The idea of pairing whisky with food may seem like a novel one, but if one looks closer at the various elements that make up a good whisky one finds all manner of possibilities. The complexity of whisky makes it a great food partner on a number of different levels.
The wood and peaty elements of most single malt whiskies give it a good affinity for smoked foods. The following are examples of smoked dishes that make great combinations:
- Smoked haddock kedgeree
- Smoked snoek pate with rye crisp bread
- Cullen skink (haddock and potato soup)
- Smoked salmon, blinis and sour cream
- Other smoked ingredients that work well with whisky are things like smoked duck or venison. Good quality smoked bacon. Smoked chicken some smoked cheeses are also good partners.
The natural sweetness of most whiskies make it an ideal partner for good quality chocolate (chocolate with at least 35% cocoa butter solids) as there is an element of bitterness in this type of chocolate that brings out that sweetness in the whisky. Desserts that contain toffee, butterscotch, fudge or any caramelised sugars always work.
Traditional sticky toffee pudding is a perfect example, as is crème caramel.
Citrus marmalades that have a good bitter and sweet balance also work perfectly well.
The malty character of whisky lends it to great pairings with venison, game and offal. The richness inherent in these ingredients give the whisky an added complexity. Traditional dishes like Haggis have long since been paired with all manner of whiskies. The mellow richness of calf’s liver underlines the subtle malt characteristics of a good whisky. Game and venison dishes, particularly those served with fruit are always excellent partners, Duck l’orange or Duck Bigarade (served with black cherries) are fine examples. Some of the more subtle venison like Springbok and Impala have a much finer grain and their tenderness gives them a marvellous affinity with the rich smoothness of good single malt.
The use of whisky as either an aperitif or digestif will always remain the mainstay but the time has come to bring the whisky to the table and enjoy it as a more integral part of the gastronomic experience.