John Wayne, the Man and the Legend, was a hard-working craftsman who loved and perfected his craft as an actor.
The DUKE, as he was affectionately known, was also a loving father, a fisherman, horseman, hunter, adventurer, and an unabashed patriot of The United States of America.
To his credit, he was a loyal friend to many, believed in equality amongst Americans, and was passionate about sharing a good drink with his friends and coworkers.
John Wayne was a true craftsman of film and he carried this devotion, patience and quest for excellence to his other favorite endeavors, mainly boating, creating his own whiskey and tequila, and interestingly enough mining.
He sought out the greatest American Whiskeys, the finest Scotch, the smoothest Tequilas, and Wines of true merit from all the great Wine regions. Nothing was too good for his friends and he was often quoted as saying that if he was going to have a drink, “It had better be a good one.”
John Wayne’s son, Ethan Wayne, remembers his father telling him about his dream to create his own Whiskey, his own Scotch and, of course, his very own Tequila.
Naturally, they would be aged just right and crafted in a no holds barred authentic style that could be enjoyed in the finest clubs and restaurants, around the camp fire with a big steak and roast potatoes, on a boat while fishing, or after a hard day of shooting for the silver screen.
Ethan never forgot his father’s dreams, and, when asked by his older Brother Patrick to take the helm of the Estate he proudly accepted.
He saved his writings, he saved his scripts, he saved everything of importance, and, naturally, he left crated up for over 30 years his favorite drinks and his tumblers standing still in time and waiting for his son to open the crate and let all of the words come back. He left an archive, a message, and a reserve of bottles dating back to 1962. Literally, a message in a bottle.
We went to the wooden vault with our friend, Ethan, unsealed it after so many decades, and then we picked up the tumblers he had left for us and tasted the DUKE’s favorites. His favorites and many unmarked bottles.
Duke Spirits, traditionally minded, a devotion to craft and quality, working with a storied and rich history.
It all began back in the heartland of American when John Wayne was born Marion Robert Morrison on May 26, 1907, in Winterset, Iowa. One of the most popular film actors of the 20th century, John Wayne remains a favorite American icon.
His family then moved to Glendale, California, where John Wayne received his distinctive nickname "Duke." He had a dog by that name, and he spent so much time with his pet that the pair became known as "Little Duke" and "Big Duke." In high school, The Duke excelled in his classes and many different activities, including student government and football.
Winning a football scholarship to University of Southern California (USC), the Duke started college in the fall of 1925. He joined the Sigma Chi fraternity and continued to be a strong student. Unfortunately, after two years, an injury took him off the football field and ended his scholarship. While in college, Wayne had done some work as a film extra, appearing as a football player in Brown of Harvard 1926 and Drop Kick 1927. The beginning of a star.
The Duke's career spanned decades and his devotion to his craft, his friends, and family, and America earned him respect and admiration across the globe. Shortly before his death in 1979, the U.S. Congress approved a congressional gold medal for the Duke. It was given to his family in 1980. In the same month as the Duke's passing, the Orange County Airport was renamed after him. He was later featured on a postage stamp in 1990 and again in 2004 and was inducted into the California Hall of Fame in 2007.
His bourbon and tequila passion can be traced back to the 1940's and upon the discovery of the Duke's lost memoirs, liquor collection and special blends, sealed since 1979, by his Son Ethan, his project was reborn. Here another meticulous journey began, to recreate the magic that was started by the Duke. Led by World class vintners, master distillers, years of research, seeking out the finest aged Kentucky bourbon to match the original flavor profile, strength and balance, Duke Spirits came to life.
Bringing back the distinguished recipe and blend, it was only fitting to seek out a special historic location worthy of the Duke's legacy. Going again back in time to pre-prohibition times in America when the craft was exacting and pure, we craft Duke bourbon and have created the ultimate in expression and flavor with the Duke Grand Gru Bourbon and Rye Reserves, at O.Z. Tyler Distillery in Owensboro, KY.
Like the Duke, O.Z. Tyler's history is TRULY unique. Founded in 1885 it operated as the Green River Distillery until 1939 AND, O.Z. Tyler holds the 11th license in the State of Kentucky to operate a distillery. A perfect blend of modern technology and old school distilling. The recipe is carefully reproduced under the watchful eye of Duke's founders, Chris Radomski and Ethan Wayne, and Master Distiller Jacob Call.
Sitting on 26 acres on the banks of the Ohio River, O. Z. Tyler was the ideal location for us to develop the perfect relationship of our aged bourbons and ryes and the finest French Oak wine barrels which have aged some of the greatest Cult California Cabernets. An ideal combination, our French Oak barrels have an incredible genesis, produced from Cooperages that have been making barrels since 1932 in Cognac, with historical documents evidencing making barrels in the region as far back as 1652.