Drink | The Bespokesperson

Creating the distilled essence of a whisky-lover’s personality

How a whisky blender follows his nose to create bespoke scotch

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Creating the distilled essence of a whisky-lover’s personality

September 22 2010
Lindsay Macpherson

Whisky drinkers are a notoriously fastidious breed – my father once complained that an ice cube had rendered his favourite malt undrinkable – so it’s no surprise to hear that Whyte & Mackay has created a new bespoke whisky service catering to this most exacting consumer.

The blending comes courtesy of Richard Paterson (first picture) – a third-generation master distiller with an impressive whisky lineage – who, after becoming the UK’s youngest master blender at the age of 26, has spent the past 31 years honing his craft as the company’s award-winning in-house whisky “nose”. And now he has turned his formidable talent to creating personalised blends for those who can afford the £20,000 price tag.

From a base at the distiller’s Glasgow HQ, the client is taken on a behind-the-scenes tasting tour of some of Scotland’s top distilleries. Stopoffs might include The Dalmore, Isle of Jura, the 186-year-old Fettercairn and the recently resurrected Tamnavulin, as well as the UK’s only working cooperage in the Speyside region, where whisky casks are still produced according to time-honoured tradition.

Finding out the client’s whisky preferences is a painstaking – yet rewarding – process that involves sampling 40-year-old bottles worth up to £100,000 and private barrel tastings from resting casks. Paterson uses the time with his client to discern their personality traits, which he translates into the finished blend – a skill he has refined through creating blends for fellow Scots Sean Connery (“a mix of well-aged malts”) and Andy Murray (“an aggressive whisky, likely to better with age”).

The finished result could incorporate up to 35 single malts and grains from five regions, and will be delivered in a hand-crafted case and bottle for final approval after two or three months of “marrying” in a cask.

Second picture: limited-edition bottles of Whyte & Mackay whisky featuring the names of Force India F1 Team drivers.