I have been promising this for a while now, and every time I sit down and begin, something interrupts me.
So here it is, the Dramatic whisky guide to food matching with malt. Good timing actually, because most people will reach for a bottle at some point over the next two weeks, and I bet you it is after the meal, which is such a shame.
Remember, the whole idea of a sherry at the beginning of a meal is to increase saliva, get the digestion juices flowing so to speak, so a dry or even salt/mineral whisky will do just that and lets face it- far tastier than sherry!
My choices this year for canapes at events have been things like:
Oak smoked brown trout
Wild mushroom tartlets
Poached quails egg with truffle dressing
Seared tuna with wasabi
Grilled chorizo and Scallop
crumbled parmesan and basil
All of the above are designed to enliven the palate with either spice, citrus or earth flavours and all can be underpinned with a similar whisky. I would always choose something which has been aged in virgin oak (not contained any other spirit prior) such as The Glenlivet 15 yr old French Oak Reserve with its lively spice notes and mineral finish or the Bunnahabhain Darach Ur (which means new wood in Gaelic) or Auchentoshan Classic which although is not from new wood, has light white peach notes (think peach Bellini) and compliments pastry and citrus well.
Always a tricky one to get people’s heads around, but actually, richer cream based soups or ones from roasted veggies work well with deeper malts.
Roasted red pepper
You can split these into two different style of malt: Creamy and rounded or rich and earthy. Both styles will actually work well with the above soups, but I also like using something with a citrus lift to cut through cream. Jura Superstition is ideal with creamier fish based soups such as Skink, and the light smoke lifts the dish wonderfully. Dalmore 15 and Glenfiddich 15 both work with those sweeter style or earthy soup such as the red pepper and carrot, giving subtle weight behind the richer flavours. The use of sherry cask with Dalmore helps bring rounded spice of mace and roasted fruit whilst the unique Solera system employed on the Glenfiddich 15 adds a similar richness and a deeper Christmas cake note without being to over sweet.
The main event
Now, I know its christmas, but the idea was to do this feature for any meal, or at least for a range of foods. Lets avoid turkey-please! and think about the main foodstuffs that we can enjoy here.
Roast chicken, mash and rich gravy
Steak, chips and red wine jus
Halibut with cream sauce and green beans
Venison, spinach and redcurrent jus
Stir fry vegetables chilli seasoned with soy
There are a number of drams to choose from , but he main meal is often the richest, even in terms of a fish dish there is normally a heavier butter or cream combination. Even the stir fry has a heady character with the soy and chili so what to choose? Well, the white dishes (chicken and fish) I would grab a bottle of Scapa 16, Glenrothes Select Reserve or Old Pulteny 17 year old (my personal favourite) all are great drams with a little salty bite and light citrus backbone and light warming vanilla in contrast. Most of the Glentrothes range will offer this but less salty and more nutty that the other two. For the meat dishes, go bold- Aberlour A’Bunadh, Glenlivet 18, Fettercairn Fior or Springbank 15 all offer good body with different traits such as a slight olive note to the Springbank, or the rich leather and polished wood of the a’Bunadh. For the stir fry with chilli, grab the Springbank again, or maybe even a Bladnoch Distiller Choice or a Highland Park 12 to cut through the heat but compliment the soy.
Sticky and Sweet
And onto the puddings. Again, the variety of desserts to choose from are vast, cold ice cream, light lemon posset, or sticky toffee pudding? Well, I like to compliment any type of dessert with a nutty orange malt, something that simply crates a warm caramel feel that basically any sweet taste will work well with.
Cheese and the rest (coffee if you must )
Cheese, seems like we only ever tried to match it with port and wine…but hold on, surely this is actually one of the better matches for whisky? all that cream, lactose, dairy fats (yup, there isn’t much that’s good about it other than the taste!) is crying out for something with good alcohol content to rinse the palate and clean the taste buds. Enter stage left-WHISKY!
And there are even some I would recommend to cover all of the above- Balvenie 17 Peated cask whilst it is still available, Glemorangie Quinta Ruban (port finish) and Whyte & Mackay 22 yr old (yes I know- but have you tried it? its awesome!)
Now, the last remaining pairing would be whilst you sit back and try to digest your own body weight- but you still can’t help reaching over for the box of Charbonnel et Walker chocolates you were given from Santa… and it would be foolish of me to divulge the amazing pairings that’s work here, so why not sign up for some of the Dramatic Whisky - Whisky and Chocolate classes held throughout January, February and March in London and get first hand experience of this divine combination - you could cycle there to work off the Christmas excess!