How to choose a single malt to enjoy with food

25 March 2014

How to choose a single malt to enjoy with food

A lot of people still believe you can only enjoy a single malt whisky after a meal, the way you might enjoy a brandy or cognac. But it struck me recently that most people enjoy a whisky with food over the holidays or on Burns Night, so why don't we enjoy whisky and food more often?

A Burns Night supper is a traditional affair, celebrating the life of the Scottish poet with time-honoured dishes of haggis, neeps and tatties and, of course, a dram of your favourite single malt. But what about other food pairings? 

I'm often asked what goes well with our whisky. I think more people would like to try food pairings but don't know what to try. I could make suggestions, of course, but I think it might be more useful to give you a few principles first.

The art of pairing whisky with food

Pairing whisky with food usually follows the same rules as wine: stronger, spicier whisky goes well with stronger flavours, while lighter single malts work better with delicate flavours. Trust your taste buds, not the food snobs. You can enjoy a dram with any food you like.

Of course, it doesn't hurt to mix things up a little, choosing a whisky that contrasts with the flavours of the meal. This can add a layer of complexity and surprise -- after all, matching sweet with sweet can sometimes mean too much of a good thing. Experiment a little and find out what works for you.

Which Glenfiddich should I choose?

With its notes of fresh pear and subtle oak, our 12 Year Old single malt makes the perfect partner to an invigorating appetiser, although if you're looking for a contrasting flavour, some people I know pair it with cheese. 

Our 15 Year Old Solera is smooth, sweet and delicious, and I think it tastes good with just about anything. With its rich notes of honey and layers of sherry oak, marzipan and ginger, it's perfect with a rich yet complex dessert like a creme brulee or orange chocolate cake.

If you don't have a sweet tooth (I feel very sorry for you!) you might prefer our 15 Year Old Distillery Edition, which I wrote about recently. It's bottled at a higher ABV, giving it a spicy character that complements everything from a juicy steak to a hot, spicy Oriental dish. If the higher ABV isn't for you, our 14 Year Old Rich Oak is also an excellent choice.

Our 18 Year Old expression is a fantastic dram and a firm favourite of mine. Remarkably rich and luxurious, its complex layers of dried fruit, candy peel and elegant oak notes make it an extremely versatile whisky to pair food with. I won't tell you what to try it with, that's all part of the fun. I think it's great with a spicy stew or hot pot, though some people may find all the complex flavours a little overwhelming. It's all about finding the right balance for your personal taste.

Cooking with single malt whisky

Now, cooking with whisky is another matter. Personally I wouldn't use an expensive single malt to cook with at home, although I know a lot of gourmet chefs use a drop of our more exotic single malts to add character to their dishes. You can cook with whisky the same way you cook with wine, brandy or cognac in French cooking. 

If you create any great recipes, I'd love to hear them. Follow me on Twitter to find out what I'm up to.