Celebrating The Spirit Of Ingenuity

 

Walking into the ‘liquid library’ of Beirut's Malt Gallery, it quickly becomes clear that every element there has a story to tell that’s well worth hearing. Though much could be said about the majesty of whisky craftsmanship, few are as qualified to make such assessments as Master Distiller Richard Paterson, aptly nicknamed The Nose who, as luck would have it, paid a first-time visit to the gallery

 



Everyone present could feel the change in atmosphere when this world-leading authority on Scotch whisky struck up a conversation with his admirers. “It is not about how old you are, rather how you applied what you learned throughout your travels,” he commented, sipping green Earl Grey tea from a glass cup. “To that end, my journey, rather the love affair, began at the age of eight. My father, a distiller by profession, took me to his bonded warehouse in the heart of Glasgow to show me his world. He slid open the big doors and as soon as I walked in, the smell of whisky engulfed my nostrils and I thought, ‘What the heck is going on here?’ It was then and there that something just sparked inside me. Looking back, I realize that what started as an interest developed into a relentless life-long passion.”

Origin and identity
However, Paterson’s journey was not always straightforward, with the first five years marked by uncertainty and challenges as he sought to create his own path in the industry. This was until an alternative perspective presented itself, bringing with it the clarity that had until then evaded him. It was following that landmark moment that Paterson decided to change his approach to his whiskies, treating them as a genderless creation and of course, there was also the famous dialog.
“The only way for me to get to know whisky is to strike up a conversation with it,” he explained. “I want to see what it is


 going to tell me, so I start asking it questions, which is when the spirit begins to open up. Age also plays a major role in the conversation, as does the region of origin. For instance, whisky made in the Speyside valley in Scotland looks like a beautiful, elegant and sensually-refined woman. On the other hand, whisky made in The Dalmore, resembles a well-dressed muscular Daniel Craig. However, what is more important is the way these develop when they eventually take on a life of their own.”

Form versus function
As appetite for whisky grows, brands have found themselves faced with the quandary of how best to feed curiosity and meet demand. The Dalmore chose to adopt a variety of strategies that were in line with the company’s broader vision.
“The Dalmore has been in the business since 1839 and many of its whiskies are up to 64 years old, which is something very rare and therefore justifies why we can command high prices for our whiskies,” Paterson noted. “For example, we sold The Dalmore Paterson Collection, comprising 12 bottles, for almost GBP one million. The Dalmore 64, consisting of three bottles, each sold for GBP 100,000. These are one-offs and therefore unique in their own right.” Though once-in-a-lifetime offerings like these appeal to a select few with deep pockets and generate plenty of media buzz, they don’t necessarily draw in the crowd of Scotch whisky connoisseurs who truly appreciate quality,  which is a predicament


Paterson recognizes. “Sadly, most people knock down whisky without giving it time to divulge its story and therefore the proverbial ‘conversation’ never takes place, as their focus is on the shape and price of the bottle more than what is in it,” he acknowledged. “You need to keep in mind that the goal is not to have something extravagantly expensive, but something that reflects the rich taste that went into the whisky’s making. After all, it is not a painting, rather something meant to be shared with people you love. This will bring out the invisible elements swimming inside for a truly unforgettable memory.”

No age statement unraveled
His reasoning helps those followers keen to better understand the famous No-Age Statement, long a subject of industry debate and on which Paterson is happy to elaborate. “What matters is not what is written on the label, but what goes into the bottle,” he explained. “After all, the majority of blended whiskies have no age on them. On the other hand, the aged whiskies have taken a long time to create and that says something about the brand itself. Then again, just because a certain whisky is 12 years old does not automatically make it good, just like in the case of wine and other aged spirits.”
Paterson frequently visits The Dalmore Distillery and many other warehouses to evaluate his whiskies. Oftentimes, he notices that a certain single malt or even a blend that he has created still needs tine to rest for a couple of years before reaching maturity. “Others taste as if they are in a bad mood and need to relax,” he admitted. “Still, you get a blend that comes across as too dominant and needs to cool down. Yet once a new whisky tastes as good as it looks and smells, it then is ready to find a home.”

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