Whisky and flavour
It’s fair to say that this has been an interesting year of many highlights – I’ve grown in confidence in the art of cooking over fire, had a first seasonal recipe pull-out series in a national paper, and dipped my toe into the idea of organising supperclubs at home. Whisky and Scottish produce are two of my greatest passions in life, so it made sense to pair them together for a dry run with friends. There’s a growing popularity for pairing whisky with food, indeed Japanese whisky is made for this purpose, and while it doesn’t work for everything (nobody wants to wash away layers of carefully constructed flavour on a fine dining plate), it can definitely create a synergy with many dishes. A perfect example being seaside whisky paired with oysters, each bringing the flavour out of the other.
I’m fortunate enough to earn my living in the whisky industry, and therefore I sought to find the produce to pair with the drams that I work with and enjoy. The game heavy meal was in autumn, but most of the produce is just as well available in winter as well.
Pork belly marinated overnight with coriander, star anise, cinnamon, black pepper, and Martell VS cognac, then slow roasted was brought to life by the floral flavours, and citrus tang of Scapa Skiren from Orkney
Mushroom and tarragon is a fairly classic combination of creamy earthiness and bittersweet anise, matched with toffee orange, creamy smoothness of Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve
Pigeon is one of my favourite meats, the sweet richness of Dubonnet working well with the salty granspeck and capers. Aberlour 10 year old providing spicy autumn fruits alongside.
If pigeon is one of my favourite meats, then venison is definitely number one. I frequently cook haunch alongside whisky and rowan, wrapped in bacon to give a crisp layer of fat to keep the moisture intact. Strathisla 12 year old has fast become my go-to dram, and the rich oaky dry flavour, and full mouthfeel is outstanding with this meat.
Chivas Regal 18 is luxurious, smooth, and elegant, and the dark chocolate on the palate works perfectly with the chocolate of the mousse. The lemon thyme ice cream adding a little woody citrus against the mellow smoke.
A cheeseboard is perhaps slightly cheating as a course, but with beremeal soda bread, gorse jelly, and oatcakes is still a magnificent taste of Scotland. I always remember Jamie Milne telling me I’d be amazed how well Talisker went with blue cheese. Therefore Ballantine’s 17 year old provided everything from sweetness to match with Caboc to that peat smoke whiff alongside Strathdon Blue.
And what better way to round off a meal than Aberlour A’Bunadh, the origin – hugely notes of Oloroso, chocolate, black cherries, and spice, that lingers long on the palate.
I hope this will be the first of many such occasions. Roll on spring for the next seasonal menu.