Top pairings | Which foods pair best with whisky?

Top pairings

Which foods pair best with whisky?

I’ve been a bit of a sceptic in the past about pairing food with whisky. Not that there aren’t some great combinations but I find it hard to sustain for more than one dish.

Whisky distillers are constantly trying to persuade me to the contrary, inviting me to events pairing whisky with Indian or Italian food but it all seems slightly forced*. Even for a whisky lover there are other drinks that work better.

However there are exceptions and here are some suggestions, divided up by whisky style, with some additional input from whisky expert Dave Broom. Needless to say the better and, generally, older the whisky the more intriguing and complex the pairing.

Light fragrant whiskies with a touch of sweetness - e.g. Dalwhinnie, Glenkinchie

Sushi (though whisky expert Dave Broom tells me that other styles can work well too)
Smoked salmon (especially wild salmon and other delicate smokes)
Dressed crab
Cullen skink (smoked haddock soup)
Cock-a-leekie (clear chicken and leek soup)
Parsnip soup
Bread and butter pudding
Cranachan (whipped cream and whisky with toasted oatmeal and raspberries)
Soft, creamy cheeses

Medium bodied whiskies with some peat influence e.g. Bruichladdich, BNJ (Baillie Nicol Jarvie)

Smoked mackerel
Smoked mussels
Smoked oysters
Smoked duck
Smoked venison
Duck or chicken liver paté
Seared scallops and bacon
Black cod (Nobu-style) - also good with the Japanese whisky Hanyu King of Diamonds apparently
Roast or braised pheasant
Pheasant or guineafowl with a creamy wild mushroom sauce

Full-bodied rich whiskies aged in sherry casks or European oak - e.g The Macallan

Seared or grilled steak
Char siu pork
Roast venison especially with caramelised/roast root vegetables
Rich fruit cakes e.g. Christmas cake
Christmas pudding
Mince pies
Pecan pie
Sticky toffee pudding
Dark chocolate and ginger biscuits
Dark chocolate brownies
Mature cheddar
Washed-rind cheeses

Strong, peaty whiskies e.g. Lagavulin, Talisker

I’m cautious about these because of their powerful flavours but Dave urges you to be bold! He advocates scallops and bacon and dark chocolate (not on the same plate, obviously) with a peaty whisky, for example
Anchovy-based spreads or dips
Hot-smoked salmon
Tea-smoked chicken
Mature farmhouse cheddar
Strong blue cheeses, especially Roquefort

See also these suggestions for peaty whiskies I came up with following a visit to Islay.

Bear in mind that some whiskies, especially cask-strength ones, may need a splash of water to work with food

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And for more hot tips and recommendations check out my Substack Eat This, Drink That, Live Well.

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Comments: 4 (Add)

Tim on December 2 2023 at 13:56

Baillie Nicol Jarvie was discontinued 2014. Good luck finding a bottle!

Steve on December 2 2022 at 13:19

Chocolate! Dark chocolate, milk chocolate, sea salted chocolate .......... great fun trying different combinations.

Fiona Beckett on January 23 2017 at 08:03

Wow, that sounds amazing, Andy. Thanks for passing that on!

Andy Thomson on January 22 2017 at 12:32

Thanks for the inspiration! We had a super tasting Friday evening. Raw oysters with a splash of Islay whisky works well too. Haggis & goat's cheese in filo parcels with Laphroaig 10yr. Yum!

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