I love introducing food into my whisky tastings. Okay, to be fair, having food is always a good idea. Whisky tasting with food. Revision session with food. Meeting your girlfriend’s parents with food. Food makes everything better. So, in this blog, I want to talk about how to pair whisky and food to make your whisky tastings even better.
The secret to a brilliant whisky and food pairing is the flavour. You want flavours that either complement or contrast in intriguing ways. Both approaches can work well. I prefer combinations that complement each other. I like harmony. But that’s me. You might find some of your guests like things that are different.
You should always pick your whisky first. It is a whisky tasting, after all; the whisky is the main event. After you select the whiskies, you can find the foods to match – based on what kind of whisky you picked.
Light, or light-bodied, whiskies tend to have a brighter and fresher taste. Some of these whiskies remind you of dried fruits, while others have a clean floral smell.
Examples include An Cnoc, Auchentoshan, Aultmore, Bladnoch, Bunnahabhain, Cardhu, Glen Moray, Glengoyne, Glen Grant, Tamdhu, Tobermory and Tomintoul.
For your tasting, you could consider pairing them with sushi. Cold-smoked salmon works well too. Mini plum or pear tarts are brilliant with sweeter light-bodied whiskies.
Full-bodied whiskies will have more than one dominant flavour. When someone describes a whisky as ‘full-bodied,’ they’re saying a lot is going on. They also tend to have a more substantial mouthfeel, think of the way a peaty whisky often coats your mouth.
Examples include Ardbeg, Clynelish, Dalmore, Glendronach, Macallan, Laphroaig, Talisker and Mortlach.
Blue cheese is fantastic for whisky tastings with full-bodied whiskies. You can also use oysters with peaty whisky if you want to do something unexpected.
Top tip: pairing full-bodied whiskies with dark chocolate is a match made in heaven! I wrote a whole blog dedicated to the marriage of chocolate and whisky.
Medium-bodied whiskies fall somewhere between full-bodied and light-bodied whiskies. Makes a lot of sense, right?
Examples include Aberfeldy, Aberlour, Ben Nevis, Benrinnes, Glenfarclas, Glenturret, Longmorn, Scapa and Strathisla.
People usually pair cheddar and gouda cheeses with medium-bodied whiskies. Medium-bodied cheeses are a perfect complement to medium-bodied whiskies. If you want to do something different at your tasting, try serving your whisky with a slice of fruitcake. Dense desserts combine well with medium-bodied whiskies.
The essential ingredient to a good whisky tasting is fun. It should be fun for you and your guests. Having unusual food pairings is a great way to do that. If you’d like more tips about hosting a whisky tasting, I wrote this blog about hosting a tasting online.
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Warmest whisky wishes,
Chris (Founder, The Dram Team)
P.S. I write to our members a few times a month, and I try to make the emails interesting for any whisky fan. You can get those emails by signing up here.
Thanks to Ilona Thompson for some of these great pairing ideas.