Sunday, September 28, 2008

Raise a Glass to Paul Newman

Paul Newman died Friday at the age of 83. If you would like to raise a glass to Mr. Newman's memory, may I suggest J.T.S. Brown Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

Robert Rossen was a producer/director who frequently used how his characters drank to tell us something about them. For example, in his "All The King's Men" (1949), heavy drinking signified the growing corruption of Willie Stark's political movement.

With Paul Newman's "Fast Eddie" Felson in Rossen's "The Hustler" (1961), whiskey was a metaphor for weakness and lack of self control. During the climactic pool game, Newman's Felson drinks J.T.S. Brown Bourbon, straight from the bottle. His opponent, Minnesota Fats (Jackie Gleason), requests "White Tavern Whiskey, a glass and some ice." We are left to consider the possibility that Fats' brand is actually a placebo, a way to keep his advantage over Eddie by staying sober. (White Tavern was an actual brand, a blend.)

J.T.S. Brown was an early distiller and the half-brother of George Garvin Brown, who founded Brown-Forman, the parent company of Jack Daniel's. The J.T.S. Brown Distillery was established by his four sons and later continued by one of his grandsons. The last distillery to bear that name is the one in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, known today as Four Roses. J.T.S. Brown Bourbon is still made, by Heaven Hill Distilleries, and it's quite good for a low-priced, bottom-shelf brand, but not widely distributed. I prefer the bottled-in-bond expression.

Paul Newman's spirit lives on in his movies and his salad dressing. Seriously. The Newman's Own product line has generated millions of dollars for worthy causes. For more information go here.

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