Continuing with Blend Month on the blog, where the #12blends twitter tastings is currently on it's penultimate day, with an exclusive interview with Richard Paterson Master Blender from Whyte and Mackay about some of the issues surrounding blended whisky, ridding some mis-conceptions about blended whisky and some general whisky chit-chat.
Huge thanks to Richard for taking the time to talk to us and to Jill for making it all happen.
Whisky and food pairings are becoming much more common, can you suggest some pairings with Whyte and Mackay blends and foods that make interesting options?
For me dessert is the most important part of any meal and luckily Whyte & Mackay combines well with a number of sweet dishes. I’m a big fan of classic old school desserts such as chocolate mousse, crème brulee or raspberry soufflé and their hedonistic sweetness and rich texture allows the true sophistication of the blend to come through.
As a whisky blogger and drinker I’ve encountered a fair bit of whisky snobbery around blends, I’m assuming you will be on the receiving end of this on occasion also, how would you persuade these whisky snobs that blends are worthy of their attention?
If you imagine Vanessa Mae playing her violin by herself then it sounds great. But put a full piece orchestra behind her and it sounds bloody great! I believe a good blend should be like an orchestra, every malt and grain in there needs to work together in harmony to create a perfect balance on the nose and tongue, altogether in harmony. And from my point of view creating a blend takes more effort and skill to get right than it does sometimes to create a single malt. Blends should NEVER be dismissed as a poor relation to single malts as they should command respect from drinkers. That’s why its really great that you are highlighting blends on your blog as we need to change people’s attitudes.
Having tasted my way through the Whyte and Mackay range I’m a big fan of the thirteen and the 30 year old, the thirteen is a fantastic easy drinking dram that I can happily enjoy in a whisky tumbler whilst reading a good book. The 30 year old needs much more attention and respect and in my opinion is a great celebration dram. Which of the Whyte and Mackay range are your favourites and why?
I’m biased so I need to say I love them all in their own way! However if forced to choose I will need to agree with you and go for the 30 years old. It is a truly majestic blend, made with a selection of the finest aged malt and grain whisky in Scotland. It’s been named as the best blended whisky in the world by the IWSC and ISC so for me it really is one of the most special whiskies we have.
Richard Paterson with one of the Shackleton bottles
Traditional blenders, like Whyte and Mackay, have been joined on the market by a number of companies producing “premium” blends, do you see this as being a sign that the tide is turning and that some whisky connoisseurs are beginning to see the qualities of blended whisky rather than see them as something to use in mixers?
Mainstream blends should never be forgotten, they are wonderful in taste and also at a more accessible price point for consumers. They are exceptional value for money and it irritates me when people do not give them the respect they deserve. I say at many whisky shows – and this goes for malts too – that the choice of whisky is purely personal. Your decision shouldn’t be based on age or price as you might pay £300 for a bottle and it might not be to your liking. It’s about trying new experiences and determining what you like best, not about what people say you should or shouldn’t drink. Reviews are a great guide to give you an idea of taste but at the end of the day people should be confident in their whisky choice and drink what they enjoy!
There has been a lot of talk about the quality blending work coming from countries such as Japan and South Africa, looking at the work done in these countries do you see that as an inspiration to work harder to produce great blends in Scotland?
I attended the Whisky Magazine awards a few weeks ago and it was really encouraging to see the amount of whiskey being produced out with Scotland. For me personally, Scotch should always come from Scotland but I’ve tasted many of the Japanese whiskies and I have to say the standard is excellent and they are certainly giving traditional Scotch a run for its money!
Whisky producers from other countries aren’t tied to some of the same restrictions as those in Scotland, would you like to see any of the practices you are seeing from other producers happen in Scotland, or do you think we should be doing more to protect the integrity of the way whisky is made worldwide?
It’s important to the industry to have guidelines to ensure our national spirit is protected the same way as say Champagne is. We want to protect the spirit and the legacy that has been so dear to us for many hundreds of years.
I’m a great believer in allowing people to drink whisky in the way that suits them, as long as they are drinking whisky, however what tips would you give to someone new to blended whisky to allow them to get the best from their dram?
I’ve been in the industry over 40 years now and I have seen many different ways for people to enjoy whisky right from mixing it with ginger ale or coke to even mixing it with energy drinks which I hear is popular in Brazil! Its great that people enjoy whisky and I think it’s important for people to drink it how they enjoy it and whatever is accessible to their palate.
However, I would personally always recommend that the perfect way to enjoy whisky is to add a dash of cool water which then takes out the initial alcohol strength and allows the whisky to really open up. For those of you who have seen my presentations you know that I absolutely hate ice! In my opinion adding ice gives the whisky a bit of a shock – I mean you wouldn’t jump stark naked into an icy lake without getting a fright and its exactly the same for whisky!
Once again thanks to Richard for taking the time out to answer these questions and remember to check out Whyte and Mackay on the web, on Twitter and on Facebook, and why not go buy yourself a bottle of blended whisky to enjoy tonight, the The Whisky Exchange have a great selection for you to enjoy.