Ryan Cheti (aka Mr Lyan), is undoubtably one of the world’s most influential and innovative bartenders.
Owner of London bars, White Lyan and Dandelyan, International Bartender of the Year 2015, author of Good Things To Drink and creator of Mr. Lyan bottled cocktails, the only thing left for Ryan is world domination. We caught up with him whilst we still had time…
Hey Ryan, let’s talk whisky.
So, when and where did you first discover whisky?
I really got into whisky when I began working in bars. I had discovered whisky before, but it certainly wasn’t classy! As I started behind the bar, I fell into Bourbon and American whiskey through learning about cocktails, then when I moved to Scotland, my palate switched away from sweeter styles and I fell in love with Scotch.
What is your favourite Scotch whisky?
It really depends on mood. I’ve always loved Scotch’s ability to run such a wide gauntlet of flavour. There’s distilleries I love and I follow their releases closely – Longmorn, Springbank, Lagavulin, Bowmore, Talisker, Clynelish, Highland Park, Glen Garioch. Big fruit with a lick of smoke is a current penchant, but my all time favourite dram is the Bowmore 1964 Fino Cask for Oddbins.
What’s your favourite Scotch whisky cocktail to drink?
Scotch & Soda. My favourite drink; endlessly variable and complex with an elegant simplicity.
How do you make it?
Depends on mood, but usually blended Scotch, tall, narrow hi-ball, lots of ice and crisp, fresh soda. Simply built in the glass and enjoyed with friends.
Has the perception of whisky shifted at all since you’ve been in the bartending business?
Absolutely. I recall it was hard to get people to try new whiskies or experiment with it in cocktails when I first started. I recall trying to suggest Japanese whisky to deaf ears, but the interest in the category has now boomed enormously. The industry has also changed, it too has updated and moved with the times (somewhat!).
Have you noticed more people ordering Scotch or whisky cocktails?
For sure – things like Mad Men certainly helped, as did the re-focus on classic cocktails in bars, many of which called for whisky. The stigma has also broken down, people know more about their drinks, and the interest in provenance and flavour has increased, so that’s certainly helped whisky.
Have you been to any whisky distilleries in Scotland?
I’ve thankfully made it to quite a few. Islay is an incredibly special place and is inhabited by some amazing people, who I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time with in their iconic distilleries (and warehouses!).
Any distilleries on your wish list?
In Scotland, Springbank. Further afield, Buffalo Trace in USA, Chichibu in Japan. I’d love to visit some of the newer ones too, such as Wolfburn, Ballindalloch, Inchdairnie and Roseisle (newish – I just want to go!).
Where’s your favourite place in Scotland?
Edinburgh – it’s still home to me.
What do you love most about Scotland?
The people. As soon as I moved there I felt at home with the people and I still work with many to this day! The right balance of brilliant, funny, playful and brash.
Any hints or tips for those coming over to explore Scotland’s whisky?
Try and talk with the people behind the brands – many have been in the industry for generations and have a magic about them, plus brilliant stories. Also, try and see the small, medium and big distilleries. They all share the same sense of wonder.