Master Blender Richard Paterson was in the city to spread his whiskey gospel and give his guests a peek into what goes into blending a fine scotch.
It is not the title of Master Blender that makes Richard Paterson popular but rather his $ 2.6 million insured nose. A third generation whisky man, he had his first sip of whiskey at a very young age. He was so fascinated by this liquid gold that he went on to pursue his higher education at the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. Having a rich heritage experience and being invited to several whisky tastings across the world has made him one of the finest tasters and blenders. Over the years, his passion for this spirit has only grown and apart from being the Master Blender for Whyte&Mackay, he enjoys sharing tips on attaining that perfect peg of Whisky. On Youtube videos, he tells the world how to ‘drink whiskey like a Sir’. He has also written a biography, The Goodness Nose.
Excerpts from an interview while he was here to commemorate 130 years of Black Dog Scotch Whisky:
You have been in the industry for over forty years, what does being a Master Blender mean to you?
I belong to the third generation of a family which has long been associated with the whisky industry. My grandfather was a whisky blender and broker in Glasgow.It seemed totally natural that I should be interested in whisky blending, and learning to nose from such an early age gave me a head start over most other blenders within the industry.
You create special blends for various markets around the world, Do you tailor your blends for different markets?
Blends are not tailored for different markets. Whiskies from different distilleries have a character of their own, so some whiskies will not blend happily with certain others. Scotches like the Black Dog Blended Scotch Whisky have been crafted in a manner that allows it to be versatile and hence it goes well with many of the cuisines from across the world. It is in this versatility of the Scotch that the flavours of marzipan apples, pears and other fruits can be distinctly noticed.
Here in India, as I’m sure you already know, ‘scotch’ is considered a drink of the cultured elite. What would you say to that?
Young consumers are extremely discerning when making premium choices especially when the brands underline their social status. This augurs well for a lifestyle category like alcohol beverage especially premium scotch. Consumers are upgrading to scotch faster than ever before. The out of home consumption is on the rise, spurt in buying premium brands for gifting on social occasions and creating premium brands consumption experience during parties at home (also driven by closure norms for pubs, bars and stringent drinking and driving rules and more so during the festive season).
I am sure that India shall soon be on the international scene with regards to luxurious scotch drinking experience.
Your relationship with whiskey doesn’t stop with being the Master Blender for Whyte & Mackay. You are a whiskey evangelist of sorts – you have a blog and podcast as well. Could you tell me a bit about this effort?
I spend a majority of time educating people around the world about the art of nosing and tasting whisky. I spend the rest of my time spreading the whisky gospel. The passion I have for whisky is far greater today because people are finally taking the time to learn about it and the best way to reach out to them is through a blog or a podcast.
I carry props to illustrate scotch’s history — maps, a miniature still, a plastic model of the Phylloxera vastatrix beetle (the pest that decimated the French wine industry in the mid-1800s and turned Europe’s taste to whisky).
From your videos it’s clear that you like your whiskey as it is. What’s your opinion of the way most people here in India drink whiskey – with ice and soda and sometimes even coke!
If you really want to enjoy your scotch, stay away from the blasphemy of adding soda, or aerated drinks. It robs whisky of its true flavour.
In that case, what is your opinion of using whiskey in cocktails?
Whisky is enjoying a renaissance within cocktail culture, as mixologists concoct fancy new drinks based on bourbon, scotch and rye. Using whisky in cocktails is fine, but the other ingredients mustn’t dominate the flavour of whisky. I have hosted talented mixologists who visit our distilleries from all over the world. They are creating some stunning, beautiful things with our whiskeys. The flavours can be balanced to create one lovely fusion. But I have to admit, one shouldn’t experiment with the Aged Scotch Variants.
What would be a good Indian dish to pair with whiskey?
That whisky has a particular affinity with tandoori kebabs is well-known. The smoky flavours from the charcoal-fired tandoor complement the peaty notes of strong malts and just work a little magic on your taste buds. Scotch whisky in terms of Indian cuisine goes best with North Indian and Mughlai food. The main course along with Scotch can be served with Roasted Capsicum and Fish Tikka and Reshmi Kebab.