How John Wayne's Legacy Lives On Through The World Of Bourbon

John Wayne in black and white
John Wayne in black and white - Bettmann/Getty Images

There's no Hollywood gunslinger more famous than John Wayne. The iconic actor was the face of Western films from the late 1930s until his death in 1979, and has a lasting legacy. Given that Wayne is connected to all things cowboy, it's no surprise that the star loved bourbon. This special whiskey is beloved around the world, but given its all-American identity, it's easy to imagine it being poured out in Old West saloons from Wayne's famous films. Part of what makes bourbon bourbon is that it must be made in the United States, with 95% coming from the state of Kentucky.

One of Wayne's passions off-screen was collecting whiskeys, some of which were custom-blended just for him. He particularly enjoyed bottles from Wild Turkey -- one of the best bourbon brands -- and would have them sent to him on movie shoots (perhaps to pair with John Wayne casserole). The vault of whiskeys that the star curated throughout his life was sealed up when he died. However, his son Ethan Wayne re-opened it later on, and got inspired to create a bourbon brand in honor of his father.

Duke Spirits is founded on John Wayne's dream of starting his own line of liquor, now brought to reality by his son. Ethan named the label after for John's nickname, "Duke," which he'd gotten as a young adult because his dog was named Duke -- they became known as "Little Duke" and "Big Duke" around town.

Read more: 13 Liquors Your Home Bar Should Have

What To Know About Duke Spirits

Duke Spirits bourbon bottle next to glass
Duke Spirits bourbon bottle next to glass - Vinkirill/Getty Images

To bring his bourbon brand to life, Ethan Wayne partnered with co-creator Chris Radomski, and they brought the project to Kentucky's O.Z. Tyler Distillery. As Radomski recounted to Men's Journal, he and Ethan tasted through John Wayne's bourbon collection, focusing on custom blends from 1962. They wanted to narrow down the big bourbon tasting wheel and pinpoint what the actor enjoyed in his bottles, so they could create the "perfect" blend that summed up his tastes.

As noted by Forbes, Ethan and Radomski teamed up with Jacob Call from O.Z. Tyler and began blending whiskeys between 5 and 10 years old. They then aged them in charred oak barrels that had previously stored wine. When Ethan officially debuted Duke Spirits, he knew he was giving the world the kind of bourbon John would have loved, and might have wanted to make himself.

The Legendary Duke Kentucky Straight Bourbon is made from 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% barley, which is the same formula as one of Wild Turkey's mashes (the brand might be the source of the whiskey itself). Its flavor notes include charred oak, nutmeg, roasted nuts, vanilla, leather, and caramel, with some earthiness and spice. Today, John Wayne's bourbon enthusiasm and liquor line dreams live on in his son's business, which has expanded to include longer-aged bourbons and even tequilas, another one of the star's favorite liquors.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.