Wednesday , May 29 2024
Don't knock it back like a cowboy.

You Had Me At Hello: The Whisky Podcasts of Richard Paterson

The podcasts for Whyte and Mackay Whisky may be superficially infomercials for its blended Scotch, but with Masterblender Richard Paterson, they are pure entertainment. If you spend a few minutes with the whisky expert, you are attending a whisky college as well as being tempted to buy a bottle. That's whiskey with no "e," don't forget.

The podcasts are not merely a "here, buy my product" marketing tool. They are an education. One podcast explains the history of the shape and color of nineteenth-century glass bottles. Another explains the distinctive flavors each area of Scotland exhibits through the country's 106 collective distilleries. As described by Mr. Paterson, some areas of Scotland have a scotch with a more peaty flavor. Others areas, close by the ocean, have a scotch with a salty taste. With no surprise and maybe more than a touch of favoritism, Mr. Paterson claims that the lowland area that Whyte and Mackay calls home gives its whisky a "light-bodied charm and and elegance."

Mr. Paterson too has a light charm and elegance. With his matching tie and pocket handkerchief, he has an elaborate and oh-so-entertaining routine when it comes to taste-testing a whisky. But, pocket handkerchief notwithstanding, there is no pretension to his repartee as there might be with some suspect oenophiles.

He pours a sample of scotch, swirls it around in a stemmed glass and throws it on the "world's most expensive carpet," presumably because of the many glasses of priceless scotches that have been tossed there. Why he can't pour the scotch into a sink, I haven't figured out, but I am amused every time he does it. He says that the force of the liquid coming out of the glass rids the rim of any "lingering" odors.

The tasting ritual as described by the Masterblender: the first sniff of the whiskey is to say "hello." The second sniff is to say "how are you?" The third sniff is an enthusiastic: "Quite well. Thank you very much." And we haven't even taken a sip yet. When you do have the courage to take a taste, please don't "knock it back like a cowboy."

The Whyte and Mackay website professes two things you must remember about Mr. Paterson: "If you drink the whisky too quickly, he'll slap you. And if he sees you holding a whisky tasting glass the wrong way, he'll kill you." But that kind of violence isn't really indicated by Mr. Paterson's methodical ways — at least not on the podcast.

There is some trendy instruction as to what whisky pairs best with certain foods. Or should I say it the other way around: what cuisine goes best with a certain whisky. The latter seems to be of more weight in the whisky world. Either way, the pairing of meals to spirits is becoming as de rigeur as wine pairings were last decade.

Even if you are not a whisky lover, which I confess I am not, take a look at Mr. Paterson's work; you will get an enlightenment into both drink and country. You'll get an understanding of the elaborate culture that Scotch Whisky has grown up around itself. And at the very least, you'll have a good idea of how to order a whiskey in a bar and how to dress down the bartender if he or she dares to put ice in that whisky.

About Kate Shea Kennon

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