6 Tips on Drinking Whisky the Right Way From a Master Distiller

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Richard Paterson
Richard Paterson

Photo Credit: David Parry Photography

Drinking whisky correctly is an art form. Not all realize that this lovely libation is something to sip and savor, not shoot. Luckily for us, we have Richard Paterson, who will celebrate 50 years as Master Distiller at The Dalmore—a Highland single malt—in 2017, to set us straight. Paterson is a true pioneer in the industry, a man whose expertise and intimate knowledge of rare and exclusive casks have helped him to establish the category of super luxury single malt. His speciality is ‘nosing whisky,’ being able to distinguish between each expression to maintain particular layers of flavor, aroma and depth. Once the whisky is matured, he determines if the assemblage of flavors and aromas in the drink have developed in line with his original vision. If so, then the whisky is then ready to be released. Said skill has earned him the nickname of ‘The Nose.’

Paterson has also made it his mission to continually evolve the art of multi-cask maturation and finishing, which has led to ground-breaking and definitive releases such as The Dalmore King Alexander III, the first single malt whisky in the world to achieve a six cask finish. When he isn’t creating his whiskies, he is often out traveling the world to promote both The Dalmore and Scottish whisky as a whole. Here, the man who has been awarded The Spirit of Scotland Trophy at the International Wine & Spirit Competition and was named Whisky Magazine Whisky Ambassador of the Year, shares six tips for drinking whisky the right way—a.k.a. the ‘haute’ way.

Richard Paterson Nosing the Dalmore
Richard Paterson Nosing the Dalmore

Photo Credit: Scott Rankin Photography

#1:  When choosing a whisky be mindful of your mood and surroundings. 

People often ask what my favorite whisky is, and I will always reply, ‘It depends where I am in the world, what I’ve been doing that day and who I am with.’ You should never rush your choice.  Take heed of how you are feeling at that moment and what type of whisky would best reflect that.If I am outdoors for example, I quite often like to have a peated whisky as it feels more special enjoying this wonderful earthy whisky out in the wind and rain.  At the end of a meal I like to choose something completely different; a richer style of whisky like The Dalmore King Alexander III.  It’s the only whisky in the world to have a six cask finish, and for me its taste is as complex as a box of chocolates, which is why I think it’s a great dram for after dinner. You must select what whisky is right for you and your palate at that particular moment.

#2:  Follow your nose

In order to really savor and enjoy your whisky, you must take your time. Revel in the wait. It starts with the glass. My favorite for nosing is the copa copita glass as its tulip shape concentrates the aromas at the rim of the glass, allowing me to properly explore the whisky.  If you don’t have a copita glass, then the Glencairn whisky glass is a good alternative, as is a champagne flute. Briefly bring the glass to your nose and inhale gently moving the glass slowly from nostril to nostril. Just a second before pulling away, take a moment to breathe in and out and allow the aromas to dissipate.  Do this a further three times as only then will you start to unfold what’s hidden within the whisky.

#3: Add a little water

 When tasting whisky, I would always recommend adding just a little splash of water as this really helps to further open up the aromas and the palate of the whisky.  Make sure it is still water that is at room temperature. Many people who know me will tell you I’m not a fan of ice in my whisky.  For me, I find it chills the whisky and doesn’t allow the aromas to breathe the same way.  Also, it can dilute the whisky a little too much.  However, that’s my personal preference, if you enjoy ice in your whisky then that’s absolutely fine too.

Richard Paterson in The Dalmore warehouse
Richard Paterson in The Dalmore warehouse

Photo Credit: David Parry Photography

# 4:  Don’t knock it back like a cowboy!

Once you take a sip of your whisky, hold it long in the mouth to let the flavors unfold. Bring the whisky to the middle of your tongue and then roll it from side to side. Think about how it feels on your tongue, what is the whisky telling you.When you swallow the whisky, don’t think it’s over…feel it as it goes down your throat into your stomach. Then wait. Open your mouth a little and let the air pass over your palate. Be aware of the flavors and how they continue to evolve on the after taste. A good whisky will linger long in the mouth. So much time, effort, and expertise goes into making whisky that you should reflect on the experience as you drink to truly get the most from it. You should think about how the whisky makes you feel, not just what you taste.

# 5:  Enhance your tasting experience

To further enhance the tasting experience, you should choose foods that complement the whisky, such as strong coffee or a dark bitter chocolate with a high cocoa content. For example, a crème brulee with glazed orange segments is an ideal accompaniment with The Dalmore 12 year-old.

# 6:  Discover more

There are so many whiskies out there, each with their own unique story and taste.  I enjoy tasting new whiskies and revisiting ones I haven’t tasted for a while.   It can be difficult to choose, so when you are in a bar, always make sure to ask the bartender for recommendations.  In a great bar, such as Whisky Blue or The Brandy Library, the staff are really very knowledgeable and passionate about whisky.  Talk to them, they will help guide you and recommend new whiskies to you.

The Dalmore
The Dalmore

Photo Credit: David Parry Photography

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