Richard Paterson's Scotch Drinking Tips: A Master Blender Speaks

​Third-generation whisky master blender Richard Paterson's nose is so important to his job that his schnoz is insured for $2.5 million.

Paterson, who works for Scotch maker Whyte & Mackay (the namesake founders both died of cirrhosis of the liver, by the way), was in Miami to conduct a tasting of the Dalmore single-malt whisky at Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar in Coral Gables. Paterson came equipped with a bagful of props, including a miniature whisky distillery, a giant fly, and a vial of whisky that Sir Ernest Shackleton took to Antarctica in 1907.

Paterson, who clearly enjoys what he does for a living, walked us through the proper way to enjoy Scotch whisky, noting in his brogue that he's been known to slap people who gulp the fine spirit without taking time to savor. Some of his tips:

  • The proper glass for drinking Scotch whisky is the copa or copita, which is typically used for sherry. This glass, which has a bulbous top, keeps the aroma of the Scotch from escaping.
  • Don't hold the glass with your palms. That warms the whisky and might be punishable by death in some circles.
  • Swirl the whisky in the glass. Paterson says he usually flings the first glassful on the carpet, but he refrained from doing so in the restaurant dining room.
  • As you swirl the whisky the first time, stick your nose in the glass and say hello to the amber liquid. Repeat and then ask, "How are you?" Each time you inhale, try to identify different notes. Top notes of a good Scotch might include orange marmalade, honey, spice, and chocolate.
  • Take a sip of the whisky. Without letting it linger on the tip of your tongue (the alcohol can "burn out" your taste buds), roll it around in your mouth for at least 15 seconds. Make an "mmmmmmm" sound as you're doing this -- it opens your throat and helps to move the drink around.
  • Try the first taste of Scotch "neat." Then pour just a few drops of bottled water at room temperature into the glass. The water releases the oils from the oak casks, expanding the flavors. The notes will open and explode, but you have to give it time on your palate.
  • Take five minutes to slow down and experience the whisky. Single-malt Scotch is meant to be savored -- not pounded. Paterson likens Scotch to a Jackson Pollock painting. At first it seems a jumble of color (and taste), but step back a moment to concentrate and it all begins making sense.
  • Though Scotch is traditionally a man's drink, women actually have better palates and can identify the more subtle notes in each glass.
  • For a multiple food orgasm, try a single-malt Scotch with a bit of dark chocolate and good coffee.

Here is Paterson having a little "discussion" with his boss:

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