gavin smith

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In the new book written by our own Gavin D Smith and Master Blender Richard Paterson, the story is told of Richard's rise through the ranks to become arguably the world's greatest 'nose'. Here we have an extract from the book, Goodness Nose, published by NWP and priced £19.99 (buy at Amazon for £12.99)   

Raw Spirit- The Birth of a Blender


"What was that for?"

One moment I was standing there with a glass of this mysterious golden liquid in my hand, the next minute my father was giving me a clip across the back of my head.

I was only eight years old, and this was my first taste of Scotch whisky. What a start! But it was one brief moment in my life I would never forget. To tell the truth, he didn't hit me that hard. He did it to get my full attention. He certainly succeeded.

This little drama had occurred at my father's Stockwell Bond in Glasgow which was the heart of his whisky company .. W R Paterson Ltd. He had taken my twin brother Russell and I to introduce us to some of the mysteries of Scotch whisky. It was the love of his life.

During our visit to the bond, our father's infatuation became obvious from the way he cradled the glass in the palm of his hand, looking at the contents with a mixture of reverence and passion. He even closed his eyes, as he gently smelt it. It was almost as though he was mesmerised by the spirit. Needless to say, my brother and I both thought this was extraordinarily funny. It was just a question of which one of us was going to crack first and burst out laughing. Not surprisingly it was me. This appeared to break the spell. Suddenly my father passed me the glass.

"Right son! Since you seem to think this is so amusing, tell me what you think of this whisky?"

"What do you mean, dad?"

"Listen boy, I want you to smell this whisky and tell me how you would describe it."

Still smiling, I clumsily put my nose deep into the glass and sniffed it quickly.

"Well?" he said, impatiently as I hesitated.

I simply had no way of describing it, so my natural reply was "Well dad .. I don't really smell anything."

That's when I got the whack on the back of my head. As you might gather, my father was not the most patient of men. "Listen son! You're just not thinking about this, are you? What I'm looking for is for you to tell me something about the whisky. In simple terms .. is it dry or is it sweet, is it heavy or is it light?

"Now do you understand? .. but smell it slowly ." I nodded, but thought to myself why didn't he tell me that in the first place? If he had, I might have avoided this sore head.

In a matter of seconds I was able to say the whisky seemed to smell sweet, and had a certain heaviness about it. "Correct! Now you're talking! But listen .. when you say sweetness is it as sweet as your chocolate bar, or more like a sweet fruit? Peaches or grapes, for example. Is it as heavy in body and as fleshy and weighty as your grumpy grandfather? Always remember - take your time when you're nosing whisky, never rush it. Let the spirit reveal its identity its personality its character. Alright son, well done! Now come on and I'll show you both where we bottle it. After all, this is what pays for your education."

And, on reflection, that day was the very start of my education into the world of whisky.

buy Goodness Nose at Amazon for £12.99

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