Pair Food Courses and Single Malt Whisky... No We Aren't Crazy

Food & Whisky Pairings: Although not in the same league as “Let them eat cake,” the statement is certainly a call to action - a time to be adventurous, risk-taking, and bold – with fantastic flavor combinations as your reward! Try combining a fine single malt with a salad, soup, main course, or dessert. You might relish in your new-found status as a food innovator among your friends and fellow foodies!

Now, it’s not as easy as grabbing the nearest bottle of Scotch and serving it up with your latest creation. A bit of planning is involved. Not all malts go with all foods.

Life is uncertain, so let’s start with dessert. Chocolate comes to mind, doesn’t it? I enjoy the heavily sherried Macallan Cask Strength with a luscious double chocolate brownie, sticky toffee pudding or gingerbread. Personally, I also love the combination of Glenfiddich 15 with Cadbury’s Bourneville chocolate, and the Wine Bistro in Studio City, CA serves the 21 year old Glenfiddich, finished in Caribbean rum casks, with a caramelized fresh pear accompanied with gourmet vanilla bean ice cream. Want one more? How about the mighty Talisker malt with the Scottish dessert called cranachan? This is a delectable combination of toasted oatmeal, raspberries, whipped cream, with the whisky drizzled on top.

Serving a single malt with soup might sound like a stretch, but Glendronach, which is 100% aged in sherry casks, served with lobster cappucino, is incredible. The whisky marries well with the sherry in the recipe, and the cream and lobster are rich enough to hold their own. On a chilly night, one of my favorites is a Glenkinchie Lowland malt with the chicken and leek soup called cock-a-leekie.

For we carnivores, dining at Morton’s and The Palm is always a treat. Recently, I notice that chefs have begun suggesting fuller, spicier Speyside malts such as The Glenlivet 18 or Glenfiddich 18 with filet mignon, pine nut crusted rack of lamb and fennel seed crusted Atlantic salmon. These whiskies accentuate and compliment the fats in the foods in a delectable, subtle way.

What about just plain munchies while enjoying your favorite malt? There are quite a few simple, affordable, tasty and compatible foods from which to choose. Consider sushi with a Speyside malt or roasted almonds with a bold Islay whisky. Diamond Foods’ Emerald brand offers a delicious Cocoa Roast Almond, dusted with chocolaty goodness that is terrific with almost any single malt. Kalamata olives, green olives, chocolate-dipped strawberries, figs, and fresh, thinly sliced baguettes are great standbys as well. Artisanal cheeses, including exquisite cheddar, double creamy blue, and Roquefort combine with Scotch whiskies to produce a huge – and quite surprising – taste extravaganza.

Of all the cookbooks on my shelf, my favorite “go to” when single malts call is The Whisky Kitchen – 100 Ways With Whisky and Food, by chefs Sheila McConachie and Graham Havey. I don’t know what inspires me more – the recipes or the beautiful color photos on over 200 pages from starters through desserts. Specific brands of single malt Scotch whiskies are used, and to me, this is a great point of departure when I feel in an experimental mood. Among many awards, Chef Havey was named the 2007 Spirit of Speyside Chef of the Year.

So, there you have it – a brief snippet into what may turn out to be a whole new way to expand your enjoyment of food, single malts, or both!

Ray Pearson

Ray Pearson is an active member of the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association and a regular contributor to on-line publications including JustLuxe, CityRoom, Tonique Magazine, Examiner, and TripAdvisor, specializing in spirits, cuisine, and travel. Ray is a nationally recognized single malt Scotch expert with 20 years? experience in the spirits industry, specializing in Scotc...(Read More)

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