If Dad drools every time the Mad Men pour a drink, or if he's an old-time mad man himself, perk up his Father's Day with a great bottle of whiskey.
But wait! Going out and buying Dad a nice bottle of whiskey for Father's Day isn't as easy as hitting the store and picking up a pricey bottle. Not all whiskey is created equally, and in order to choose the right one for Dad, you'll need to do your homework.
Whiskey is made from a variety of fermented grains -- barley, corn, rye, wheat -- each of which offers a different flavor profile. The first written evidence of whiskey production dates back to Scotland in 1494, when Friar John Cor purchased "eight bolls of malt ... to make aqua vitae." The drink spread like mad, starting as one harsh beverage that slowly morphed into what it is today as distillers discovered that whiskey tastes a whole lot better when it has some time to age. Now the libation has extended well beyond the British market, and is produced world-wide.
Single Malt v. Blends
There are two aspects of whiskey production that are very important when you head to the store. The first is the distinction between single malt and blends. As the name suggests, single malts are made by one distillery, while blends can be either a vatted blend of other malted whiskies, or even mixes that use additional non-whiskey spirits. Generally, single malt whiskey is the go-to beverage, earning a higher price because of the care put into getting the right flavor without mixing or matching.
Location, Location, Location
The second important consideration when choosing a whiskey is location. Each country and area follows a distinct formula, set of traditions, and often strict rules, each of which offers a distinct beverage. Scotch whiskey, for example, offers a myriad of great barley-centric malts, plus their excellent Islay varieties which give that unique peaty flavor of smoke and wood. These whiskies offer great flavor, but often at a higher, but worthy, price tag. Irish whiskey is often a mix of malted and unmalted barley, while Canada is big on the rye; American whiskey varies from Tennessee's sour mash (Jack Daniels) to Kentucky's sweet bourbon (Maker's Mark).
Battling the Price
If Dad likes all types of whiskey, the hunt is easy -- pick one based on your budget. If money is tight, a great bourbon like Woodford Reserve or Bulleit will do the trick, weighing in at $20-$30 a bottle. A single-malt Scotch like Lagavulin will up the price to roughly $80, but if you want to go wild with super-aged reserves of 20-40 years old, prices range from $300 to almost $1,500 for a 37-year-old Bowmore.
If Dad's tastes run well outside your budget, however, all hope is not lost. The best thing you can do is take Dad out to dinner at the nearest restaurant with a great whiskey menu. Places like The Brandy Library in New York City offer extensive whiskey lists, and while a dram or two might cost the same as a bottle of whiskey, it's the experience that counts, offering tastes from bottles long gone from the shelves.
Still want to know more before you choose a bottle for Dad? Do some more research. Once you square down the location of Dad's preferred choice, suss out the specifics. Epicurious offers a great run-down of bourbons and their make-ups, ScotchWhisky.net offers up a great rundown of Scotch, and The Whisky Guide is a great resource for all types of whiskey.