Whisky & Food
I was surprised this year at the Whisky Live festival in London by being encouraged to drink my fine malt with, rather than before, food. One stand actually presented itself for the sole purpose of whisky and cheese pairing; three choice single malts with three contrasting cheeses. The outcome, for me, was largely disappointing. Although I love cheese I just didn’t find their varieties appealed to my palate, and anyway a fine wine is unsurpassed with a good cheese. However, the idea got me thinking. Could I find the right food to eat with each of my favoured whiskies, or conversely, could I find a whisky to drink with my preferred meal?
Those who know me would recognise that this exercise is one I have been participating in for years with my wine collection and I think, for my taste only, I have succeeded in mastering this marriage. So this new challenge excited me greatly.
I am a vegetarian and am particularly fond of lightly cooked and flavoursome vegetables without the need of too many rich or overpowering sauces or garnishes. So, what drink with a platter of steamed broccoli and beans, Jerusalem artichokes and lightly buttered mushrooms? It would need just the right blend of flavours not to overwhelm the food, so I set up a flight of potential suspects: a Glenlivet 16, my current favourite; a Highland Park 17 from the wild Orkneys; and a Macallan 12 Elegancia.
The verdict: this has potential. With a jug of water to hand and a small splash in the Macallan, the new-mown grassy nose with the lightly fruity taste made for a perfect coming together. I should add that the others weren’t far behind.
So, for a bit more adventure. What about a spicy (not too hot) curry, or perhaps it is too much to expect to find a successful combination here. I don’t generally drink wine with an Indian meal, so why try a whisky? I follow the national trend and take a couple of pints of an innocuous lager (perhaps even an Indian variety) with the meal. I concluded that the drink taste would have to have more of a punch to get through the spices - perhaps an Islay tipple? So which varieties to choose… a Lagavulin 16; a Laphroaig Quarter Cask with its extra length and more strength; and a Bowmore Cask Strength with its high alcohol level and long spicy finish.
The verdict: it didn’t really work for me, so instead I went back to the Macallan and guess what? With a little more water than before, it wasn’t too bad. It took the edge off the aggressive Indian spices, but did not lose its own identity.
Whisky Magazine in the UK published an article about food and whisky pairing which may offer some alternative ideas. I suspect though, this is going to be one of those really individual pastimes. However, I would love to hear your successes and failures.
Why not, with your next meal, play the “game” and share the outcome through the site? Recommendations will be well received I’m sure.