Western Canada had the privilege this past week of meeting a whisky blender so noted for his talents he often simply goes by his nickname, “The Nose”. A third generation member of a Scotch whisky family, Richard Paterson has been the Master Distiller of the highly esteemed Dalmore Whisky Distillery since 1970.
Located on the shore of Cromarty Firth, in the Highlands, the Dalmore line ranges from the entry-level priced Dalmore 12 to their rarer classics which can fetch tens of thousands of dollars.
I once beheld the Dalmore 58yr in a shop in Edinburgh in its fortified case, with a 12,000 pound sticker beside it. That was actually the moment I became transfixed by the brand. How does one make a product that can inspire that level of prestige & luxury? How can I join the club?
To hear Richard talk about water, wood, product sources and craft will give you an idea of the process involved in making a great whisk(e)y. But having these things alone, will not sell bottles and generate respect. Mr. Paterson generates respect through his brash, passionate and very funny stories, tasting technique and belief in his noble products.
He is the consummate ‘good dinner host’ he speaks of needing to be, when refering to his role selecting the correct malts for the different ‘parties’ (master blends) that he must host.
Like the first time I tasted Del Maguey mezcal with distillery owner Ron Cooper in the room, I am drawn to fact that the process of tasting his elegant water of life will involve having some of the spirit get on the floor.
Richard jokes that his tasting room floor is the “most expensive in Great Britain”, given the amount of Scotch he has flung across the room when making sure the entire inner surface area of the tasting glass is rinsed with whisky. Whereas Ron’s technique for pouring out alcohol is spiritual and calming, Richards technique engenders the immediately rapt attention of his audience. Funny, poignant, and possessing terrific charm, Paterson will make you want to like his products, lucky for you, they are so good, you will.
Time for an insight.
A glass packed full of ice really pisses Richard Paterson off.
That is, if you’re then going to add a dram of his precious whisky to it. He takes a moment to encourage the crowd to respect the science of dilution, and to avoid the over dilution of precious drink. Topic covered, accompanied by ice flying across the room in the same general direction of the whisky that preceded it.
We are getting closer to the moment of truth.
We all have a pour of Dalmore before us now.
A tasting with The Nose, will get your nose, not close to a glass. But right in it.
Like the “Master of Malts”, Bowmore’s mad scientist Iain McCallum, Richard Paterson is sick to death of the stuffy pomp of a classic tasting.
So while, Iain gets his ‘students’ to rub Bowmore in their hands and conducts tasting experiments befitting his background as an organic chemist (Never before a tasting with McCallum, had I shaken Scotch in a tasting glass)
The Nose will get you to nose your whisky, not once, nay twice, nor thrice..but a mighty four times. Calm it down, wake it up and burn it off.
At this point, thanks to the grand stories, kingly history, and smell, I am thirsty as all hell. I want a taste.
But it won’t be that easy. Not yet.
Quickly knocking it back in one shot, like troglodytes, was forbidden, though Mr. Paterson demonstrated that technique for good show. We were directed to take a little precious liquor in our our mouths. We were then guided through the longest humming session in my life, that I can recall. Like a good comedian, just when you thought you were going to be set free to swallow liquid gold, The Nose would hum yet more.
But I got it. Nose primed. Palate opened. Heat gone. Wood, flowers, fruit, elegant wines, hints of subtle smoke and earth. All laid out like a roadmap.
He allowed the audience into the mind of The Nose.
A thorough pleasure, considering, an excerpt from his book, “Goodness Nose; The Passionate Revelations of a Scotch Whisky Master Blender ”
Every time I create a new blend or a different single malt expression the adrenalin immediately starts pumping through my veins and my stomach begins to ache with excitement at the challenge ahead.
Still more encouragement as we move forward in the craft era. To learn anything from Master Distiller Richard Paterson, is to continue to affirm that we are not simply trying to drink more, we aim to drink better.
Cheers to The Nose for another brilliant lesson.