When legendary actor John Wayne set out for desert movie sets, he only packed the essentials: boots, chests, jackets and jerky, and of course, bourbon.
“The bourbon was the heaviest stuff I carried as a kid,” recalls Ethan Wayne, tasked as a boy with loading his dad’s car with the essentials. Now, instead of taking his father’s hooch to the car, he’s brought it into the marketplace, with Duke Kentucky Straight Bourbon.
Working from the elder Wayne’s tasting notes, locked away for some 30 years, Ethan, who runs the John Wayne Estate, collaborated with spirit makers Chris Radomski and Jayson Woodbridge “to create what he was talking about and put it in a bottle.” And with a silhouette of the Duke gracing the label, that bottle will certainly take you back.
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“I look at pictures of my dad at 68, running full speed ahead on a horse, with 400 head of other horses running around him. I’m thinking, That’s the guy we’re representing,” adds Wayne, who recently acquired a trove of photos of his father and a host of other celebrities, from Clint Eastwood to Jayne Mansfield.
While he thinks his dad would certainly be a fan of the bourbon created in his honor, for Ethan, the enterprise has been about more than just booze. “To have this stuff finally coming out on the market is exciting to me,” says Wayne. “It takes me back to when I was 8 years old, carrying that stuff for my dad.”