Richard Paterson: Master Blender of Whisky
June 9, 2012 12:09 PM   Subscribe

How to drink whisky: "Master Blender Richard Paterson shows David Hayman how to drink blends". Paterson is the master blender who managed to replicate the lost (and then found) 114-year-old Whyte & Mackay whisky from the Shackleton South Pole expedition; also see Shackleton’s Whisky – Mackinlay’s Reborn for a review (previously on MeFi). At his blog, he's currently discussing whisky & food pairings.

All of Paterson's blog posts on the Shackleton whisky and another post from his blog - ever wondered how much work goes into a blended whisky?

Wired's How-To wiki shares Paterson's tasting primer

SingleMaltTV - How To Taste Whisky with Richard Paterson: part 1 & part 2 (each video ~9 min.)

Paterson's YouTube channel & blog feature his (apparently abandoned) project: 40 Years, 40 Whiskies - "the 40 quality whiskies that have shaped the last 40 years of whisky making". The last entry available, #28, contains a list of links to all the whiskies discussed to that point (the YouTube videos are brief, only a minute or two on average).

(subject via this currently viral video - it has outtakes)

previously on MeFi: let's talk about Scotch whisky - a wee dram - mapping out whisky - the world of Japanese whisky
posted by flex (18 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
Flagged for whisky Advocacy. JK! Good stuff.

The Dalmore tasting in the lead link was amusing. I once tasted a 5k dollar bottle of wine (was involved in a pitch for a wine related web site to a serious wine collector) and was blown away by how out of this world different and better it was than any wine I'd had before. It had a bit of the earth in it.
posted by ericost at 12:28 PM on June 9, 2012

That's a skill I certainly don't need help with, but what a great vid.

also, Mr. Paterson has one hell of a nose.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 12:33 PM on June 9, 2012

There are some quite significant differences in whiskies, and I completely support the concept that older ones can taste better (although I don't have the budget to truly make my own opinion on the matter and I do find it surprising that there's any real relationship between "there was only 12 bottles made" and "that's the best whisky in the world".).

However, much like wine tasting some of the nonsense that's spouted off as they taste is quite amazing. I suppose everything humans do which is subjective has people who like to be more flowery in their descriptions so as to stand out more (see almost every arts critic in the world). If this was a video of people drinking £60,000 whisky and then saying "yeah, that was nice" it wouldn't be nearly as exciting.

I must say, I really enjoyed the little nod to every Scottish viewer given at the end. "Being Scottish means the world to me" says the American. Every scot watching laughs.
posted by leo_r at 1:05 PM on June 9, 2012

These wine-tasting-like notes about the flavor of whiskey make me think they're drinking it wrong. The only notes you should have when you're drinking whiskey are as follows: 1) Had a lot 2) Can't remember what follows.
posted by smackwich at 1:22 PM on June 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

The only notes you should have when you're drinking whiskey are as follows: 1) Had a lot 2) Can't remember what follows.

That's because you're drinking whiskey.
posted by howfar at 1:32 PM on June 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

ObSingleMaltSnobbishness: blends? Really?
posted by MartinWisse at 1:39 PM on June 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

flex, this is a stellar post. I don't even like whiskey but you and Richard Paterson are changing my mind. That initial video clip is really well done.
posted by madamjujujive at 2:33 PM on June 9, 2012

Oh man, now I want to do another scotch-tasting Mefi meetup!
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:26 PM on June 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Was just having a conversation about single malt vs. blended with my wife earlier. I was of the opinion that single malts were inferior to single malt like Glen Fiddich and Glen Livet, but that's probably because I started drinking the stuff by Dewars.

True story: a local tapas restaurant here in Norfolk will not serve scotch on the rocks. Apparently the owner is a purist and has warned the wait staff that they will be fired if they do. If you request it they will bring you out a glass of scotch and a glass of ice, but will not serve the two together. I guess the mindset is that they're not going to ruin a perfectly good drink, but if you want to be a fool....

I have to admit that I was converted. I used to put ice in my drink to dilute the stuff, but now I just drink it straight. My wife even bought me some whiskey stones for my birthday last week, and I've only used it once and it didn't seem to cool down the drink too much. I'm thinking my freezer isn't cold enough.

Now time to go have a scotch.
posted by daHIFI at 3:27 PM on June 9, 2012

That's because you're drinking whiskey.

Sometimes the anti-Irish sentiments on this site make me so angry.

Not everybody prefers their whisky to taste like it was buried in mouldering moss for six years in the arms of a bog monster. Scotch's popularity isn't because it's an inherently superior drink, but instead because of the vagaries of history and trade that cause one item to enjoy favor and another to lose that favor, thanks to the economic miseries of Ireland, general suppression of their product, and a noble if misplaces refusal on the part of Irish distillers, who for years refused to make blended versions of their drink.

Jameson sets the baseline, and it's about as good a standard as any; look at the baseline for bourbon and scotchs and you'll find a lot of swill. And from there it just gets better -- Jameson 12-year will only cost you about fifty more cents per drink, and the richness of the flavor is tenfold better. And on up. I'm a Red Breast man, and if that's not as good and right as whiskey gets, there is no good and right in this world.

That said, I do admire scotch. There's a $500 pour at the Twin Cities Grill in St. Paul, and, if I ever have cause for a true celebration, I will have that. For a long time, I figured my palate probably wasn't sophisticated enough to really distinguish between, say, a $50 scotch and the $500. But then I had one finger of whiskey from a bottle that cost $300, and it was like diving into a sea of peat and emerging with William Wallace's claymore, long stolen by a vicious Luideag.

So there's that.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:46 PM on June 9, 2012 [18 favorites]

Oh man, now I want to do another scotch-tasting Mefi meetup!

Hm. Might be time for the SF cabal crew to do another of those as well...
posted by spitefulcrow at 4:19 PM on June 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Jameson sets the baseline, and it's about as good a standard as any; look at the baseline for bourbon and scotchs and you'll find a lot of swill.

I was only dicking about, and you are, in fact, absolutely correct. I do drink scotch for preference, but it's pretty much inarguable that Irish whiskey offers better value at the lower price points. Compare Jameson to Grouse (if you can bear to taste the Grouse) and you'd have to have no taste buds at all not to favour the Jameson in every respect. And Grouse is better than a lot of the shite knocking about the bottom end of the scotch market. There are a few decent cheap scotch blends on international markets (the revamped Haig Gold Label offers excellent value, smooth with a hint of peat - $11 a litre last time I was in Lebanon), but overall scotch is a pretty crappy buy under about £20 a bottle.
posted by howfar at 4:56 PM on June 9, 2012

I add a teaspoon of water to any serving of single malt. I like to think it loosens up the flavor a little.

I've had the Jameson's 12 year and this is one single malt drinker that will agree that it is one fine beverage.
posted by Ber at 5:08 PM on June 9, 2012

ObSingleMaltSnobbishness: blends? Really?

I'm terribly sorry, but we're all out of parakeet glands.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:26 PM on June 9, 2012

Dude is all "here drink this while I slap you and put my hands all over your face."
posted by rahnefan at 10:36 PM on June 9, 2012

I have no doubts about Mr. Paterson's ability and talent for blending whisky, but his spiel contained a ton of priming to prepare Mr. Hayman before he had the chance to judge anything he tasted for himself.

First, he chastised him for being "too quick" about getting a good sniff of the whisky. I couldn't see any difference between what the two of them did, except for Paterson's "hello... how yeh doin" incantation, but the criticism established that he was the expert between them, built his apparent credibility vs. Hayman, and softened the blow with its eccentric charm.

Next, he asked Hayman what he thought of the first whisky, but quickly interjected the GBP60,000 pricetag, exceeding rarity, and his own opinion while Hayman still had it in his mouth. A whisky at that price, rarity, and high opinion of the master blender must be amazing, right? Or perhaps your palate is just not refined enough to appreciate it...

Finally, the custom blend. While Hayman was tasting it, Paterson told him exactly what he should be experiencing ("hotness", "softness"). That, plus a ton of flattery — his "soft, loving nature" in the whisky; "you're a dignified man"; the nice big certificate; the fact that a master blender is doing this just for him — is a means of signaling the "right" reaction to the whisky.

Again, this is just to say that Paterson is at least as good a salesman as he is a blender. It wouldn't have worked for the show, but I would have liked to know Hayman's opinion of the GBP60,000 whisky and the custom blend before Paterson said anything about them.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 12:25 AM on June 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Besides, have you ever seen a TV presenter who wasn't terribly impressed by whatever the business prominently featured in their puff piece (no doubt pitched by the station/network/producer as a fantastic opportunity to promote said business) happened to be peddling?
posted by briank at 8:19 AM on June 10, 2012

Again, this is just to say that Paterson is at least as good a salesman as he is a blender.

I wondered whether he'd considered the effect of giving away a bunch of his tricks on television. Obviously most people getting that patter will know that it's a show, but there is a certain suspension of disbelief involved in a good sales pitch that might be rather spoiled if you've seen exactly the same shtick on the telly. I'm sure he'll survive though.
posted by howfar at 9:37 AM on June 10, 2012

« Older Nest egg: from ostrich to hummingbird   |   Djokovic v Nadal Episode IV: A New Hope Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments