|Next time you wonder what bottle to put on the table
maybe you should reach for a malt whisky instead of a glass of red or
white. Its a delusion - fostered by some Sommeliers, Masters of
Wine and professional wine writers who wont try anything different
- to think that wine is the only possible partner to good food. Just as
some wines achieve a perfect marriage with some dishes, whilst others
quarrel from the start, so some fine malt whiskies deliver a transcendent
partnership with certain foods.
Happily, the Western view that whisky is simply too strong and high in
alcohol to be enjoyed with food is finally being challenged, as diners
seek out new and more adventurous food and drink pairings. Drinking whisky
with food may not be sustainable throughout a meal but with certain dishes,
the spirit can offer as many intriguing flavour complexities as wine.
Itís not about simply offering a robustness to take on the bold flavours inherent in many cuisines from around the world. Whisky also has the subtle complexity to combine with those less obvious tastes and flavours on the palate and thatís why whisky has a style well suited to food. Whiskies are respected for their balance and finesse, meaning they can harmonise more easily with a dish while still providing a steady foundation of flavour. Whiskies that are cask strength, from 56% and upwards, dilution with water is needed to bring down the alcohol and open up the flavours.
Whisky & Food - Basics & RulesClick
on arrows to Expand
You have selected Basics & Rules
The basics for successful matches
Breaking the rules
| When were matching purely protein to drink we
do need to look at weight. A light, white meat, like chicken or white-fleshed
fish, needs a light drink match and an aged piece of beef needs something
heavier and more substantial. Obviously the overall flavour profile, in
other words what we do with the protein, will need to be considered. When
we cook the protein everything that we do to it, or serve with it, will
have a considerable effect on the successful match.
Generally we can match similarities, by using the drink were
matching in the preparation of the dish: marron in a butter reduction
sauce flavoured with a specific Speyside will work if the same Whisky
is served with the dish. (Note: Do not ever use an inferior Whisky for
cooking. The rule is simple: If you dont want to drink it, dont
use it for cooking!)
But we also need to look at opposites. Match chilli heat to sweetness,
cut through a particularly sweet dish with an acidic drink, or use the
same acidic match to cut through excess fat / richness in a dish. A
dry iodiny, coastal Whisky will work with freshly shucked oysters (matching
similarities), but so will a Whisky with some weight and sweetness,
maybe something finished in an Oloroso cask (matching opposites).
One of the reasons that most Whisky/food matching events/dinners fail
is that the range of available flavour profiles is kept too narrow.
Youd be hard pressed to come up with an interesting meal when
all you have to match to are Speyside Whiskies. The other reason is
that the hosts often don't have the guts to follow through and instead
of matching a Whisky with every course and show that it does indeed
work, they take the 'safe' option and also serve wine.
As soon as you mix grain and grape you seriously affect the palate's ability
to focus. You will also see the diners switch forwards and backwards totally
ruining any synergy that might be achieved by sticking to either grape
To illustrate what we mean: let us assume we have a dish of 'Seared
Scallops with Black Sesame Paste sitting on top of Pork with Morel Mushrooms'.
This can be matched beautifully with a Gewurztraminer or Tokay Pinot
Gris. The spiciness and lychee flavours in the wines match the Chinese
undertones of the dish and the sweetness marries with the pork. Perfect
match. You can also match this dish beautifully with a Talisker Distillers'
Edition 1990. Its peppery forward palate will work well with the Chinese
influences and the salty brininess of the Whisky will work with the
pork and the slightly higher alcohol (45.8%) will cut through the fattiness.
However, if you then have a mouthful of wine the Whisky will suddenly
appear overly acidic and flat and the wine will now appear flabby and
overly sweet. End effect: no match with either liquid.
| Once we know the rules, we can break them
we? Rules, and never call them Real rules as they are time
honoured and work more often than not, are fun to break, just dont
lose subtleties while sinning. Nevertheless, rules, especially trivial
rules that do nothing else but curtail our sense of adventure, annoy me.
Most people have a really hard time envisaging a Whisky and food match.
Why? Because its not the norm, we are not used to it. Who said you
couldnt consume Whisky with food? Who dictates that it must be at
a certain temperature, in a specific glass, with or without water? We
do! Collectively, we all accept the norm. So lets break the rules
and think outside the square.
Whisky is not an easy match for food. Its strongly
flavoured and high in alcohol, and at the same time incredibly complex
with layered tastes and hidden flavour profiles. But this is the exact
reason that when we get it right its so incredibly rewarding.
By working with the predominant character of a specific Whisky and finding
a dish, which either complements, echoes, or in the case of the strongest
flavoured Whiskies, stands up to the challenge, we can find matches
that work. They not only open up the subtle complexities in the Whisky
but bring out new flavours in the food, and do so in a way which seems
perfectly natural, not contrived or forced.
Its imperative to be adventurous and without preconceptions.
Take a heady, fragrant Whisky like Linkwoods 12 y/o with its Granny
Smith and apple blossom flavours, its grassy, meadow in bloom
character, and match it to a farmhouse cheddar. Try the raisiny, sweet,
dried fruit, full of black berries signature of a Dalmore 12 y/o with
a classic dish of venison or hare, served with redcurrant or cranberry
jelly or try a smoky Laphroaig 15 y/o with smoked eel, unagi or smoked
These are subliminal matches that manage to enhance
both the dram and the dish. Dishes with extreme flavours that generally
do not match easily with wine, think pickled foods like sauerkraut or
Szechuan vegetables, chilli-hot dishes or many cheeses and of course
chocolate, are easily matched with Whisky. Try a Cu Dhub black Single
Malt with the pickled flavours and the added caramel in the malt will
accentuate the difference in flavours and bring out the best in both
drink and food. Imagine a really hot dish like the White Pepper Soup
from Western China and match it to a cask strength Dallas Dhu and you
will find that the texture of the 61.9% alcohol and the layered flavours
of demerera sugar make for a perfect match, again enhancing both drink
and food. You might guess that the subtlety of Japanese food would be
swamped by the robust flavours of Whisky, however you will be surprised
just how well a balanced Speyside Whisky will work, especially once
we introduce wasabi or pickled ginger. Blue cheese flavours will marry
fantastically with a Bowmore Dawn, with Port cask finish at 51.5% alcohol,
and its hard to go past an Ardbeg Lord of the Isles with chocolate.
| When starting to match Whisky and food,
even a person with a seasoned palate and a great taste memory might need
to sit down and try a few Whiskies with a specific dish until a perfect
match is attained. This is a whole new world where experience is invaluable,
but once mastered, it will bring joy to all around the table. Remember
that it is a lot easier to match a Whisky to an existing dish than to
cook a dish to match an existing Whisky. The reason is simply time.
Once you have a dish cooked, ready to eat, it is not hard to try a few
Whiskies for a perfect match if your first choice isnt working,
but its much harder or almost impossible to re-flavour the dish
if it doesnt match the drink. This is no doubt a terrific
argument for keeping a wide range of Whiskies on hand!
Whisky & Food - Tasting
You have selected Tasting
To understand Taste we must first examine
what we taste and where. Odour is said to be the catalyst of memory.
Without the ability to perceive aromas, to smell, our taste experience
is greatly reduced. Our body perceives aromas and tastes the exact same
way, be it food or liquids, but each person perceives flavour in his
or her unique way. Although trainable to link certain flavours to a
specific name everyone still perceives them in his or her unique way.
There is no right or wrong!
The flavour of all Whisky is determined
by, a widely accepted, 15 different categories.
Floral, Fruity, Vanilla , Caramel, Nutty, Sweet,
Smoky, Cereal, Aldehydic, Woody, Resinous, Sulphurous, Sour, Soapy and
Taste memory is the most important helper when it comes
to the matching of food and drink.
must be: Experience, experience, and experience! Remember, remember,
If you have trained your palate, then the power of recognition
will come to your aid. We cant cram for a taste memory. It takes
time and effort and dare I say, money. To educate your palate is not
cheap and unfortunately there are many greats and a few not so greats,
but try them all you must. This is the only way to eventually differentiate,
knowing the difference that terroir, ingredients and production methods
make and recognising taints and faults. Terroir can be translated as
the characteristics attributable to the place of origin; in Whiskies
this would mean the use of local peat, the taste of the local water
used and the influence of the air (and weather) during the Whiskies
It is interesting to realise that in wine, as much as
in Whiskies, it is easier to recognise a single variety / distillerys
signature than a blend. To recognise a Gewürztraminer with its
distinctive lychee and spicy flavour profile is easy, as is a Oyster
Bay Sauvignon Blanc. However a blend of three varieties, whatever
the mix, makes recognition almost impossible. The same goes for Single
Malts with obvious signatures, think Laphroaig, Lagavulin or Ardbeg
then try and define the origins of a blend where the blender tries to
achieve harmony and integration of flavours. The presence of one strong
flavour affects our perception of another so it stands to reason that
the presence of a lot of flavours compounds that effect, not simply
adds to it. Ergo, the definition of single flavours becomes harder.
There is proof that Whisky was being
made in Scotland in 1494. With a history of over 500 years of Whisky
consumption one would assume that mankind has learnt how to match it
to food. Alas, one of the biggest hurdles to overcome when matching
drink and food is the fact that you really need to know intimately the
flavour profile of the items you want to match. Therein lies a problem.
Most people, be it a wine enthusiast or a Whisky aficionado, tend to
taste and build a memory of their favourite tipple but not of the plethora
of food items with which they can be matched. Similarly, a chef is focused
on the food, delegating drink to second fiddle. It is indeed rare to
find a person with a seriously trained food AND drink palate and that
is exactly what you need to succeed.!
A bad drink match can ruin the best dish in the world,
as indeed can the best malt be ruined with a careless food match. Our
palate is affected by what we combine. We may taste a wonderful dish
and a wonderful drink, but if they dont match, once weve
tasted them together, our palate is tainted and we can no longer enjoy
the individual parts separately. If, however theres harmony in
the matrimony of the spirit and the food then its instant seventh
heaven: the result way exceeding the sum of its parts, ergo the 1+1=3.
Food needs liquid and drink needs food. There is no
cuisine in this world that stands totally alone and works 100% without
complementary drink (with the possible exception of Thai, which is an
incredibly self-contained cuisine, striving for total balance of sweet,
hot, salty and sour, where soup will often fill the role of liquid refreshment).
So if we agree that we need to have a drink when were eating,
we might as well put some thought into it and get it right.
The main difference between matching
food and wine and matching food and whisky is the extra dimension that
high alcohol brings to the match with its immediate and profound effect
on the palate. Keep this in mind when youre matching whisky with
food as the higher the alcoholic concentration the more it will leave
a heat impression (akin to white pepper) on your palate.
| With todays distilling and finishing techniques,
the myriad of different wood finishes, the quest for peat in just about
every area, exceptionally young releases and rare and venerable old releases,
all serve to blur the lines and make it harder and harder to recognise
terroir. The idea that a distillery produces one Whisky is fast becoming
dated, especially when a large corporation sells a distillery to an independent.
Only lack of imagination stops them from varying the style. Styles are
changing; look at the Lord of the Isles, who would ever recognise
that as an Ardbeg on the first tasting? Or consider the Kildalton
1980 from the same distillery, with its lack of peat and its sweet,
orangey and Christmas-cakey flavours. This makes it a lot harder because
you have to remember individual drams, not just regions. Gone are the
days when peat equalled Islay and green, fruity flavours were automatically
synonymous with Speyside.
As we are talking about Whisky and food matching dont overlook
the blends, either. They offer a much lighter, milder alternative, especially
with some of the delicate, light and aromatic versions like a Cutty
Sark, for instance, which, by the way, is totally free of caramel, too!
Another thing you must keep in mind is that many Single Malts these
days are chill-filtered. Although this prevents a Whisky from going
cloudy/hazy when cold water is added (unless the Whisky is at least
48% a/vol), it also robs it of some of its unction and complexity of
flavour. This becomes particularly important if the perfect match actually
demands a dash of water, releasing a henceforth-dormant flavour profile.
This is a very important factor to remember when youre trying
to achieve a perfect match: Water releases dormant aromas! You MUST
smell and taste a Whisky with a dash of water in the process of matching
it to food, even if you decide to recommend drinking it neat. You cant
appreciate all the dormant flavours any other way.
Whisky & Food - The Flavour Map
You have selected The Flavour Map
| A new tool produced to help understand the differences
in flavour. Just like a real map, it will help you plan a journey through
the world of single malt whisky.
The Flavour Map is a distillation of knowledge from
some of Scotland's most experienced professionals which demonstrates that
in practice, when it comes to flavour in a glass, all malt whiskies can
be plotted on a simple grid. Developed by the renowned whisky expert Dave
Broom, and Jim Beveridge, one of the industrys great noses, its
an innovative way of comparing and assessing single malts, one in relation
to another, that can help you pinpoint the ones that you, or a friend/s,
are most likely to enjoy.
The Flavour Map makes it easy to identify where the subtle similarities
and distinct differences can be found, so you can explore the whisky landscape
with confidence. Whether you're shopping for yourself, trying to buy a
gift for a friend, or thinking of a dinner party using a single malt as
the drink of choice, think of the map as a starting point for new discoveries.
By all means go straight from A-Z, but it's much more fun if you meander
a little. The important thing is to enjoy the journey.
How to use The Flavour Map
| The Flavour Map plots single
malts on two axes. This means it's easy to see where a whisky sits based
on its characteristics.
Regions & Flavour
| The Flavour Map makes it easy to identify where the
subtle similarities and distinct differences can be found, so you can
explore the whisky landscape with confidence. On the vertical axis, whiskies
are plotted as to how smoky or delicate they are, while the horizontal
axis plots whiskies on their light or rich qualities.
If, for example, you love Royal Lochnagar (both light and delicate) you
might enjoy the nuances of Glen Elgin or Dalwhinnie. Or for a complete
contrast, go for a malt from the other side of the map, such as the smoky
and rich Lagavulin. Whether you're shopping for yourself or trying to
buy a gift for a friend, think of the map as a starting point for new
discoveries. By all means go straight from A-Z, but it's much more fun
if you meander a little. The important thing is to enjoy the journey.
||As well as giving an accurate account of
taste, the Flavour Map also shows where a whisky comes from when used
alongside the regional colour map. Simply match a region and whisky by
colour to discover local similarities and some intriguing exceptions.
You can now explore further by choosing new whiskies
that lie close to personal favourites, or by heading off across the
map in an entirely new direction.
A Guide to flavours
| The Flavour Map plots single
malts on two axes. This means it's easy to see where a whisky sits based
on its characteristics.
| The Flavour Map has been prepared and endorsed by the independent whisky expert, Dave Broom, together with Diageo Scotland Limited. In addition to the names of individual distilleries listed on the Flavour Map, the Flavour Map device and associated logos are trademarks.
Whisky & Food - Meal Ideas
You have selected Meal Ideas
| We match white wine with white meat, red wine with red
meat and Tallisker from the Isle of Skye with oysters, right? Not necessarily!
One of the great fallacies is matching protein with a drink. Lets
examine this. Lets find a match for chicken and lets follow the
fools rules: white meat, light weight. So, following the rules we
match it with a drink that has little wood, no tannin and is light and
so that might work with grilled chicken with a squeeze
of lemon, however, what about if we introduce chilli? How about a Thai
Green Curry of Chicken? Or a spicy Moroccan chicken? Now suddenly we need
a touch of sweetness to make this work. We must match to the flavour profile
of the dish, in other words, how its cooked, NOT to the protein.
Old is better, right? Not necessarily. Older Whiskies are not necessarily
better than younger Whiskies. Quality doesnt really change, only
complexity. Young Whiskies have phenols, sweet and fruity flavours that
get lost in the ageing process. Increased complexity due to the time
in wood can be a marvellous thing but, I would suggest we dont
have a better Whisky, just a different Whisky.
| Good food is all about good
taste, and a good palate is at the very heart of combining malt whiskies
with food. Below are some ideas on the different combinations for the
enjoyment of both novice and the more experienced.
we suggest many delicious pairings for you to try. We hope you
find them an enjoyable starting point from which to chart your
Lagavulin 16 Year Old - serve with oatcakes and Blue Cheese, rich
anchovy and garlic sauce for crudities
Caol Ila Cask Strength - serve with Napoli Salami or Spanish Chorizo
The Springbank 100 - proof serve with Scottish All Butter Shortbread
Ardbeg Lord of the Isles - serve with a rich chocolate mousse
Talisker 10 Year Old
- serve with freshly shucked oysters, fresh seared salmon or taramasalata
Oban 14 Year Old - serve with buttered tagliatelle with Pecorino
Romano, potted calf's liver
Cardu 12 Year Old - serve with parma ham and figs, wild duck pate
Knockando 12 Year Old - serve with frittata, herbs and pancetta
or Monterey Jack Cheese Tart
Glenkinchie 12 Year Old - serve with sushi, scallops with silantro, prawns
with ginger & chilli
Glen Elgin 12 Year Old - serve with chicken satay
and peanut dip, Lamb Curry and pilau rice
Cragganmore 12 Year Old serve - with Chinese spring rolls, vegetable and
fish stew, bacon wrapped stewed prunes
Clynelish 14 Year Old - serve with potted shrimps, kedgeree, prune &
frangipan tart, chicken & pork mousse on a bed of parsley mash
||Glengoyne 17 Year Old
- serve with maraschino cherry pudding, Semolina Flummery with Orange
Dalwhinnie 16 Year Old - serve with bread and butter pudding, creme
brulee, can be used as an ingriedient in a chocolate mousse
Auchentoshan 10 Year Old - serve with fish terrine with shrimps,
foie gras with endive salad
Bladnoch 15 Year Old - serve with smoked leek and fish pie, pan
fried tunasteak, whitebait
anCnoc 12 Year Old - serve with spaghetti vongole with herbs, farfalle
with salmon and cream sauce
Dalmore 12 Year Old - serve with hickory smoked chicken on a bed
of pilaf rice
Blair Athol 12 Year Old - serve with Bami Goreng with shrimps and
Aberfeldy 12 Years Old - serve with Fresh Berries with zabaglione,
Mango Gelato and Pistachio Macaroon
Abelour 10 Year Old - serve with crispy duck spring rolls, beef
fillet with pepper crust
when drinking whisky with food, only one measure (between 25ml to 30ml),
the size of a shot glass should be offered per course. But use wine glasses
and flutes to serve in, rather than a tumbler. Keep still bottled water
on hand for guests to dilute their whiskies to taste from and also a separate
water glass to sip from.
Whisky & Food - Regional Areas
You have selected Regional Areas
Region - Orkney
| Malt Whiskies are divided into four groups according
to the geographical location of the distilleries in which they are made.
Each group has its own clearly defined characteristics, ranging from the
lighter Lowland Malt Whiskies to those distilled on Islay which are generally
regarded as the heaviest Malt Whiskies. Few would venture to assert the
precise moment at which Scotch Whisky was first distilled. The exact origins
of distilling are obscure, and it is unclear precisely when the techniques
first reached Britain's shores. What is certain is that the Ancient Celts
practised the art of distilling, and over the years, the Scots have perfected
the art, using elements so generously provided for them by nature.
Region - Skye
| The extreme northern archipelago of mostly uninhabited
islands around Orkney is in every sense isolated. It is not known when
the first distillery was established in Orkney, but there were almost
certainly local producers by the middle of the eighteenth century. Above
Orkney's capital, Kirkwall, is a rise with fine views out to the northern
isles traditionally known as the 'High Park'. It is here that Highland
Park distillery was said to have been founded in 1795. The distillery
remains one of the legends of the whisky world. There are several expressions
available with the 18 year old being the standout.
Region - Speyside
| A spectacularly beautiful island of wild moorlands and
dramatic mountain peaks known as the Cuillins. Although only one distillery
produces malt whisky on the island, it must rate as a classic malt expression
and a must try. The whisky is Talisker. The island also produces a world
famous whisky liqueur, Drambuie.
The Islands - or more accurately, the Western Isles - Here the salty
atmosphere of the Atlantic Ocean combines with the local water, to create
whisky of an unsurpassed intensity with a powerful peatiness in both
its bouquet and taste.
Region - Highlands
| From the valley of the River Spey. Although these whiskies
come from within the area designated as Highland Malt Whiskies, the concentration
of distilleries and the specific climatic conditions produce a whisky
of an identifiable character and require a separate classification. The
region has unique topography of granite mountains flowing down into the
heathery moorlands and valley that is the watershed of a system of rivers.
The whiskies are noted for their elegance, exhibiting flowery, heathery-honey
notes and a sometimes restrained, fragrant peatiness.
Region - Islay
| Highland Malt Whiskies, made north of the imaginary
line drawn from Dundee in the east to Greenock in the west. This is by
far the biggest of the regions and incorporates within it large variations
in character and flavour between different distillers. The western part
of the Highlands has a small number of scattered distilleries with noticeable
variations to their character due differences in coastal exposure and
attitude. If they are to be characterised together they share a firm,
dry character with slight peatiness and saltiness. The northern area of
the Highlands tends to produces whiskies of a more spicy character. The
Eastern area, which is more sheltered from the coastal winds, and into
the Midlands, produce whiskies of a more fruity character.
Region - Campbeltown
| From the island of Islay, this region is renowned for
its medical peatiness and maritime flavours, which in its strong whiskies
are a powerful expression of the local peat and exposed sea-side conditions.
The whiskies are the heaviest of all malts, with a strong peaty strength
Region - Lowlands
| Campbeltown, in the south west which produces a whisky
somewhere in between the Islay and Speyside style, incorporating characteristic
flavours from both districts. Campbeltown is situated on the mull of Kintyre
some 240 km from Glasgow, south of Islay. Due to the exposed, coastal
location of the town, Campbeltown whiskies have their own distinct character
defined particularly by an oily, briny quality. There are only three distilleries
in the region with one of the highlights being Springbank.
| Lowland Malt Whiskies, made south of an imaginary line
drawn from Dundee in the east to Greenock in the west. Relatively few
in number, and diminishing even further in recent years, the Lowland Malts
do not match the robust Highland Malts in their force and flavour, tending
to have a grassy softness without the heatheriness, coastal seaweed and