How to pair whisky with food

by Paramount Digital

Food and drink. Two of life’s greatest pleasures.

Yet when it comes to pairing your favourite tipple with what you’re eating, it’s usually wine that’s poured first. A crisp Chablis with fresh fish, a full-bodied Merlot to match the rich flavours of beef, or a light rosé to complement a summer salad.  

Enhancing smells and flavours, the results of a successful partnership can be delicious. But what if wine’s not really your thing?

Great news - it doesn’t have to be! Whisky can work just as well.

Want to learn more about pairing whisky with food? Read on to find out how a wee drop of the good stuff could be just what your favourite meal has been missing. 

Food and whisky pairings

If you’re wondering how whisky manages to compete with wine at the dinner table, the answer lies in its versatility.

Just as there are countless wines, there are hundreds of different whiskies to choose from. Irish whiskey, Scotch, single malts, aged whisky, peated whisky, and whiskies from across the globe – the list goes on, all offering their own distinct variations in flavour. 

For successful whisky pairing, we’d always recommend being led by personal taste preferences (we’re all different after all) and not to be scared of experimenting. That said, if you’re looking for a starting point, there are tasty recommendations worth giving a try…  

Whisky and meat

Do you love a good steak? Next time accompany it with a glass of whisky to maximise your enjoyment.

The rich meaty flavours are beautifully enhanced by the smoky undertones of a good whisky.

A lean cut, such as sirloin or filet, works well with a light gently spiced Scotch whereas a ribeye or more marbled cut benefits from a more robust whisky.

Whisky and fish

Delicate fish flavours - bass, trout, salmon etc - pair well with smooth fruity whiskies.

Saltier fish like mackerel and sardines work better with a single malt capable of packing more of a flavour punch.   

Whisky and Chocolate

Whisky and chocolate

The fact that whisky truffles are a firm favourite of world-renowned chocolatiers (and their customers!) is surely evidence enough that chocolate and whisky work well together.

Deliciously decadent, whisky truffles are a delightful way to enjoy this food pairing – but it’s not the only way.

Whisky doesn’t have to go in your chocolate. Serving whisky on the side of your favourite sweet treat works brilliantly too - and gives you more freedom over the taste sensation created.   

Milk chocolate – particularly combined with fruits and nuts – is delicious with a light fruity whisky. 

If you take your chocolate seriously and favour the bitter flavours of dark chocolate with a higher percentage of cocoa, try a rich Scotch as these flavours will balance against each other without either being too overpowering.

Whisky and cheese

Move over port, there’s a new contender in town!

Port has long been the go-to drink to accompany a cheeseboard, thanks to the way its sweetness harmonises beautifully with the savoury, salty flavours of cheese.

It’s good – but we’d argue whisky is even better.

For creamy cheeses and goats’ cheese, we’d recommend an older single malt, like those found in our premium and old scotch whisky gift set.

Peaty whisky works well with harder cheeses such as gouda or Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Single malts with a hint of spice can be enjoyed with a wide range of lighter cheese choices – such as different cheddars and edam.

Whisky and fruit

Not quite made it through your 5-a-day? Worried your nightcap will be spoilt if you try to squeeze another portion of fruit in before bed?

Well, pick the right fruit, and it could actually enhance your bedtime tipple.

Single malts often have a slight hint of fruit to their palate, so serving with additional fruit will only enhance this.

Avoid overly sweet varieties, going instead for tangy options such as apples, pears, citrus fruits, gooseberries, or cranberries.  

Should any food and whisky combinations be avoided?

What works (and doesn’t work), when it comes to whisky and food is very subjective and largely down to personal choice.

That said, it’s generally agreed that premium cask-strength Scotch whiskies don’t pair well with other overly strong flavours – anything particularly spicy, laden with garlic or smoked – as these kill the flavour of the whisky and can mar your enjoyment.

Ready to create a match made in heaven?

Here at Whisky Tasting Company, we offer a fantastic selection of whisky gift sets.

Containing 3 or 5 miniature bottles - the ideal size for taste testing - you can experiment with pairing different types of whisky with your favourite foods until you find the perfect combination.

With prices starting from just £18.95, you or a lucky someone in your life, could be fine dining with whisky in a matter of days.  

Already discovered a taste sensation you think everyone else should try? Let us know what it is by tagging us in your socials #WhiskyTastingCompany.

Alternatively, if you’d like to chat with the team about recommendations for food and whisky pairing for different menus and occasions, we’d love to hear from you. Call us on 01743 247 220 or fill in our contact form and we’ll be in touch soon.