests who tell me they’ve never had a really good tequila. It’s butterscotch smooth, with flavors of honey, cream, and pear nectar. It’s so nice, in fact, that my prized bottle of the stuff is almost empty.
Rum: Rum’s having a moment, at least in my liquor cabinet, with so many varieties with wildly different flavor profiles – which means you have to try them all. You definitely can’t go wrong with Mount Gay Extra Old ($50), which has an oaky bouquet and flavors of vanilla and cinnamon. Creeping upscale, there’s Ron Zacapa XO ($100), a delicious drink with hints of birch and ginger, and the mind-blowing Bacardi Reserva Limitada ($110), which is made from rums that have mellowed in charred American white oak casks. Limitada is as smooth as rum gets, with flavors of lemon and orange practically jumping out of the glass. Educate dad on rhum agricole, which is made with fresh sugar cane juice instead of the traditional molasses. I like 10 Cane ($30), with a pleasant vanilla flavor, and Clement Premiere Canne ($32), which boasts a pleasing sandalwood aroma and coconut and citrus flavors.
Vodka: It might be the un-booze, but vodka’s supposed absence of flavor might be the ultimate expression of peace in your old man’s soul. I just wrote about vodka, so I’ll only mention a couple of standouts. At $23, Ketel One punches way above its weight class. It’s as smooth as a whisper and perfect in a martini. 42 Below ($22) is another good bet, traveling all the way from New Zealand to the side table by Dad’s TV chair. It has hints of grain and straw and a great mouthfeel. Square One Organic ($35) is delicious and has a great story. It’s made in Idaho from American rye and has vanilla notes and a hint of spice. Grey Goose ($40) tastes as good as it looks, and you know how sexy those bottles are. And I was impressed with Stoli Elit ($60), the iconic Russian vodka house’s most refined offering. The bottle looks like something from the Plesetsk Cosmodrome, and the liquid tastes like a Siberian winter, with the faintest hint of grain. Chill it, pour it, and let dad sip it.
Of course, the obvious benefit of these bottles is that Dad will be obliged to share them with you, at least for a drink, so be sure to pick something you like as well. You’re a good kid, did I ever tell you that?
There’s nothing like a well-aged Scotch whisky to chase winter’s chill from your bones. Fine single malts are our reward for toiling in the cold, and this season brings a fresh crop of old spirits that take the sting out of the deep freeze. Setting the standard is Highland Park 50, the oldest release from the most northerly distillery in Scotland. With a price tag of $17,500 per bottle, it’s a luxury only a fortunate few will taste, so here’s what you might be missing: an amazingly round, smoky, spicy whisky with hints of citrus and a flavor that lingers long on the palate and even longer in the mind. Whisky doesn’t get any better.
That said, for far less money you can savor several single malts that come quite close. At an affordable-by-comparison $1,000, the Macallan Sherry Oak 20 is an astonishingly well-balanced spirit with notes of fruit, spice, and oak, and each bottle comes with a portfolio of 10 prints by Scottish photographer Albert Watson, who was commissioned especially for the release. (The iconic Macallan 18, with a sophisticated mix of orange, chocolate, and spice, remains a perennial bargain at $150.) At 55.6% alcohol, the Glenlivet Founders Reserve 21 ($375) comes with an extra kick. The non-chill filtered whisky, released to celebrate a major expansion of the distillery, has traces of marmalade and toffee and a velvety mouthfeel. But for a third of the price, the Speyside distillery has an equally mature whisky that’s nine-tenths as good: the Glenlivet Archive 21 ($120), with an exquisite mélange of autumn spice, fruit, and vanilla. The gorgeous, golden Scapa 16 ($82), meanwhile, is designed to steel souls against the brutal North Sea winds that buffet the Orkney Islands with a playful mix of apple and honey.
The crisp Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix ($90) is a direct result of winter’s ferocity. In January 2010, an accumulation of heavy snow collapsed the roof of a remote part of the distillery warehouse, exposing Oloroso sherry and American oak casks containing whisky that Malt Master (yes, that’s actually a thing) Brian Kinsman used to create a brisk spirit of renewal. The result is a heavenly nectar of pear and honey. But perhaps the best bottle of them all, assuming you’d like to send your kids to college one day, is the Talisker 30 ($350). From the rocky shores of the Isle of Skye, it hits you right away with a refined sweetness, envelops you with notes of vanilla, sandalwood, and caramel, and imparts a warm peatiness that hints at its provenance without making you feel like you’re snorkeling in a bog. Even the air you exhale after taking a sip tastes delicious. Why can’t winter last all year?