The other week, we had the good fortune to be heading to Glasgow for a rare chance to pick the brains and be entertained by Whyte & Mackay’s Master Blender and raconteur extraordinaire, Richard Paterson.
Dubber was travelling up from Birmingham, and I came a short hop on the train to rendez-vous with him, and also my close friend, Colin Heggie, who’d kindly agreed to come and take some more professional shots than we could ever manage.
So, after a quick catch up on the train with each other about what had been going on in our lives since we last met, we found ourselves jumping into a taxi at Glasgow, and soon outside the imposing Dalmore House, home of W&M HQ.
For those of you unaware of Richard Paterson, he is one of the most respected, and hard working Master Blenders in the world. It’s apparent from meeting ‘The Nose’ (as he has become known in the whisky industry) that his concern for his work goes beyond any duty to professionalism, it is a sense of family pride – in the best possible sense of the phrase – in that, he cares deeply about whisky and the blends he’s involved in creating, and not just for his reputation’s sake, but because it is most definitely part of who he is. It’s in the blood.
We were introduced to Richard and sat down together to grab a bite to eat. I have to say, I was a wee bit nervous. I’d been extremely excited about the prospect of getting a chance to chat to someone with as much experience within whisky as Richard, as I always see opportunities such as that as a chance to hopefully learn something. Luckily, Richard is a dab hand at putting everyone at ease, so nerves were soon forgotten.
The 9th floor of Dalmore House, holds rows of display cases on the approach to Richard’s blending lab, proudly housing hundreds of important curios in the history of Whyte & Mackay. From antique measuring instruments, to medals and trophies, through to extremely rare examples of old bottlings from the company’s portfolio, it’s part archive, part sweetshop, for anyone with half an interest in the world of whisky.
Upon entering the blending lab where Richard does the majority of his work, you’re immediately aware of the sheer variety of elements he has to work with. Every surface is crammed with neatly labelled bottles and vials of spirit, from every conceivable source.
Without wanting to be cryptic, we were shown a few things that we were sworn to secrecy over. Suffice to say, there is so much history and innovation in that room, that for any whisky fan, it would leave you speechless.
I personally cannot tell you how lucky we were to experience the two hours we spent there. I know we are in a very small minority that get the chance to talk with Richard, and an ever smaller group who have had the good fortune to share a unique view behind the scenes.
As our visit drew to an end, Richard had one last surprise for us. We were each treated to a generous dram of The Dalmore Eos. Spirit that is of a minimum of 59 years old. Words fail us.
It was amazing.
Luckily, The Nose didn’t tell us what we were about to taste, otherwise there may have been some shaky hands. Beyond all the hyperbole, the debate over prices of exclusive whiskies, one thing that was abundantly clear was that this was exceptional whisky. After something like that, you probably have to reconcile yourself with the possibility that you may never taste anything as good as that again in your lifetime.
Personally, I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a return visit at some point in the future.
We had a fantastic time, and would like to thank Rob Bruce and Jill Inglis for answering our persistent badgering over setting this up, Colin Heggie for his photo-wizardry, and of course, Richard himself for his time and patience.