The nose is an incredible organ. It has around 400 different scent receptors and can detect an incredible 1 trillion different smells!
This is not news to anybody who’s ever lived on or been near a farm.
But there are much more important and interesting smells going about than farm smells, and one of those is Whisky.
If you’ve ever been to a Whisky tasting or know anything about it then you’ll know the intrinsic value of the nose.
Without the nose many of the delicate and subtle flavours of our favourite drams would remain unknown.
Taste is not the only tell of a good Whisky, smell plays an important role and is a sense that must be conquered by anyone seeking to become a master blender.
While we may all sample different blends and think we would make a good master blender, there is a lot more behind the role than just knowing what good Whisky tastes like.
Blenders have to be able to create a formula for every different blend and adapt this as casks mature and change themselves.
Many master blenders will say that no two casks are the same, and it takes a lot more than taste to decipher the differences.
This is how the blending process begins, with a good nose of the liquid to tell what its main characteristics are.
This then lets the master blender know what will go well with it, and which other casks will make a good blend.
Some compare this to creating a symphony. The master blender plays the role of conductor and the nose becomes the ear.
Instead of listening for notes that work together, the nose smells different notes that harmonise and create a good flavour.
The nose works by passing air over the olfactory epithelium. This is made up of cells that react to chemicals and can detect certain odours.
Nerves then send a message to the brain that ignites memories connected to that smell.
It is quite a complex process but once mastered, the sense of smell can create some truly amazing drams.
Whisky is such a densely complex liquid that the nose must work to crack all the different flavours present.
This is not something that happens over night, or even that you are born with.
It takes years, even decades of practice to be able to really be in tune with the all the different smells that make up Whisky.
The nose is so important to the art of blending Whisky that Whyte and Mackay’s master blender, the legendary Richard Paterson is commonly known only as The Nose.
In fact his own nose is so impressive that it is insured for £1.5 million.
If I had a body part worth that much I would definitely waste no time in selling it! Although I think Paterson’s nose might lose all appeal if not attached to his brain.
Paterson is a third generation blender, so his nose is as much heirloom as anything. But there is no denying it, without it, Paterson would not be able to create the incredible blends that he does.
There’s power in the nose!