We often talk about how to pair wines with food. How certain flavour combinations will give you a richer experience of the bottle you’re sipping on. Some of you may have tried something similar with certain styles of beer, too. But have you ever given whiskey food pairings a shot? Do you know where to start?
If not, you are certainly not alone. I had my first whiskey (or whisky – the spelling varies depending on style) food pairing experience only recently thanks to the team at Westward Whiskey, and I can tell you it changed my view of the drink completely. If you’d like to learn, here are some tips from the Westward team about starting out your whiskey pairing journey.
There are some general rules to keep in mind
Though it should be noted that “everyone’s palette is different” so preferences here are going to vary, there are some general guidelines to consider when pairing whiskey with food.
According to Westward, “Dishes that are bright with high acid love something rich and fatty to contrast. On that same note, pairing a food item with a whiskey with similar flavour notes, like dark chocolate for example, also works beautifully”.
According to Whisky Loot, milk chocolate can also work well with whiskey but tends to pair best with rye varieties. Another dessert combination it suggested is apple pie matched with “light, fragrant whiskies” with caramel notes, stating this pairing works because “that sweetness complements the rich, cinnamon filling [of the pie]”.
Whisky Loot also shared that salmon dishes tend to work quite well with rye-based whiskies if you’re after a tipple to go with your dinner.
Single Malt whiskeys are particularly tasty with food
If you’re a fan of a Single Malt whiskey, the Westward team suggests pairing that drop with “smoked or roasted meats, cheeses and even some more unexpected foods like oysters”.
The team explained that this variety of whiskey is great for pairing “with food because of their dynamic, nuanced flavour profiles. There are some delicate fruit and floral notes balanced with robust notes of toasted malt and spice commonly found in Single Malts that make them ideal for pairing”.
Unique cask whiskeys are also fun to play with
During the maturation process of different whiskeys, the choice of cask can have a significant impact on the spirit’s flavour profile. The wood itself has an impact, but if distillers choose to age the whiskey in casks that previously houses other alcohol varieties (like wine or port) that will alter the flavour profile further.
Westward stocks a Pinot Cask whiskey and a Stout Cask variety, each of which can be paired nicely with certain dishes.
If you’re tasting the pinot variety, it’s recommended you pair it with “cheeses or richer, roasted meat dishes”. These make for a perfect marriage because of the “bright fruit notes” the “touch of spice” and the whiskey’s “nice barrel tannin”.
The Stout Cask “has richer, rounder notes with a heavy hit of toasted malt & milk chocolate and a dry finish that would play nicely with stews and smoked meats but also balance out a pot du creme or creme brulee”.
Want some specific dish suggestions?
If you’d like somewhere to start, the Westward team offered the below meal and whiskey combinations.
- Westward American Single Malt Whiskey – Grilled strip steak with shrimp butter and asparagus
- Westward Stout – spare ribs in chilli garlic sauce with baked cheese grits, and dessert (anything with chocolate)
- Westward Pinot – A fresh salad with seasonal vegetables and crumbles of cheese alongside a grilled marinated piece of fish, or mushroom risotto with crushed hazelnuts
In the end, pairings work because of the flavour combinations you personally enjoy, so use these tips as a guide but feel free to try different things and be creative. Happy sipping!