The Tasting Panel magazine

April 2014

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72  /  the tasting panel  /  april 2014 Duke Drinking with the COVER STORY D uring my almost three decades as a spirits writer, I've tipped many a glass with members of royalty, captains of industry and entertainment celebrities. But one of my few regrets is that—although I met him on numerous occasions—I never got to belly up to the bar at The Grand Saloon on the Old Tucson movie set with John Wayne and share a bottle of "Who-Hit-John," a colloquialism for bourbon the Duke picked up from hanging out during his early years with Hollywood icons like Raoul Walsh and John Ford. So you can imagine my enthusiasm when I was invited to meet Ethan Wayne, the Duke's youngest son and President of John Wayne Enterprises and the John Wayne Cancer Foundation, along with his partners, winemakers Jayson Woodbridge and Chris Radomski, producers of the ultra-premium Hundred Acre Cabernet Sauvignon and their Layer Cake and Cherry Pie labels. However, the lure wasn't their award-winning wines. It was the enticing fact that these three men had created an updated version of the bourbon John Wayne used to drink and were about to launch it nationally. Walking into the offices of John Wayne Enterprises in Newport Beach, California is like entering a mini-museum devoted to someone who went from being a studio prop man to top-grossing motion picture star, and finally becoming a symbol of America itself. Western memorabilia, bronze statues of the Duke, a few of his countless awards, and displays of licensed merchandise fill the conference room. But my attention was riveted by the cork- stoppered 1880s-styled bottle of Duke Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. The silver label was emblazoned with the bright red word "Duke," along with John Wayne's signature over an illustration of this western legend caught mid-stride in his distinctive walk, wearing his Red River D belt buckle and carrying his loop-levered Winchester. The words "Small Batch" told me that while this wasn't a limited edition, it would be in relatively short supply. ETHAN WAYNE, JAYSON WOODBRIDGE AND CHRIS RADOMSKI ARE LITERALLY KEEPING THE SPIRIT OF JOHN WAYNE ALIVE by Richard Carleton Hacker PHOTO: LEIGH CASTELLI TP0414_072-101.indd 72 3/24/14 3:30 PM

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