- The goal is not just to find things that go well together, the goal is to create a match where the food brings out something new in the whisky, or the whisky brings out something new in the food. In other words, we want to create gastronomic synergy, where 1+1 = 3.
- Anything very spicy, bitter or laden with garlic should be avoided as it will kill some of the flavors in the whisky. These flavors can stick to the tongue and reduce your ability to appreciate the subtleties in your dram.
- Food cooked with fat generally pairs quite well with any spirit, including whisky. Be it butter or a fatty piece of meat, the fat will coat your mouth. Then, when you take a sip of whisky, the flavors that have dissolved in that fat will be rapidly released into your mouth.
- Don’t always try to match flavors. Matching a smoky whisky with a smoked salmon might sound intuitive, but the whisky smoke will kill the delicate salmon smokiness. Try a pairing where a component of the dish complements a note in the whisky. For example, a whisky with a note of apple will go very well with pork or strawberries, not with apples.
- Do try to match weights. As with wine, a lighter and more delicate bourbon cask whisky will tend to work well with a lighter flavored dish, like fresh fish, sashimi or other seafood, whereas a heavier sherry cask whisky will work with a more heavily flavored dish like braised lamb shanks or seared beef. This matching ensures that one does not drown out the other.
- A lot of herbs and spices will release their flavors into oil, so a little bit of chili in a dish with some olive oil will dissolve into the oil. Once in the mouth, a sip of whisky will release this flavor into your mouth leading to an explosion of flavor. Remember that alcohol will amplify the chili, so be judicious.
- Think about pairing based on aromas and mouthfeels, as well just matching the core flavors of sweet, sour, bitter, salty and umami. Our experience of food and drink is far more than just the flavors that we experience on our tongue.
Now that we know the rules, here are some of my top matches with the much awarded core range from top single malts. Not only do these follow the rules, they are matches I have tried at many different whisky tasting events and I can assure you they work beautifully together.