We have gathered a small, but growing group of friends that is interested in whisky. Some of us are just starting to explore the wonders of the water of life, others are nit-picking on cask and barley-types used, and there is even one that is a professional alcoholic. That is to say, he buys and sells alcohol for a living. In a shop.
With some of these friends, we have decided to get together regularly in order to taste whisky, sometimes based on a theme or budget, but with the main goal to have a good time and exchange ‘knowledge’, drams, and sometimes far fetched anecdotes – depending on the time of night.
During a successful whisky tasting with these friends, where we had set a theme bases on different source materials (barley, 100%-ish corn, rye, buckwheat and bourbon), the idea was born to pair whiskies with food. The originator of the idea is a great cook himself, and he generously offered to open his house, kitchen and skills to make this suggestion come true. Six weeks later we were together again, all of us having brought our own bottle(s).
During these six weeks, the chef presented a wide variety of courses, from which we democratically made a selection, and with many discussions and a lot of investigation online, from books, consulting whisky-experts, using common sense and trial and error, some whiskies were chosen and paired with the dishes:
|.great starter – still no whisky though|
Our host is a big fan of the champagnes of the Moët & Chandon, so as a starter he had prepared this dish with champagne, also as celebration of the his upcoming birthday. It was clear that he had made this dish before. Everything was in perfect balance with each other and the champagne was a good complementary match with the shrimps and fresh dressing.
|.pretty as a picture|
After the palate was triggered with the shrimps and champagne, the rather sweet and spicy Tobermory complemented great with the fresh japanese dressing and salty tones of the fish and samphire. Going both ways, the dish made the whisky flavours come out, and the whisky the flavours of the dish.
|.you can also call it ‘soup’|
|.great dish, great whisky, not a great match|
ten different kinds of cheese
paired with Penderyn Portwood 41
Cheese. Lots of cheese: very old Gouda, brin de Paille, chaumes, ‘Herfse’ cheese, Cambozola, Bresse bleu, fourme d’Ambert, bleu d’Auvergne and Saint Agur. The pairing with the Penderyn was good, but there were so many varieties, that we decided to raid the host’s whisky-cabinet, or try to match bottles that were already opened on the table for whiskies that could even be a better match. Especially with the stronger blue cheeses we found the Jura from the velouté soup and a somewhat stronger Laphroaig cask strength to be a good match, while the fruitier MacAllan and the Tobermory did very well with the more gentle harder cheeses. At the end of the evening every scrap of cheese was gone. The blue ones first, although not everybody was a fan at first.
Oh. Wake us up any time for this home made chocolate mousse. Because of the cask strength Glenlossie, the chef decided to complement it with a strip of chocolate, infused with pink pepper seeds, in order to complement the bite of the whisky. Success.
This dinner was great. Next morning we (minus one, who returned home at night by public transport) enjoyed a good breakfast with ‘the works’. Coffee, eggs, bacon, coffee, bread, croissants, coffee, tea, toast, marmalade, coffee, milk and fresh orange juice: everything to get us ready to go home again.
Looking back at it after some weeks, we then said to do it again, and I still feel the same. Next time, we could do a little less courses, since after a while we just had more fun then we were seriously tasting the meal and the whiskies. That said, next time we are most likely doing something with rum, although it has not been decided yet if that comes with food or not.
If you or one of your friends likes to cook, be sure to have a go at it sometime. Recipes that match food with whisky are more and more common, and easy to find online or in a growing number of books. In order to present a good dinner, you don’t need a great chef or that many courses as we had, although it obviously helps. Also, tasting food and whisky is great to do together, but try not to be too serious about it and do not make extensive tasting notes. Take some sample bottles with you, in order to have a good taste of the whisky when you are home again. It is better fun for everyone present.
Whatever your idea of having a good time with whisky and whether you like to pair it with food or not, always take in mind that you drink responsible and do not overdo it. Whisky is here for us to drink and enjoy, not to get drunk on (nor for collecting, but that is another discussion al together).
As suggested by one of the attendees in the (Dutch) comment below: a tasting like this can be a real eye-opener and whisky matched with other flavours can be a great combination.
Take in mind though that whisky – because it is high on alcohol, can best be matched with food that is high on taste. The main coarse in our case, was possibly too subtle in order to overpower the high flavour and alcohol of the whisky.
Many strong cheeses with different kinds of whisky can be an evening long tasting on its own. Something to give a try some day.