I considered the idea of pairing whiskey with food unusual until Stef Kondylis, brand manager at Belvedere and Glenmorangie, invited me to a whisky-tasting jaunt where the pairing of whiskies with complementary food was discussed.
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Bear in mind that I only recently learnt whiskey (and its brother, Scotch whisky) is to be enjoyed by the sip, not thrown carelessly down the throat. I was interested to know why the whisky industry has been keen to promote this civilisation.
With their complex tastes, people fear choosing food that might overwhelm or embitter the whiskeys or that will be cumbersome to prepare.
We started with the 10-year-old Glenmorangie original, which is distilled twice in the tallest stills in Scotland. Kondylis recommended that it be downed with duck confit with orange glaze, seared salmon or dishes with hints of orange and vanilla.
Then it was the 12-year-old Glenmorangie Lasanta that is chill-filtered – a method in whiskey making for removing residue – and extra matured in oloroso and sherry casks from Spain. Lasanta, which means warmth and passion in Gaelic, had an aroma of warm spices mixed with smooth chocolate-covered raisins, honeycomb and caramel toffee. It was paired with a biltong tartlet. Kondylis said it could also be consumed with cured meats, olives and food that resembled Spanish dishes.
When the Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban hit the table, discussions were a lot more rowdy. But this non-chill-filtered whisky for extra texture and mouth feel was paired with a scrumptious mint-and-rosemary-braised Karoo lamb shank on garlic dauphinoise potatoes. Vegetarians sipped it with an eggplant and mint curry. Kondylis said it could be taken with dark chocolate-based desserts.
Guests marvelled at the combination of tastes of the non-chill-filtered Glenmorangie Nectar D’Or (meaning gold) and the vanilla panna cotta – an Italian delicacy embraced with a biscuit nestled on a light pistachio sponge surrounded by raspberries and white chocolate. Kondylis said it could be served with Asian food or lemon-infused chocolate desserts, since the whisky is extra matured in rare Sauternes wine barriques (barrels) from France.
We then sampled the Glenmorangie 18-year-old with coffee and dark chocolate macaroons that were garnished with cocoa powder and dark chocolate cigars.
Apparently, this single malt Scotch whisky has spent 15 years maturing in American white oak casks; then, 30% was transferred into Spanish oloroso casks to spend a further three years maturing.
“Then they are blended back together to create a whisky with a rich bouquet and full, rounded flavour,” said Kondylis.
The nightcap was the non-chill-filtered Glenmorangie Signet, which won the 2016 Whisky of the Year award at the International Whisky Competition. Kondylis described it as a unique blend of whiskies distilled over 30 years ago, when malting still occurred on site and the spirit was matured in a selection of the world’s finest casks.
While a few Scottish cookbooks contain reference to the use of whisky in cooking, pairing food with whisky proved to be an appetising experience.
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