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Thought whisky and scotch are same? The Balvenie Global Brand Ambassador debunks malt myths

Gemma Paterson says that there is no one right way to enjoy whisky.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Sep 13, 2019, 03.24 PM IST|Original: Sep 11, 2019, 06.00 PM IST
Gemma at the Distillery
On her maiden visit to India, The Balvenie Global Brand Ambassador Gemma Paterson shares some of the whisky mistruths she commonly encounters on her travels.
On her maiden visit to India, The Balvenie Global Brand Ambassador Gemma Paterson shares some of the whisky mistruths she commonly encounters on her travels.

“One of the biggest misconceptions for me is that whisky is for a certain type of person, like you have to be a middle-aged man in a leather armchair with a cigar to enjoy whisky,” groused Gemma Paterson, global brand ambassador – The Balvenie.

“Traditionally, a lot of marketing for whiskys was geared towards men but I’m seeing, and I feel especially with me in this role, there’s a shift and more and more, women and younger people are starting to enjoy whisky.”

Speaking to ET Panache during her maiden visit to India, Paterson clears up some common misconceptions associated with whisky.

Throw Out The Rule Book

Similar to the middle-aged man stereotype is another notion that most whisky connoisseurs take for granted – that whisky has to be enjoyed a certain way. Paterson disagrees.

“I have different rituals for how I like to enjoy Balvenie depending on what I’m looking for. If I’m trying something new for the first time, then I’ll like to enjoy it neat. I take my time to nose it because there’s hundreds of favour compounds in there. So I’ll take my time, add some water, have a taste and just try to get as much as I can from that. I’ll maybe add ice if I’m drinking in a place where it’s 40 degrees outside or if it’s a Balvenie that I’m familiar with, I’ll have it in a high-ball and add some soda.”

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Another misconception that Paterson frequently encounters is that higher-priced whiskys are better.

“If I’m at a bar with a very talented bartender, then I’ll challenge them to experiment with it and make a cocktail, maybe try it with an old-fashioned. It just depends, there’s so many different ways. At the end of the day, whisky is a spirit made to be drunk, to be shared and there’s so many different ways that you can enjoy and appreciate it.”

Forget the Price Point
Another misconception that Paterson frequently encounters is that higher-priced whiskies are better. “You can have a very accessible whisky that can be the playful flavour profile for you. You don’t necessarily have to spend so much money on a bottle. We (The Balvenie) have everything between £50 and £28,000 and you might like that 50 pound bottle better if you tasted the two side-by-side and nobody told you what they were. It’s just learning what your palette is (not necessarily the price-point).”

However, learning what your flavour profile is and why type of whisky you may enjoy may be a tough ask, if you don’t know where to start.

Not All Whisky is Scotch
“Scotch is really complicated. I get asked all the time - so what’s the difference between Scotch and whisky? Well it’s all whisky – there’s American whiskeys, Canadian whiskies, Japanese, Bourbon Scotch etc. Scotch (which is whisky produced, matured, bottled and labelled all in Scotland) is just one part of that.”

World Whisky Day: Give An Interesting Twist To Your Favourite Drink With These Recipes

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19 May, 2018
Whether you like your poison on the rocks or adulterated, you don't really need to wait for World Whisky Day to celebrate the smoothness and refinement of a good malt. But it's good reason to do so, nonetheless. So this Whisky Day, we got the experts to share their favourite cocktail recipes. From the cinnamon spice and caramel flavour of a whisky tiramisu to the sweet nuttiness of orgeat syrup and bitters in a new twist on a whisky sour, there's something for everyone.

“Over and above that it’s a confusing space because you’ve got many root whisky making regions in Scotland. There’s more than 130 distilleries, you have blended Scotches, you have single malts, (different) flavour profiles from very light and elegant and delicate right through to heavy, rich, smoky, peaty, fruity.”

Three Is All You Need
According to Paterson, while it can be a whole journey to discover what type of Scotch suits your palette the best, you can get started in just one night by sampling three key types of whisky that form a flavour base – a whisky that’s been matured in an American bourbon barrel, a whisky matured in a European Spanish allo rosso sherry and a heavily peated whisky.

“If you can go into a bar and say: ‘I like whisky that’s matured and an American bourbon barrel as opposed to a Spanish sherry cask’; if you can go in with the knowledge of even just the type of oak, then that’s already a starting point for the bartender or for someone in a store if you’re buying a bottle. Say you don’t like peaty whiskys, you don’t like the smoke, that’s again another starting point. It’s just learning your palette and the type and style of the whiskys you like.”

For those still discovering their favour profile, Paterson recommends finding a knowledgeable bartender in a good bar known for their whisky.

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