Photograph: Magnus

Interview with Patrick Leclezio

This is the 13th inter­view in a serie of inter­views with peo­ple who love whisky. This time I interview Patrick, a great whisky lover who runs the whisky blog, wordsonwhisky. He writes;

“I’m a Mountain-worshipping Capetonian (and proud of it), and I can usually be found riding my scooter, Blue Oyster helmet atop my head, when I’m not working, blogging, or drinking whisky. I’ve also lived in Mauritius, where I was born, and thereafter in Durban, Taichung (Taiwan), Johannesburg, Rome (where my fearless scooter riding skills were forged on the white-hot fire of a road that they call the “Colombo”), and London…”

So put your hands together for Patrick!

1. Tell me a little about yourself?

Patrick LeclezioI’m 37 years old and I live in Cape Town. Like most South Africans I enjoy sports – I’m a big fan of cricket and rugby in particular. I keep fit by going to gym, cycling, and climbing Table Mountain whenever I have the opportunity. I’m married and we have two dogs (rough collies). The focus of my life at the moment is the impending launch of a whisky e-tailer which I’ve named WHISKYdotcoza. We’re hoping to go live in the next 2-3 weeks.

2. How did it all started, what’s your first experience of whisky?

My first contact with whisky was serving it to my dad when I was a child. Our family is Mauritian and it’s pretty much a given that if you’re Mauritian and male you’re bound to end up drinking Scotch whisky. I got to know of the various brands from that early stage, as I poured him Dewar’s, Bells, Grant’s, Black & White, and Ballantine’s, and on special occasions Chivas and Johnnie Black.

3. What’s your favourite and worst whisky experience and why?

I think that my favourite and worst experience was one and the same. I visited Scotland for the first time in September 2001 as part of my induction as a Scotch whisky brand manager. It was initially a wonderful trip. I toured Strathisla, Glenlivet, and Glen Keith, hosted by a charming and knowledgeable Scotsman who had a great passion for whiskies. He introduced me to an abundance of single malts, and over a period of 3 days we relished dram after dram over meals of haggis, Aberdeen Angus, and other Scottish specialities. We were enjoying yet another dram, which was to be our last together, at a small pub overlooking Loch Ness on the 11th when the news broke.

4. What’s your opinion on today’s whisky rating systems (1-10, 1-100, stars etc.)?

I tend to view them with some scepticism. It’s all well and fine for people like Jim Murray and the late Michael Jackson to credibly rate whisky. These guys do this for a living day-in and day-out. Firstly they’re highly proficient, and secondly they practice often enough and with sufficient variety to be able to maintain a sense of clear standard against which to reference their ratings. For the most part though I prefer qualitative assessments. I find that the nuances of flavour can be highly individualistic, often tied to experiences and memories, so a considered description and explanation is more meaningful to me than a number.

5. How do you taste whisky? Do you use water, and when?

I always taste whisky in a glass with a narrow rim, so that the aroma is concentrated. This may be a nosing copita, but not necessarily. I tend to nose and taste the whisky neat first, and then add a splash of still bottled or filtered water to take the edge off and release the volatiles.

6. How is the whisky ‘climate’ (bars, clubs, events & magazines etc.) in your country?

South Africa ranks within the top 10 markets for Scotch whisky worldwide. Whisky is very popular but our premium segment is still somewhat undeveloped compared to first world countries, and we struggle to find a lot of the more niche products for which you take availability for granted in Europe. Nonetheless, the industry is healthy and active – there is a full calendar of well-organized whisky events, and some impressive whisky bars such as the Bascule in Cape Town, and the astounding Wild about Whisky…almost in the middle of nowhere on the highveld.

7. What’s your opinion on different cask-finish expression?

I’m a big fan. Wood is the most important contributor to flavour, and cask-finishes lend an added dimension. This is the type of innovation that can only be good for the industry. I’m intrigued to see the emergence of virgin wood finishes (maple) in the US and Canada, and I’m watching with interest to see where this goes.

8. Where in the world would you like to go to try whisky? Why, do you have a favourite place, distillery or country?

I’d like to go to the States – to Kentucky in particular. I think American whiskey is underrated and underappreciated, certainly here in South Africa, and I’d like to make closer acquaintance on home turf.

Scotland and Edinburgh are close to my heart, but I’d struggle to name a favourite whisky or distillery. We’re too spoilt to choose.

9. What whisky trends are you seeing, how does the future look like?

I’m not tapped into the numbers, but it’s my impression that single malts, speciality whiskies, and premium whiskies in general are growing. It’s also encouraging to see the emergence of whiskies from less established whisky markets, Japan as a whole and whiskies such as Amrut in India and Mackmyra in Sweden. I think the future looks bright. Whisky is a spirit of incredible complexity, variety and integrity, and I’ll bet that it’ll consistently keep winning new friends.

Did you enjoy the inter­view? If you would like to be part of the serie or know some­one else who would, please let me know.

  1. Filip Ling
  2. Gal Gra­nov
  3. Jörg Bech­told
  4. Mark Gille­spie
  5. Thomas Maufer
  6. Stef fen Bräuner
  7. Dan Hvit­man
  8. Mark Con­nelly
  9. Jason Johnstone-Yellin
  10. Scott Harris
  11. Ruben
  12. Marc Pendlebury
  13. Patrick Leclezio

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