My father may not have taught me anything about whisky, but I did learn a lot about the man I wanted to become from him. He has always been my primary role model when growing up, and I’d like to think that I walk in his footsteps when it comes to this selection of some of the things he taught me or showed me by example…
Protect Your Loved Ones
My father grew up in a military family, the eldest of three sons. He went to military school and then joined the REME (Royal Electrical & Mechanical Engineers) corps in the British Army and served around the globe – Middle East, Europe, Caribbean, etc – protecting his country. And at 6 foot 7 inches, weighing over 100kgs, he could be an intimidating sight, but to us he was always just “Dad”.
Whilst still in service, he was involved in an accident, where the Jeep he was travelling in plunged off the road, down a hill. My father was flung out of the vehicle, and when he came to his first instinct was to leap up and make sure his comrades were safe. After a couple of steps, he collapsed to the ground. He had broken his hip and couldn’t walk. His injuries were far worse than just the hip. One lung punctured by broken ribs, one ear left hanging on by a small piece of flesh, and worse of all, a broken neck.
It took a couple of hours before rescue came, and that was followed by a 6-8 hour journey in the back of a truck across rutted dirt roads to the hospital. The doctors said he was very lucky. A couple more millimetres and his spinal cord would have been severed. The next 4 months were spend with a plaster cast that covered his entire head, all the way down to over his shoulders – he looked like an astronaut. My Dad recovered fully though, and went on to marry my mother and a couple of years later, I was born.
Don’t Be Afraid Of Hard Work And Starting Over
I was born in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. My parents had to make the hard decision to leave the country they loved for the sake of my younger brother and I when it was a certainty that Robert Mugabe would be coming in to power. My folks sold up everything and we left Rhodesia in 1979 in an old Peugeot with a few suitcases and $3000 in cash. That was all.
We moved to a small town in Natal, living in guest quarters with an outside toilet, my brother and I sleeping on the floor, while my Dad found a job and worked hard to put enough money together for us to have our own home. He did it, and a year or 2 later, we moved again.
Another small town in what was known as Northern Transvaal back then (now Limpopo province). Once again, my father went to work in a garage, utilising the skills he learnt in the REME. Then the opportunity to work on the local mine. My father worked his way up through the ranks to foreman before the hankering to return home (the UK) bit him hard.
So we sold up again, and went over to the UK – my mother always supported his decisions, even if she had her reservations. Upon arriving, my Dad realized that Africa was home (once it has your soul, it never lets go), and it took a year of selling double-glazing door to door and painting porcelain ornamental cottages with my mother before they raised enough money for us to head back to South Africa. To start all over. Again.
Back to the same little town in SA that we had left a year ago and the searing 30-40 degree Celcius weather after a cold UK. My Dad put his shoulder to the grindstone and worked hard, moving over into the Health and Safety department, and worked his way up to the top, as Safety Superintendent on the mine.
He was always there for us though. Someone who had our back. A family man through and through.
Celebrate The Nonsensical
My brother and I always enjoyed the nonsense which my Dad intentionally spewed for us. It made my Mum roll her eyes – it still does – but had us grinning from ear to ear. And I’ve carried on that tradition with my girls. I do get lots of “Aah Dad!”s from them, but I know they wouldn’t want it any other way.
Cook With Passion
My father spent a lot of time in the kitchen, more than my friend’s fathers anyway. And my love of cooking and experimenting in the kitchen comes from him. And I learned from him, the more passion/enthusiasm/love you put into making your meal, the better it will taste. Go ahead, try it for yourself.
It’s All About Integrity And Respect
Heading to the shops on the weekend to do grocery shopping as a family was something that my brother and I hated. Mainly because it took so damn long to do! A 30-minute shop would end up taking 3 to 4 times as long, as my Dad kept stopping to talk to people that he knew or worked with on the mine. A five minute chat here, a ten minute chat there.
Eventually it dawned on me. Not only did these people like my father, they respected him. It didn’t matter if you were a lowly apprentice or a division manager. My father always treated everyone courteously and with respect. And I began to see that respect reflected in those that he interacted with. Your job title and bank balance do not earn respect, your actions and interactions do.
These are just a few of the life lessons I picked up from my father of whom I am very proud. I hope that he can look at me and the way I live my life and feel the same way too.
Love you Dad!
Why Write This On A Whisky Blog?
Chivas Regal SA got in touch with a campaign revolving around Father’s Day which prompted me to write this piece. Initially I was going to pass on it, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to put my thoughts down onto (virtual) paper and let my Dad know that the life he’s lead has been a solid example to me.
Coincidentally, the first whisky I ever laid my eyes on at home when I was a youngster was a bottle of Chivas Regal in it’s shiny silver box. It lived in the linen cupboard in the corridor outside my room. I think my Dad received it as a Christmas present one year from the mine he worked on. Not being a whisky drinker, that bottle lived in the cupboard all through my teens, my varsity years, my first handful of jobs, until the day I became seriously hooked on whisky. My folks came up to visit and with them was the bottle of Chivas Regal 12 that had been a permanent feature in our house so long.
“I want you to have it” said my father. And I promptly opened it and enjoyed every single drop of it. A 12 year old that had been sitting in a cupboard for the past 25+ years. And that leads me on to the Chivas Regal 18 I was sent to review…
Chivas Regal 18 Year Old Tasting Notes
Nose: Smoke, salt, tangerines and orange marmalade, brown sugar, coffee
Palate: Subtle spices, light smoke, Quality Street Orange Creme chocolate, medium body, some wood
Finish: Wood spice, lingering finish, drying on the tongue
Comments: A definite step up from the Chivas Regal 12 year old. A lot more balanced and smoother. Perhaps a bit too much of a gentleman of a whisky – polished and refined – but a quality blend.
Win A Bottle Of Chivas 18 Year Old!
The kind folks over at Chivas Regal SA have given me a bottle of Chivas Regal 18 year old to give away to you, my loyal Whisky Tasting Fellowship readers! All you need to do is either:
- email a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org, or
- tweet a photo to @fr1day and @ChivasRegalSA with the hashtag #ChivasFathersDay, like this:
#ChivasFathersDay @fr1day @ChivasRegalSA [Your message and your photo]
of you and your Dad together sharing a moment. Bonus points if you’re enjoying a dram together! Your name will go into a hat with the winner drawn at the end of June.
Please Note: This competition is open to folks in Johannesburg only (sorry, I can’t afford the shipping!), unless you’re prepared to come and pick it up from me yourself when in town.
Happy Father’s Day To All Whisky Lovers
I hope that you all get to enjoy a dram with your fathers on this Father’s Day. If your Dad is no longer with you, let us all raise a dram to the heavens and toast him together.
(Thanks to my Mum for digging through shoe boxes of old photos and sending them through to me)