Friday 9 October 2015

The Dalmore dinner with Richard Paterson (Hong Kong)

We've had the pleasure of meeting some absolute whisky legends over the past few months, and last night that trend continued with perhaps one of the most well-known figures of all - Richard Paterson of Whyte & MackayThe Dalmore and Jura - aka "The Nose".

Richard, who recently celebrated 45 years with Whyte & Mackay (and an incredible 49.5 years in the industry) was in Hong Kong to promote The Dalmore, and in conjunction with Telford Hong Kong (responsible for The Dalmore in HK) and Emperador Distillers (owners of Whyte & Mackay and The Dalmore), hosted an intimate dinner at Hullett House's St George restaurant in TST.

The stunning Hullett House in TST (please excuse the inescapable lens-fogging humidity!)
Arriving a little early at Hullet House's bar (Whisky @ Stables), I found Richard and a few others and was quickly handed a dram (King Alexander III) and invited to join in the conversation. I'd seen a lot of Richard's showmanship on YouTube (exhibit A) but wondered what he was like in person, one-on-one. Turns out - a truly, genuinely delightful bloke. Friendly, welcoming, and genuinely interested in others. We chatted for a while (about the Hong Kong and Australian whisky scenes, small bars, Japan, whisky auctions, travel and fake whisky) before the crowd started to grow and the cocktails arrived.

While the King Alexander III was a great way to start the night, with the weather still hot and humid outside, and showing no signs of letting up, the cocktail (a tall drink with The Dalmore 12, Aperol, apricot liqueur topped with ginger ale) was most welcome and hit the spot perfectly (side note: It's almost mid-October...shouldn't the humidity be dropping soon!?)

Not long after it was time to move over to St George for the main event - a 5 course meal paired with a selection of The Dalmore whiskies, held in the colonial-themed "JP Hennessy" room - complete with dining tables made from original timber dating back to Hullett House's colonial days.

Richard opened proceedings by explaining his role as Master Distiller at The Dalmore, commenting that he's been through "10 takeovers and 19 different bosses" in those years. Richard got quickly into his trademark showmanship, talking through the history of The Dalmore (and his own family's 3 generations of whisky involvement) with the use of props, photo boards, drams and even a bottle of Gonzalez Byass Matusalem 30 year old Oloroso sherry - former casks of which significantly shape a number of The Dalmore expressions.

After a run through of Richard's infamous "Hello", "How are you", "Quite well, thank you very much" approach to nosing, it was time for the first courses - Crab and Cucumber Roll and 52 Degree Salmon, matched with The Dalmore 15yo.

The strong flavours of the King crab in the first dish paired well with the spicy notes of the 15yo, and the 15yo added an interesting sweetness, almost sherbert-like, to the salmon. Whisky pairings can be tough to execute, but it seems like we were off to a great start.

After both courses, Richard was up again to talk through The Dalmore 18, which sees 14 years in American white oak, and a further 4 years in the aforementioned Gonzalez Byass Matusalem Oloroso casks. The 18 was paired with Foie Gras Ravioli, with Pancetta chips and black truffle bouillon cappuccino.

Though I'm not typically a foie gras fan, this was an absolutely stunning dish, with the 18yo's coffee / mocha notes playing particularly nicely with the truffle.

Sitting only one seat away from Richard afforded a great opportunity to chat, and those of us nearby made the most of it asking about his famous nose insurance (no longer in place after the premiums became too exorbitant) and the rush of new distilleries in Scotland (some of which he feels won't survive, and the remainder of which he feels will really need to differentiate themselves and ensure they can get a constant supply of casks). 

We also discussed the topic of whisky finishing and various oak types, which led us nicely onto the next whisky, The Dalmore King Alexander III.

The Dalmore King Alexander III, as Richard explained, is finished in a whopping 6 different casks (Port, Madeira, Marsala, Cabernet Sauvignon, Small Batch Bourbon and Matuselm Oloroso) and is designed to give rich plummy characteristics. Despite not carrying an age statement, King Alexander III is typically 20 years old, and this particular bottle was 22-23 years old, with all component whiskies having been distilled in 1992. At 40% "because that's how I wanted it" (Richard's words), it's an approachable, elegant dram, which was matched with USDA Beef striploin, with potato gratin, onion confit and balsamic vinegar beef jus.

Another fantastic pairing, the King Alexander III brought out some incredible smokey maple syrup notes in the dish, with hints of citrus and some rich toffee notes towards the end.

The last whisky on the menu was listed as "Richard's Surprise" and speculation was rife as to what it might have been. Richard eventually ended the debate and introduced it as The Dalmore 25yo, bottled at 42% ABV and in limited quantities of 3,000 bottles per year. Richard said this pairing (with Chocolate mousse, berry belly and raspberry sorbet) was particularly good, and made us promise to appreciate the pairing first.

May have dived into this one a little too eagerly before remembering to take a photo...

...which we did, and wow, it was stunning. The rich cocoa and berry notes of the 25yo paired brilliantly with the same flavours in the dish, to create what was easily the pairing of the night.

A fitting end, you might think, but no, Richard had one more dram up his sleeve - The Dalmore Cigar Malt Reserve, bottled at 44% ABV and containing a mixture of 70% sherry-matured whisky, 20% American white-oak matured whisky and 10% cab sauv barrique-matured whisky. It had been years since I'd tried this dram, and I enjoyed it just as much as the first time - probably more, considering I was sitting next to the man responsible for it!

Having tried the entirety of The Dalmore's "The Principal Collection", along with some truly stunning food, it was time to bid Richard farewell and head home, a fantastic night had by all in attendance.


TimeforWhisky would like to thank Telford Hong Kong, Emperador DistillersHullett House and of course Richard Paterson for what was a truly enjoyable and memorable evening.

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