Whisky and Food pairing – Tips

Pairing food and whisky

Whisky and Food pairing – Tips

Although this combination might come as a surprise for most, if we analyse this drink properly we conclude that whiskies have very distinctive tasting notes. If we have a meal that complements these flavours, we are able to elevate the experience and the drink itself.

In Europe and in Asia this is quite a common practice, unlike in the US. In Europe, there is already a culture to pair a drink (Wine, beer, liquor) with food. In Asia, on the other hand, the practice of pairing ardent spirits with an evening dish is also common although they are slowly changing the type of alcohol consumed.

Note however, that there is not a correct way to consume whisky – it depends on your personal preference. Pairing with food however, will allow your taste buds to experience a world of new aromas and flavour combinations and opportunities. This also allows the unique whisky notes to open up and offer an incredible experience.

Be aware however, that pairing whisky with food is quite different from pairing wine with food. The match between wine and food is much easier and straightforward than pairing whisky with food. One of the reasons is due to the high percentage of alcohol found on whisky, which makes the pairing a bit harder.

We will suggest some flavour profiles and dishes that range from sweet, smoky and spicy notes. These suggestions will help you pair food and whisky like an expert.

In the end, you will find this experience very rewarding and surprising.


Quick tips before pairing the whisky types

  1. Avoid spicy or bitter foods when pairing with whisky. The strong spicy and bitter flavours of food will kill the whisky notes as your tongue will reduce its ability to appreciate the aromas of the whisky
  2. Fatty foods normally pair beautifully with any spirit – whisky is no exception. The reason for this is because the fat will coat your tongue and as soon as you take a sip it will dissolve in your mouth and merge with the soft whisky notes
  3. Never try to match the flavours of food and whisky. This might sound intuitive but the similar flavours will eventually kill each other. You should try to complement the flavours and the notes in order achieve success. For example, a whisky with apple notes will pair beautifully with pork or cinnamon, but not with apples.

Types of whiskies with food

Light Whiskies

Light and fragrant whiskies that have touch of sweetness will pair beautifully with:

  • Smoked Salmon
  • Soft cheeses
  • Seafood
  • Sushi
  • Spicy dishes like curry
  • Puddings

An example of a light sweet whisky is the Japanese whisky, Yamazaki 12 year old. This whisky has a very smooth and soft sweetness with a touch of spice. Some lovely citrus notes will give you a feeling of tropical fruits, which will go perfectly with the above selection.


Medium Whiskies

Medium-bodied whiskies have a smokier and rich flavour notes so we would recommend pairing with:

  • Proteins like chicken, pork, beef or lamb
  • Smoked duck
  • Smoked seafood like mackerel, oysters, mussels, venison
  • Paté of duck or venison
  • Scallops
  • Bacon

An example of a medium-bodied whisky is the Elijah Craig Whisky with a chilli-chocolate, peppermint and vanilla earthiness flavour. Its more rounded flavours pairs beautifully with meats and smokier foods without overwhelming the flavours.


Full-Bodied Whiskies

Full-bodied whiskies have a sense of spiciness and more alcoholic content. For this reason, they pair better with more fatty foods or bitter flavours such as:

  • Strong cheeses like Roquefort
  • Dark chocolate
  • Anchovy-base dips and sauces
  • Rich fruity cakes
  • Steaks (grilled or seared)

An example of a full-bodied whisky is the Macallan Rare Cask whisky. It offers hints of winter spices and thyme honey with an oily malt flavour. Notes of black pepper will also appear which allows for the perfect pairing with the above foods.

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