By John Haydock

At home with the haydocks

It's not often you get to see inside the secret life of John Haydock. Whisky Magazine's Jocasta Eatwell writes.
Few men have brought as much fame and fortune to the Scottish whisky industry than John Haydock, that writer whose words bring so much pleasure to drinkers all over the world.But who is this man?But for the power of his pen, silent and reclusive, a modest master of media magic as the many millions of viewers of his latest worldwide TV hit, At home with Haydocks, can attest.So imagine my delight when I was asked to conduct an exclusive interview with John and his wife, Mrs Haydock, in their exclusive hideaway ranch-style bungalow, in the heart of secluded Archiestown.You can imagine the trepidation with which I approached the sacred Haydock ground. Would he be difficult? Would he be in? Would I find his secret sanctum?On that last score I should have held no fears. Almost out of sight amongst the mass of pilgrims who massed on the pavement, facing the main thoroughfare, was a brightly illuminated sign, announcing ‘The House of Haydock’, beneath which stood the friendly figure of Mrs Haydock, selling signed photographs of John to enthusiastic visitors.With a kindly nod of her head she showed me the way and soon I was there on the doorstep of ‘Dunspargin’, home to the whisky world’s most powerful man.And before I could even grasp the knocker the door was opened and there I was being ushered into the gaily decorated hallway by none other than the man known throughout the industry simply as 'JH’.The house itself is a treasure-trove that would make a whisky enthusiast choke with envy.I was guided through the many corridors and rooms of this most charming and desirable of properties. And on this magical mystery tour I at last got a glimpse of the substance of the man, and saw the spring that made him tick.Books – a glimpse of an almost complete collection of the works of Dick Francis, here a Jeffrey Archer, there a heavily thumbed copy of the late Queen Mother’s biography.And everywhere, of course, the works of Haydock. And music, next to whisky, John’s lifeblood. Was that a rare Sydney Devine vinyl?“Sydney and I go back” grinned John, as he fondly lifted the record, revealing another by some of Scotland’s inspirational greats, Tom and Jack, The Alexander Brothers.As this head turning tour of a veritable whisky heaven continued I was struck by the images of John that crowded the walls as we passed.And here was Mrs Haydock, taking a break from her retailing duties and the hard-boiled hail that had lashed the tastefully PVC framed double-glazed windows for some time, lovingly dusting some of the finest.Richard Paterson presenting John with the 2001 ‘Mr Whisky Personality’ award; Dave, Jacko, Jim, Charlie, Ian, Gavin and Tom acting as acolytes to John as he was inducted as Lifetime Grand Master of the Secret Lodge of Liquor Writers. All humbly cherished memories of a career of understated greatness, captured on film for the benefit of posterity.But at last we got to the famous and hallowed inner sanctum, John’s famous tasting room. Walls lined with a bewildering array of bottles of all shapes and sizes, uniformly low of fill; filing cabinets, note books, half-finished manuscripts and near edited proofs piled on any available surface.And there, in the centre, like an altar in a cathedral of drink, John’s desk. Writing pad open, pen ever at the ready. Would he? My heart missed a beat. Dare I ask?John glanced at me, eyebrows raised. Throat dry with excitement I nodded, and watched as he walked gracefully, like some elder statesman, to his chair. From a hand-labelled bottle he poured slowly into an attractive engraved tumbler and then sat, glass in hand, admiring the spirit.Once, twice he passed the glass beneath that famous nose, a sip, a swallow. I held my breath; no movement but deep reflection – a moment of contemplation, nay communion in this most holy of places.Then the hand slowly grasped the pen and wrote in a deliberate bold style on the virgin sheet, ‘quite possibly the finest malt whisky in the world’.As I left, pushing my way past the crowds outside what many consider to be Archietiown’s answer to Gracelands, a lingering image remained.Glanced through the delicate net curtains before the French windows, John and Mrs Haydock (“whisky brought us together’, explained John, “we met when Mrs H was a nurse at the liver transplant unit at Glasgow’s Southern General”), hand in hand on the tastefully upholstered leather sofa, and bounding up to sit beside them, their adoring and faithful Labrador, Pete.