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Posts Tagged ‘The Nose’

Introduction

This post begins with me in the Whyte & Mackay sample room, with Richard Paterson having just joined myself and Craig McGill. From my previous post on visiting the Whyte & Mackay office:

After stuffing as many sample bottles as possible into my pants pockets [no, of course not], Richard Paterson came through the door in his dark suit and bright pink tie, and the room came to life. If you’ve seen him in videos, he had that same high energy level that either sucks you in, or puts you on the defensive…like you’ve walked onto the set of a Billy Mays OxiClean info-mercial. I’m a fan of The Nose, so I let myself get sucked in, as it’s all in the spirit of fun and whisky appreciation.

The Nose entered the room and asked what our intentions were for this visit. Craig spoke up, mentioned that I’m a whisky fan and blogger, and suggested that a tour of the sample room, and perhaps a small dram would be nice. That sounded great to me! I felt a little guilty about even being there. It’s not like I’m “proper press” or an industry insider, so any time that an obviously very busy Whisky Legend was willing to spend with me was going to be much appreciated.

Watch your step in the W&M Sample Room!

Hello, How Are You, Quite Well…

Tasting whisky the “The Nose” way is no secret, and certainly wasn’t new to me. Search for Richard Paterson on YouTube and you’ll find a number of videos showing his unique approach to getting people past the high alcohol content of spirits in order to appreciate the true flavors underneath:

Well, on this day, I got to enjoy the experience first hand, and I was happy to walk through the process I’d seen and mimicked many times before. I even learned something new in the process…

Mr. Paterson’s flare from the videos is not reserved strictly for large audiences and TV cameras. That’s just the way he is! I got the full experience, starting with his pouring a small dram into a glass, swirling it around and then throwing it on the floor. In this case, it happened to be with a $180/bottle Dalmore!

Then he walked me through the nosing process, lifting the glass up to the nose and pulling it away 4 times in order to “get to know” the whisky. You lift it up and say “Hello”, then pull the glass away and bring it back up…”How are you?”…”Quite well”…”Thank you very much.”

What I actually got to taste

What I originally thought would be a taste of a single standard bottling turned into an amazing flight of whiskies! The “warm-up” dram provided by Mr. Paterson was actually the Dalmore King Alexander III! A very nice whisky, though not something that jumped out at me as being head-and-shoulders above a more standard (and less expensive) Dalmore like the 15 year.

Next up was a special treat in its own right. A 30 year old bespoke sherry (Matusalem?), used to treat the casks of some of the “special” Dalmore releases. Wow! I had just recently stated on Twitter that I was not a fan of Sherry, even though I love whiskies aged in sherry casks, but this sweet dram was nothing like the more inexpensive and younger sherries at the local wine store. Not cloying at all, it contained many of the ripe red fruit and cherry flavors that I love in sherry cask whiskies.

With that intro to good sherry, The Nose returned to the sample counter and shielded me from the bottle he was using to pour the next dram. More on that below. The final dram was none other than one of my favorites…the Dalmore Mackenzie special release. But back to the “secret” dram that followed the 30 year sherry…

The 1868 Dalmore is in there somewhere.

Tasting an 1868 Dalmore

The Nose was very coy about what I was about to taste. But he wanted to walk me though the process of nosing and then tasting it. This was a smaller dram than the previous two. It was clearly something special. Was I actually getting to try a 40+ year old Dalmore (one of my Bucket List items)?!

There were big, big espresso coffee notes on the nose, with chocolate. Some over-ripe red fruits as well. But it was the coffee notes that stood out to me. I’d never experienced that flavor in such a strong way on the nose of a whisky. It was absolutely amazing. I could have just sat there and nosed that glass forever. At this point, The Nose revealed that what I had in my glass was Dalmore from 1868! I wonder if my face went flush. I couldn’t believe he was letting me taste this!

On to the actual tasting, this is where Mr. Paterson tortured me a bit. He had me take a very small sip and hold it on top of my tongue while he proceeded to count and talk to me FOREVER! “Hold it, hold it, don’t swallow…” All the while, I’m failing to keep the liquid completely on the top of my tongue. It’s slowly leaking down the sides/back of my tongue into my throat. I sneak small swallows hoping he doesn’t notice. “Ok, now put it under your tongue and hold it there…” I complied the best I could, though most of the small dram had already snuck down my throat. “Now back up on top again…and swallow.” I asked if he expected me to do this with every sip I took. The answer was no – once you’ve acclimated your tongue, feel free to proceed in a more casual manner. :-)

I had already tasted some “older” sherry-cask whiskies (The Last Drop and Classic Cask 35 Year), so I had a good idea what to expect when this old Dalmore hit my mouth. It was going to be very woody, bourbon-like, and so dry my tongue would feel like it was shriveling up. Wrong! This was a very fresh, active, acidic, juice-like experience, full of seville oranges. Speaking of which, go take a sip of orange juice, hold it on your tongue, and let it roll over the sides and down the back of our tongue. The tingling sensation from the 1868 Dalmore was like that. It was almost an over-the-top acidic experience, actually. Certainly not boring! I also recognized some flavors from the Sherry we had just tried.

After that initial nosing and tasting of the small sip of Dalmore 1868, The Nose gave me a bite of Dark Chocolate to tie all of the flavors together and complete the experience. Actually, he said the ideal experience would include a coffee and/or cigar if I recall correctly. Kind of like a well chosen multi-course meal.

I can’t help but wonder if part of the magic of these old Dalmores is that Mr. Paterson flirts with the boundaries of what is allowed in proper seasoning of the casks with sherry. Certainly, he has gone to great lengths to choose the RIGHT sherry to season his finishing casks on these best of the best Dalmores. Whatever the secret is, I would never have imagined the flavor on the palate was coming from the same liquid that produced that coffee nose. But once I had swallowed and taken a deep breath, there was that coffee and chocolate again. A magical transformation!

Conclusion

Wow! Guided through an amazing whisky tasting by an amazing whisky legend. What an experience! The 1868 Dalmore truly was incredible. It smelled like no whisky I had nosed before. It tasted like no whisky that had previously touched my lips. Quite an education for the senses. Mr. Paterson said this was one of the “components” of the very expensive Dalmores that have been released in recent times. This makes sense. The individual elements of taste and smell were incredibly unique, but not necessarily the most balanced overall whisky experience I’ve had. I’m sure this is where The Nose works his blending magic on the official releases…finding the right balance of 1868 and other vintages to produce a dazzling final result.

Thank you Craig McGill for adding this unforgettable experience to my trip! And thank you Richard Paterson for not only fitting me into your busy schedule, but for sharing such a rare piece of history with an ordinary guy like myself.

Up Next

This wasn’t actually the FULL Richard Paterson experience (or Craig McGill experience), but I’ve written enough in this blog post. I’ll post another with some final details from my Whyte & Mackay visit, and my theory on which casks that 1868 sample came from. Also, some thoughts on super-premium whiskies vs. more standard bottlings from the perspective of a middle class enthusiast.

Cheers, Jeff

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Introduction

I recently passed through Glasgow for a couple of days, and made arrangements to meet up with Craig McGill for drinks on my first afternoon. He does digital PR work for Whyte & Mackay. At the last minute, he contacted me and let me know that if I could head straight from my arrival at Glasgow Airport to the W&M office, I might be able to meet with Richard Paterson (aka “The Nose“), famous Whisky Ambassador and Master Blender for Whyte & Mackay, for a few minutes in his Sample Room. Challenge accepted!

The Whyte & Mackay Office

Located a short walk from Central Station in downtown Glasgow, the Whyte & Mackay office is a modern, shiny high rise building located next door to a Gothic style cathedral built in 1904. I met Craig on the ground floor, and he took me up 8 floors to where Richard Paterson’s playground, er…sample room, is located. We were a little early, but went straight past the quiet reception desk to the blending room to wait for Mr. Paterson. The room looks to be around 20′ x 25′ in size, with cabinets running the length of the long walls. On top of the cabinets were hundreds of sample bottles and dozens of tasting glasses (all business). In the middle of the room was a large table with commercial bottlings on display, and a small replica of a still (all show). Above the cabinets and sample bottles were cupboards filled with old whisky bottles (museum-like).

Just another day at the office for The Nose

Some old bottles...and a Mackinlay replica?

It was extremely quiet and clean, with a mellow vibe. Show pieces aside, I felt like I was standing in a medical lab. I stood in the middle of the room afraid to touch anything on the side cabinets, or see anything I wasn’t supposed to. Craig walked over to the cabinet on the right side of the room, nonchalantly reached over a bunch of samples and plugged his phone in to charge. He was obviously comfortable in here, so I asked if it was ok to look around. “Sure, go right ahead!”

That’s when Richard’s assistant [of over 30 years!] Margaret entered the room, grabbed a bunch of used tasting glasses from the cabinet on the left wall and put them into an industrial washer in the front corner of the room. As I started to check out the bottles on display, and sneak a peak at the labels on some of the sample bottles, she proceeded to place 20 clean tasting glasses out on the other cabinet in front of a set of sample bottles from Invergordon (photo above), and then poured the samples into the glasses. I guess this was to be Mr. Paterson’s afternoon work…checking to see how 20 barrels from the warehouse were coming along. About that time, I worked my way to the far end of the left wall and became aware of the labels on some of the sample bottles there (photo below). My heart jumped up in my throat…Dalmore 30 Yr, Dalmore 40 Yr, Dalmore 1951, Dalmore *1926*…just sitting there in front of me!

Some very old, very rare samples!

Enter “The Nose”

After stuffing as many sample bottles as possible into my pants pockets [no, of course not], Richard Paterson came through the door in his dark suit and bright pink tie, and the room came to life. If you’ve seen him in videos, he had that same high energy level that either sucks you in, or puts you on the defensive…like you’ve walked onto the set of a Billy Mays OxiClean info-mercial. I’m a fan of The Nose, so I let myself get sucked in, as it’s all in the spirit of fun and whisky appreciation.

In my next post, the “Richard Paterson Experience”…

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