Ahead of Father’s Day (it’s the 17th June, AKA this Sunday, if you’ve forgotten) our new features editor Henry Jeffreys shares how the likes of The Macallan shaped the bond between him and his dad
Fathers can be very forbidding figures, standing there by the mantelpiece in their top hats, mutton chop whiskers and tailcoats, smoking a pipe and looking all severe and Victorian. Or perhaps that’s just mine.
I exaggerate, of course. My father wasn’t that old-fashioned, we just didn’t have very much in common when I was growing up. I think he would have liked to get to know me through some of his favourite pursuits: golf perhaps, or the stamps of the Bechuanaland Protectorate – no joke, my father is at this very moment blowing the family fortune on African stamps – but I showed no interest.
He was a schoolboy prodigy on the sports field (or that’s how he tells it) whereas I was weak, lazy and not terribly well-coordinated. I wasn’t much better at watching sport. My father would take me to rugby internationals but I showed more interest in the picnic. I was keen on motor racing but my dear old dad found it too noisy. He just used to sit there wearing ear defenders looking disgruntled.
So my father spent most of my childhood looking at me with a sort of exasperated affection. But when I became an adult, two things brought us closer together: drink and, oddly, taxes. I can still remember clearly the first time I had a single malt with my father: it was a Knockando… or maybe a Macallan. Perhaps I don’t remember it quite so clearly after all. What I do remember was coming home from the pub on Christmas Eve and being surprised when my father offered me a drink rather than telling me off for coming in so late. He didn’t even mind when I kept offering him a cigarette. We made a sizeable dent in the bottle and stayed up ‘til the wee small hours putting the world to rights.
After that, drink became a good way to get to know each other. I don’t mean we could only talk when we were drunk. But rather as some fathers bond over football or cricket, we would go to wine or whisky tastings, and talk about what we were drinking. Or we’d just go for a pint. We both love real ale, and in fact I discovered that my father was once something of beer hipster back in the day. He’s still got the beard to prove it.
I ended up making a career in drink: after university I got a job working for Oddbins. After a stint in publishing, I became a drinks writer. The day I was appointed wine columnist for The Lady magazine was a proud moment for my father, and he’s been rubbing his hands with glee at the thought of me starting a job with Master of Malt.
The other thing oddly that has brought us closer together is Her Majesty’s Customs and Revenue. My father is a chartered accountant and though he pretends he doesn’t enjoy it you should see his little eyes light up when he gets on to the topic of tax deductible travel or somesuch. When I was a freelance writer, doing my tax return was another opportunity to talk and of course I’d thank him with a good bottle of wine.
Now your father might be be nothing like mine. He might be one of those modern dads who talk about their feelings at the drop of a hat (a baseball cap perhaps, rather than a topper) and cry at other times than when watching the Welsh soldiers sing “Men of Harlech” in Zulu. Even so, I bet he’d still appreciate cracking open a bottle of something good on Father’s Day. So let’s raise a glass to Dads in all their awkward splendour.
Here are a few things my father would like to drink on the 17th June:
Ardbeg is probably his favourite whisky and this is probably my favourite Ardbeg.
Delamain Pale and Dry XO
Elegant and smooth, this Cognac is particularly popular with the wine trade.
I bought a bottle of Janneau back from France last year and I’ve never seen one disappear so quickly. Even my mother had a glass.
Taylor’s 20 Year Old Tawny
Remember, Port isn’t just for Christmas. This would be delightful chilled on a warm June evening with a piece of Gruyere.