Barrel of laughs

He mentions in passing that a great, great, grandfather, another (Sir) William Paterson, a trader and banker, founded the Bank of England in 1694 but that’s another story. Sadly, it looks like there will be no fourth generation Patersons in scotch whisky as none of Paterson’s children have taken to the scent. Maybe he should give his grandchildren a day out at Dalmore.

Last year Paterson was made chairman of the International Spirits Challenge’s whisky judges, succeeding John Ramsay. The 67-year-old also celebrated 45 years with Whyte & Mackay – “eleven takeovers and 19 bosses,” he quips. But the award that means most to him is the Wine & Spirit Education Trust’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Services to Education.

“That award this year means so much to me,” he tells Drinks International. “I needed to start the Diploma. I became a lecturer (tell me about it!) and for many years education has been my number one forte.”

He mentions that he has a case full of props. Props? A bit of a cask, a plastic heart, he lists. Why a plastic heart? “Whisky cannot function without the cask. It is like the heart.” The oxygen through the wood matures the whisky. Geddit.

Paterson talks about “cats and pussies”. Excuse me? He clarifies. He sees people in the know about scotch whisky as the cats, while the uninitiated are the pussies who need educating.

So what does Paterson do when he is not eulogising, extolling the virtues of whisky? What else does he drink?

He lists red Burgundy, vintage champagne, cognac – and coffee. But not just any old coffee. Ideally from Nicaragua, Java or Rwanda.

He enjoys history, walking, fresh air, falconry and conifers. “A pinetum,” he says. What is that? It is a ‘plantation of pine trees or other conifers planted for scientific or ornamental purposes’.

Where does that come from? “Japan is my number one country,” he says. “I love the mosses, the stones and the different pines. Everything is so neat and tidy. I love Bonsais,” exclaims Paterson.

I knew it – a tree hugger. It’s not just the wood in the whisky he loves.