by Jon Ruti
Jeff Parrott wears many hats - father, husband, proprietor of vintage barware shop, J. Earl & Sons and brand cultivator for Blade & Bow. He’s quite a man about town (many towns, he’s always travelling). Jeff is down home, a little country with a side of old-world elegance. He’s got exceptional taste in music and brown water. Over the past few years, we’ve become close with Jeff – the J. Earl & Son’s shop is fifteen minutes from our house and we’ve done some local markets together. We asked Jeff if he’d pour us a bourbon and answer some questions for the Rivay Dispatch. Always the gentleman, he obliged – enjoy!
JR: Why don’t you give us a little intro and tell us about the day job…
JEP: I’m considered an expert on lifestyle topics after spending more than 25 years of building some of the best spirit brands in the industry including Bulleit Bourbon, Don Julio Tequila and Blade and Bow Bourbon. I’ve always been driven by an entrepreneurial spirit and personal passion for connecting brands to culture. This led me to create J. Earl & Sons in 2020, a purveyor of unique barware dedicated to establishing high quality home bars. After spending time in Chicago and San Francisco, I’ve lived the last 20+ years in New Canaan, CT, where I run J. Earl & Sons, act as the Brand Cultivator for Blade and Bow Bourbon as well as consult for lifestyle and property brands.
Jeff at the J. Earl & Sons shop wearing The Rivay Albers Indigo Chambray Workshirt
JR: Can you tell us how J. Earl & Sons came to be and what the name means?
JEP: The pandemic hit, and folks were cocktailing at home like crazy. I was looking for a creative outlet and a way to connect further with my college-aged sons. I had always collected interesting barware and built home bars, and I started building my credibility through content on my IG page, @The.JEP.Life and through a blog post I wrote for @red_clay_soul. The name comes from a variation of my name and adding my sons at the end to ensure their engagement and a potential legacy for the brand if they so choose.
JR: With all the vintage you’ve scoured, bought and sold do you have any favorites over the years or some items that you regret selling?
JEP: Heck yes. I live by the motto: ‘it’s not hoarding if you’ve got good stuff.’ I’m always on the hunt for the next interesting thing. The one piece that got away this holiday was a one-of-a-kind, handmade ram horn and brass cigar smoke center that was probably from the ‘40s. It was given as a gift to a guy in North Carolina. I’ve often thought of contacting him to see if he appreciates the piece or would want to sell back to me.
JR: Let’s talk home bar. I’ve been to your store many times and noticed the abundance of bar trays. I love this concept of limiting your home bar to one tray. If you only had one bar tray for the rest of your life, what items would be on it?
JEP: This is where I help people a lot. We’re about character and quality. People love to see someone’s bar, and a good bar says a lot about a person’s character and style. A quality selection of spirits across all the major categories is a must. Then, focus on functional pieces like an ice bucket, bar tools, a shaker and cocktail napkins, all chosen with interest and contrast in a combination of metals, glass, wicker and wood. We also love to mix in a character piece like a vintage ceramic motif decanter from the ‘60s or ‘70s that brings in the person’s interest/hobbies and where they live or are from.
Jeff in the Albers Indigo Chambray Workshirt with Blade and Bow Bourbon in hand.
JR: Speaking of drinking, Spring is here and we’re wondering how to keep #brownwaterfridays going into the warmer months, can you recommend a bourbon cocktail for Spring?
JEP: We always make one cocktail called the New Fashioned that we make with Blade and Bow Bourbon. It’s a crowd-pleaser and easy to make. It’s two parts Blade and Bow, one part elderflower liqueur in a DOF glass. Top with club soda, and garnish with an orange peel and cocktail cherry. This cocktail is lighter and more refreshing than your typical Old Fashioned and perfect for spring and summer.
JR: You’ve been travelling a lot lately, is there a town/city/place that you’ve been recently that that people need to visit ASAP and why? Where should we eat when we go?
JEP: Birmingham, Alabama. Shocker, right? The food, architecture and design scenes are iconic for a city its size that is land-locked. They do things right. My favorite restaurant is Bottega, but if you get lucky enough, there is an old MCM-designed private club called The Club perched high above the city with great views and a floor-lit disco floor that was the inspiration for the Friday Night Fever dance floor.
JR: The one hotel you judge all others by and why?
JEP: The Dewberry in Charleston. They nail it across the board – design, service, quality of drink and food presentation. They even have a signature scent delivered through house candles that they burn throughout the property. It is also the fragrance in their bathroom amenities.
JR: You can teleport to any bar in the world right now, where to?
JEP: Dang…that’s hard. I tend to have a favorite per city. One experience I have always wanted to have is a martini at Harry’s Bar in Venice.
JR: Something you never travel without?
JEP: Patience. I travel over +100K miles a year and have learned to relax and enjoy the journey. You can’t control the issues, but we can try and to control whether it stresses you are not.
JR: Do you have a travel hack for everybody out there?
JEP: Checking a bag is the new no check. I’m serious about this. It’s worth the few extra minutes to wait for a bag so you don’t have to lug a bag and deal with group anxiety of getting a place for it on the plane.
JR: You’ve got a mandatory two weeks of vacation to take, where are you and the family going?
JEP: Nantucket. A big part of our family’s past.
Okay, speed round…
JR: What will we always find on your nightstand?
JEP: iPhone. It’s where I connect, learn and create. For many, it’s source of stress or burden. For me, a man that has an ongoing need to experience, it opens the world.
JR: Your hometown (I detect a twang)?
JEP: Proudly from Oklahoma. It will always be a part of me. Not the original Ranch Prep, but a long card-carrying member.
JR: Place we’re most likely to find you if we’re looking?
JEP: On the road, on the water, on the ski mountain, in the garden or looking for antique and vintage barware.
JR: Place we’d never find you?
JEP: Golf Course. I’m done with it.
JR: What’s on the wrist?
JEP: Vintage Rolex Air King that was a wedding gift from my wife. It’s not usually set to the right time. Also, brackets that are given to me mostly by my family. An aluminum cuff with our boat name on it, rope braided rosary we all got for Easter one year, natural stone beaded pieces or sterling silver native American cuff. I rotate them a lot.
JR: The ultimate tailgating rig for those down South adventures you’re always on?
JEP: The expected response because what I post on Instagram would be a vintage Land Rover Defender. I love them but know that they take a lot a care. Recently thinking about a vintage Jeep CJ5 in a glossy paint and striped cloth seats.
JR: Favorite quotation?
JEP: "If there is an experience in front of you, have it." I believe in doing. If I can’t do, I will it.
JR: Last Google search?
JEP: Drive time from Augusta to ATL – off to the Masters this weekend and haven’t made a return flight home. Story of my life right now.
JR: And one final question: What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?
JEP: Embracing that my purpose is to create. I know that doesn’t seem like a risk, but at the time when I thought that success in the established corporate climb was to be like everyone else, leaning into my creative spike seemed crazy.