The Man Behind the Label

John “Fucking” Caldwell

A Legacy 40 Years in the Making

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In legendary Napa Valley, John Caldwell is a legend all his own. A maverick and pioneer hell-bent on making great wine, John’s life’s work –Caldwell Vineyard –is now one of the most genetically diverse vineyard holdings in the country. 

His 123-acre property boasts 28 different clone-specific Bordeaux varietals from which winemaker Marc Gagnon (formerly of Screaming Eagle and Bryant Estate),crafts 25 individual Caldwell estate wines (and other various acts of maverick winemaking). Perhaps best known for his forays in smuggling French grapevine clones into the US back in the 80’s, John’s larger than life story of Clones, Cops & Cabernet, is well worth a read, and explains how he became known as the Smuggler.

An important part of their wine and whisky legacy, Caldwell is also the only US winery who employs a Master Cooper (one of only 34 people in world to hold this title), and estate barrel cooperage, through which they craft world-class oak barrels to exacting and custom specification for each wine and spirits project.

What's In a Name?

JFC, a.k.a. John “Fucking” Caldwell. Napa Valley’s maverick vintner, John goes by a name only a real Smuggler could live up to, and only the best bourbon whisky could bear…Find the rest of the story about clones, cops and Cabernet at Caldwell Vineyard. So why did we choose a Japanese symbol as the mark for our JFC Kentucky Whisky?

Well… we chose this symbol because it’s the Japanese calligraphy character that translates to the word “life” which pays homage to the original Gaelic term “Uisce beatha” or “water of life”. Years of mispronouncing “uisce” (u-skee) brought about today’s pronunciation of what we know as whisky. Marrying this history with the future of our favorite spirit seemed a cool idea and a fitting tribute to all those who came before.


How I Got Into the Game

Every year for about as long as I can remember, I head to France for an R&D trip to learn the coveted secrets of French winemaking. In 2018, after a friend gifted me a particularly memorable bottle of Angel’s Envy Whiskey, I decided to head to Kentucky instead in order to uncover everything I could about the American original.

We set up a whirlwind tour of the best distillers on the planet, hitting some of the famous spots like Bullet, Buffalo Trace, Wild Turkey and Four Roses. It was fun as hell… I mean, when you’re tasting that much whiskey what’s not to like? During the trip, I remembered back to that bottle of Angel’s Envy Bourbon –which happened to be aged in Port barrels, and I got to thinking about all the barrels we have access to (including our own Caldwell Cooperage dessert wine barrels), and those we could make specifically for whisky (with the right wood, shape and char), and that was it…. I was supposed to be there for just a tag-along educational trip, but I ended up buying seven barrels of whisky on the spot.