Today is Father’s Day, a day often referred to as a compliment to Mother’s Day, with both celebrations designed to honor parents. Never mind that Mother’s Day officially came into being in 1914, but Father’s Day had to wait until 1972. Also never mind that Mother’s Day is one of the busiest days in the restaurant business while Father’s Day one of the slowest.
A valet once pointed out to me, that on Father’s Day you don’t want to be the last person holding out your hand and saying “Happy Father’s Day.” By then it just sounds ironic. His point was that Dad is somewhere he really doesn’t want to be, doing something he really doesn’t want to do, and is often paying for the privilege as well. Dad would probably be just as happy to sitting in his backyard sipping an adult beverage. However sometimes Dad is the last one who is asked what he actually wants. Ergo the booming tie and slipper business around Father’s Day. What Dad actually wants a tie or slippers for Father’s Day? None I suspect.
It was in this spirit that a few years back I decided to get my own father something special on Father’s Day. Since he occasionally enjoys a wee dram of Cutty Sark Scotch, a blend, I, in the interest of filial piety, set out to treat him to something really special. I bought him a bottle of 18 year old Laphroaig Scotch from the Islay region situated in the Hebrides west of mainland Scotland; an area known for the boldest of the peat flavored Scotches. No small investment mind you.
Scotch is made by distilling a fermented mash of malted barley that has been cooked over an open peat fire. The barley is infused with the peat smoke, which gives it a resiny flavor. The more peat, the more flavor. Irish whiskey is made similarly, but the barley is cooked in sealed ovens. That is why Irish whiskey has no real peat character.
Dad thanked me, but he never drank it.
The next year, I once again summoned my bartender’s intuition and went in a different direction. A very slight, northeastern direction, to the distillery on theislandofJuraand it’s milder but still assertive Scotch. I picked their 16 year old version.
The Jura distillery was established rather recently in the history of Scotch. In 1963 an older distillery was reconstructed introducing taller stills which allowed the distillery to create an eclectic mix of malts, something that helps differentiate Jura from its more peaty southern neighbors. Jura still has a backbone of smokiness, but blends that component with the sweetness more typical of a Highland Scotch.
He thanked me again, but he never drank that Scotch either.
The next year I searched around and picked a 15 year old Dalmore for my annual present, perhaps inspired by the fact that a single bottle of 62 year old Dalmore had recently sold for nearly $200,000, the most ever paid for a bottle of Scotch. Dear old Dad was going to be impressed. As a Highland Scotch, it was going to be less peaty and perhaps a touch sweeter due in large part to additional aging in sherry barrels, a common practice in the making of Highland Scotch. A step that is forbidden in the making of American bourbon or rye, which can only be aged in new charred oak barrels.
Once again, he thanked me but again never drank it.
So on this Father’s Day I have a new plan. I am going to give him a bottle of Cutty Sark. Which should serve a double purpose. He can enjoy something that he likes while sitting in his backyard and I can enjoy any of the other three Scotches while visiting him. Being a good son does eventually pay off.
Some things to remember on Father’s Day.
Cutty Sark means “short shiftdress” and is the nickname of the witch, Nannie Dee, ogled by the drunken Tam O’Shanter in Robert Burns’ poem of the same name.
The clipper ship Cutty Sark, pictured on the label of the Scotch, still exists as a museum inLondon.
George Orwell wrote his dystopian novel 1984 on theisland ofJura, a place which he called “extremely unget-at-able.”
Dalmore’s King Alexander III bottling-their most expensive- is matured in wine, Madeira, Sherry,Marsala, Bourbon and Port casks. Yum.
Sometimes making Dad happy is giving him exactly what he wants.