How to Perfectly Pair Whisky with Food

When one thinks about matching food with alcohol, wine with dinner usually comes to mind. Pairings such as hearty beef stew with a robust red wine or a lemony seafood dish served with a light pinot grigio are classic combinations. What you might not know is that whisky can also be paired with food, as long as you do it right.
For the first centuries of its existence, whisky was considered a stand-alone drink best served neat or with a splash of water. Today, whisky connoisseurs and foodies enjoy myriad combinations of whisky and food that please the palate and delight the senses.

Marrying whisky and cuisine is an idea whose time has come, but do proceed with caution. In lieu of overlapping flavours, strive for a harmonious pairing that brings out the best in both. Don't attempt to match food to a particular whisky's palate. Remember, the goal is to amplify, not overwhelm.

Pairing whisky with food in a harmonious manner is a matter of contrasting and complementing flavours, says DrinkMe magazine spirits specialist, Ilona Thompson. The spirits specialist explains that the idea behind coupling libations with food is not to overwhelm either, but to enhance both.

In her educated opinion, Thompson notes that lighter whiskies pair perfectly with raw fish dishes like sashimi and sushi, while moderate-to-medium whiskies work wonderfully with roast pork, lamb, and game meats. Full-bodied whisky marries marvelously with smoked salmon, Indian cuisine, and strong blue cheese.

Recommended pairings:
 ● Mineral-driven whisky with sushi
● Rye whisky with smoked salmon
● Peaty whiskies with bold bouef bourgignon
● Aged scotch with orange-flavored dark chocolate
● Sherry oak-finished scotch with chocolate soufflé
● Bourbon with spiced apple pie
● Single malt whisky with crème-brulee
● Scotch with pineapple upside-down cake

Pair Quintessence with crème-brulee.

Casks matter, too

Whisky aged in casks that previously held bourbon tend to be lighter and sweeter with hints of tropical fruits and vanilla. For this reason bourbon-casked whiskies are the ideal complement to desserts and delicate dishes.

Robust whisky seasoned in European sherry casks trend toward heavier, more flavourful foods such as aged cheeses and roasted almonds. When it comes to nuts and whisky, opposites attract. For instance, sip a sweet whisky with bitter nuts, but go for a stronger dram when you pair it with sweet nuts. And, speaking of sweets, did you know that whisky can pair nicely with chocolate? 

As a general rule of thumb, stronger whiskies pair best with darker chocolates. Whiskies of the World suggests experimenting with good-quality chocolate bars in lieu of super-sweet chocolate.

Pair Tango with Dark Chocolate.

Dark, orange-flavoured chocolate bars meld marvelously with the citrus notes of Scotch, while less intense milk chocolate pairs nicely with rye, especially when the chocolate offers a hint of chili or ginger. Single malt whisky such as Callington Symmetry calls for a bowlful of chocolate-covered salted hazelnuts.

Triple-distilled Sherry Fusion Single Malt Whisky

 Evolved to perfection in Spanish sherry casks, this lightly-coloured, seductively spicy single malt whisky marries well when it meets dark chocolate and/or mature cheddar cheese. The prestigious International Wine & Spirit Competition is not a food-pairing event per se, but the panel of expert judges at the 2022 event awarded Sherry Fusion a silver medal while describing Callington's potent offering as "juicy yet peppery with a wine-influenced finish."

Pair Sherry Fusion with Cheddar Cheese.

Pair Symmetry with Tuna.

Symmetry Single Malt Whisky

Aztec gold in colour, double-distilled Symmetry opens with notes of caramel and apricots before blooming into an array of palate-pleasing flavours, including buttered popcorn and sweet toffee undertones. Try this delightful dram with soft cheese, smoked salmon, tuna, or dressed crab for a flavour experience you won't soon forget.

Pair Symmetry with Tuna.

Audacity Single Malt Whisky

Deeply amber with hefty notes of cocoa, tobacco, and vanilla custard, double-distilled Audacity goes just right with marbled steak, caramelised root vegetables, and your favourite homemade meatloaf.

Pair Audacity with Steak.

Noting that a splash of water may improve a whisky's ability to couple with food, Fiona Beckett at Matching Food & Wine explains that strong, peaty whiskies marry nicely with anchovy spread, smoked salmon, tea-smoked chicken, and Roquefort or other intense blue cheeses.

Light, slightly sweet whisky works with:

● Bread and butter pudding
● Cock-a-leekie soup
● Parsnip soup
● Smoked haddock soup
● Soft, creamy cheeses
● Sushi

Medium-bodied whisky goes nicely with:

● Black cod
● Duck liver paté
● Guinea fowl with creamy wild mushroom sauce
● Roasted pheasant
● Seared scallops wrapped with bacon
● Smoked duck
● Smoked mackerel, mussels, and oysters
● Smoked venison

Full-bodied, sherry cask-finished whisky pairs well with:

● Char siu pork
● Christmas pudding
● Dark chocolate brownies
● Ginger biscuits
● Gingerbread
● Grilled steak
● Mince pies
● Pecan pie
● Rich cakes
● Roast venison
● Sticky toffee pudding

Many whisky lovers appreciate a nibble while they sip. Considering that whisky is derived from grain, it naturally pairs with bread. A hunk of freshly-baked white pullman-style sandwich bread goes nicely with lighter whiskies whereas whole wheat or mixed grain bread pairs perfectly with a more substantial, heartier dram. 

You can order Warmed Sourdough at our Cellar Door which matches perfectly with Emulsion.

Not surprisingly, the dense and slightly peppery flavour of European-style light rye bread pairs well with somewhat sweet rye whiskies. Darker rye bread works well with American straight rye whisky, and deeply dark pumpernickel accents and envelops smoky whisky, especially when the bread is toasted, explains Whisky Advocate.

Ready to eat?

If all this talk about food and whisky has given you an appetite, you are cordially invited to browse Callington Mill Distillery to find the perfect whisky for what you have in mind. A good place to start is with our Leap of Faith series that features eight new double- and triple-distilled whiskies that are sure to inspire.

Apera Fusion
Audacity
Emulsion
Entropy
Quintessence
Sherry Fusion
Symmetry
Tango

If you are planning a visit to historical Oatlands, be sure to include Callington Mill Distillery in your travel itinerary. Here you can see first-hand how the largest distillery in Tasmania operates before discovering a perfect pairing of whisky and food at our on-site eatery, the Cellar Door.

Pair our many Single Malt Whiskies with our sumptuous Cellar Door menu, featuring vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free and gluten-free options. To see our menu or reserve a table, visit our Cellar Door page. Callington Mill Distillery proudly sits at 6 Mill Lane, Oatlands. The Distillery and Cellar Door is open Wednesday - Sunday, from 10am to 4pm. We look forward to seeing you there.