The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2018

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Page 59 of 124

november 2018  /  the tasting panel  /  59 Launching the Search With a goal to honor Wayne's enduring legacy, Duke Spirits has launched a national campaign to search for the "Modern-Day Dukes." According to Radomski, these individuals must go above and beyond to excel in their respective fields while "exhibiting the qualities of John Wayne: integrity, honesty, fairness, and equality." The concept is a fitting tribute to both the man and the whiskey, as the classic 1953 John Ford western The Searchers was John Wayne's favorite film (Ethan, in fact, was named after Wayne's character in the movie, Ethan Edwards). "These honorees will be people who have stepped up, out, and beyond in their communities both in the wine and spirits trade and outside the industry, although The Tasting Panel is our launching platform," Radomski says. Consequently, the first Modern-Day Duke to receive this exclusive recognition is Trudy Thomas, Director of Beverage for the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tennessee. A co-founder of the Arizona Chapter of the United States Bartenders' Guild, a former member of Marriott International's Corporate Beverage Council, and a founding board member of Arizona Cocktail Week, Thomas was also the first person to pass both the Certified Specialist of Wine and the Certified Specialist of Spirits exams from the Society of Wine Educators on the same day. As of this writing, she's preparing to complete the final portion of the coveted Certified Spirits Educator certification, of which there are currently just ten recipients in the world. "Being recognized as the first Modern-Day Duke is an honor," Thomas says. "John Wayne was a childhood hero and these past few years I have had the opportunity to meet the Wayne family and work with Ethan and Chris with their new bourbon at the resort. Our staff has embraced Duke as part of our whiskey program as well as in cocktails through- out our property. Whether comparing the spirit of John Wayne or the spirit of the whiskey, I believe the Modern-Day Duke reflects the authenticity of his legacy and a ruggedness of character that's engaging to both men and women." Cementing a Legacy Those same attributes are reflected in Modern-Day Duke's musical brand ambassador Runaway June, a popular country-bluegrass ensemble composed of lead singer and guitarist Naomi Cooke, singer and mandolin player Hannah Mulholland, and singer-guitarist Jennifer Wayne, John Wayne's granddaughter. "They're all young and hardwork- ing and they all have special talents, but that's not enough to get you there," says Ethan, who is Jennifer's uncle. "There is something inside them that drove them and that made them refine their message." A California native, Jennifer herself is a leading example of the Modern-Day Duke, having given up a professional tennis career to write songs in Nashville (Eric Paslay's 2014 hit "She Don't Love You" ranks among her co-writing credits). Appropriately enough, the band's latest hit single is entitled "Buy My Own Drink"; written by Runaway June along with Hillary Lindsey and Josh Kear, it's a fitting soundtrack for savoring a glass of Duke Spirits bourbon. Cooke says all three women grew up watching Wayne's films "and knowing what he represents: family, strength, quality, hard work, and standing up for what is right, along with a wild and fearless pursuit of freedom." "We have met so many in our travels who have those qualities, and putting a spotlight on those people—particularly in the time we live in—is so important," she continues. "Of course, there is the obvious family tie through Jennifer, but we felt like it was the perfect brand collaboration: All three of us enjoy a good glass of bourbon and feel like the sort of chic and rustic yet modern appeal the Duke brand portrays aligns well with who we are, as well as with our audience." Soon Runaway June will embark on a national tour as the band spreads the word on the ongoing search for the next Modern-Day Duke. In accordance with the brand's vision, those individuals will come from walks of life both related to and outside the trade, though the initial focus will be on mix- ologists and other wine and spirits professionals. After all, it was John Wayne who said, "I appreciate quality: If I'm going to have a drink, I'm going to have a good one." Fortunately, a brand has emerged to not only turn his sentiments into reality, but to simultaneously acknowledge the individuals keeping his guiding ideologies alive. As the co-founder of Duke Spirits, John Wayne's son Ethan set out to make "authentic spirits inspired by the experienced palate of a seasoned craftsman." PHOTO: ALAN DE HERERRA

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