John Wayne's Bourbon Recipes Come To Life As Duke Spirits

The legendary John Wayne perfected his own recipes for bourbon – and now you can get a taste of it.

Those bourbon recipes have been developed into Duke Spirits, named after Wayne's nickname, "The Duke." The Duke Spirits brand has another major connection to Wayne – it was founded by his son Ethan, along with Chris Radomski, a successful winemaker.

"We were impressed by the degree of attention that John Wayne put to it, the authenticity of it, and we sought out to reproduce the recipe," Radomski said. "It's based on his 1962 recipe."

The Duke Spirits bourbon line includes Kentucky straight bourbon, Grand Gru Kentucky reserve bourbon, and the upcoming double barrel rye. 

"Our Kentucky rye, and everything we do it's 100-percent Kentucky," Radomski said. "Our Kentucky ryes go through a very similar process where we put them in the best French oak barrels in the world that have only had wine resting in them for three to four years, and when the time is right we put the rye into the barrels that the bourbon came out of, wine barrels."

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Yardbird Southern Table in Los Angeles' Beverly Center currently boasts a special cocktail menu called "The Duke Collection," which contains drinks made with Duke Spirits. The Gunsmoke cocktail is made with Duke bourbon, fresh bay leaf, aquafaba, Elemakule bitters, and a citrus blend; the drink is served in applewood smoke under a glass cloche.

The Moonlight Over The Rio Grande cocktail is made with Duke Bourbon, Bacardi 8, Amontillado Sherry, and lemon sherbet balanced with Saler Gentiane. The Roughneck Colada is a take on the famous pina colada drink made with Duke bourbon, Don Q Spiced, fresh lime, pineapple and orange juice with coconut cream, fresh mint and a float of Fernet-Branca.

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On this visit, the cocktails were paired with Yardbird's deviled eggs with dill, chives, smoked trout roe; shrimp 'n' grits with roasted tomatoes, country ham, and red onions; and Lewellyn's fine fried chicken served with petite cheddar waffle, and spiced watermelon.

"The drinks that are developed here are very progressive in my mind," Radomski said of Yardbird. "Some of the most progressive I've found in the States for any whiskies, to really push the limit on what can be worked on in a cocktail, the different flavor profiles. Although I love Manhattans and old fashions, but it has broadened the scope."

The meal and product samples that are the subject of this review was/were provided at no cost to the contributor.