Food pairing with anything other than wine is considered sacrilegious by the wine industry. However, as single malt popularity grows, what you eat with what you drink, whether wine or single malt, is generating all types of curiosity among a new generation of explorers. With a good pinot or cab sav. the range of food choice is limitless. With a single malt scotch, there are foods that complement the peaty, smoky malts and there are other foods that are better suited with rich and floral or lighter malts. And, there are some foods that you might want to avoid altogether.
For example, foods that have a lot of garlic or very spicy or bitter tasting mask whisky flavours on the palate. Then there are peaty and smoky malts paired with smoky foods, such as smoked salmon mask the delicate flavours of the foods. Some whiskies enhance the taste, while others seem to mask the essence of the food and whisky pairing experience.
A delicate Speyside or Highland whisky matured in bourbon casks works well with lighter flavoured dishes, such as smoked salmon and seafood. A heavier sherry cask whisky pairs well with a more heavily flavoured dish, such as lamb, pork or beef. BBQ steak seems to pair well with most malts.
When it comes to cheese, Wendy and I enjoy a Brie with the earthy, maritime seaweed and brine tones of Talisker , while others like their blue cheese with peaty Islay malts like Lagavulin, Ardbeg or Laphroaig. Camembert, gouda or havarti blend well with Royal Lochnagar (Highland), Cardhu (Speyside), or for that matter most Speyside or Highland malts. As for adding whisky to a dish, Wendy added Auchentoshan (Lowland) to a beef stew which gave it an exquisite taste with a long finish.
Chocolate is especially noteworthy when it comes to whisky pairing. The darker the chocolate the more the smoky, peaty whiskies take the tasting experience to another level. Doesn’t seem to work nearly as well with sweeter milk chocolate, they are better served with floral tastes, but then some chocoholics I know don’t care what they drink as they will eat whatever chocolate passes their lips Nd savour it with whatever happens to be in the glass or cup at the time.
The key to food pairing is experimenting, either on your own or in a group where you compare notes and make it a truly enjoyable learning experience.