Whisky is a wonderfully nuanced thing. The more you explore it, the more you find there is to learn, each sip revealing depths of flavour not immediately apparent to the untrained palate. As a Man of Many reader who has undergone our whisky guide training, you’ve no doubt heard whiskies described using points of reference like honey, caramel, fruit and chocolate, and you’re likely aware that this is because whiskies (particularly the very best of them) contain a sophisticated layering of flavours that guide the taster through the various decisions the distiller made during the creation of a particular expression.
This layered nature means that pairing a whisky with the right food can unlock new realms of deliciousness hiding within every sip. From humble nibblies to robust mains and indulgent desserts, each has a role to play in helping to enhance your whisky experience.
Below, we’ve put together a guide that will help you find foods that pair perfectly with world-class whiskies, helping to unveil the nuances contained therein. And to better demonstrate this, we’ve used a range of outstanding Benriach drams that perfectly fit the bill. So, whether you’re hosting a summer barbecue, marking another trip around the sun, or celebrating Chinese New Year – be sure to check out Benriach’s Year of the Rabbit edition of The Twelve if you are – this guide will stand you in good stead no matter the occasion. Bon appétit!
Any worthwhile evening of culinary delights starts with a few nibblies, the food category most commonly paired with whisky. Whether you’re tempted by nuts and dried fruit, would prefer to dive headlong into some really good hummus, can’t resist an olive or 10, or you’re a slave to cheesy delights, each of these snacks is a key waiting patiently to unlock a greater appreciation of one of your favourite whiskies.
Nuts and dried fruit
The best whisky to pair here really depends on which nuts and dried fruit you’re indulging in. If you’re enjoying snacks on the sweet end of the scale then you’ll want a strong Single Malt in your glass, while bitter nuts are better paired with a sweeter option. For example, dried fruit would pair perfectly with Benriach’s The Smoky Twelve, while a handful of almonds would be better served alongside the cherry, baked orange and sultana layers found within The Twelve.
There are few things more tempting than a bowl of fresh hummus – who’d have guessed chickpeas could be so tasty? – but if you take said hummus and pair it with a glass of delectable whisky, you’re taking things to the next level. To find the perfect pairing for this delicious dip, we highly recommend a full-bodied Single Malt like Benriach’s The Smoky Ten, which enhances the sweetness of the hummus with its delightfully smoky notes.
When pairing whisky with olives, you can’t really go wrong. They’re a guaranteed home run to serve to your whisky-drinking companions and just a great snack to have on hand no matter the circumstances – so much so that we recommend always having a small reserve of fresh olives in the fridge just in case, as they never go uneaten. When it comes to pairing, the salty, briny nature of olives works with just about any Single Malt you care to throw at it, whether you’re talking kalamata, green, or any other variety of olive, as nature intended or stuffed with delicious chilli, garlic or fetta. Looking at the Benriach range we feel spoiled for choice, but as picking one is our privilege, here we’ll have to revisit The Twelve.
Arguably the greatest snack of all, it should come as no surprise that cheese makes for a perfect companion to your favourite drop of whisky. While the range of delectables that call the cheese category home is considerable, we’ve regularly found that the best whisky to pair with everyone’s favourite dairy product tends to come from the smoky side of things. As such, the thought of a nip of Benriach’s The Smoky Twelve in one hand and a piece of high-quality fromage in the other is the stuff dreams are made of.
When it comes to the main course, many think proper form requires a switch from whisky to wine, but those poor misguided fools couldn’t be more wrong. As you’ll see, whisky has just as much right to a place at the dining table as any grape-derived beverage ever poured.
Few things compete as hotly for their rank in our list of favourite things ever as red meat and whisky. Fortunately, when paired both are elevated, and while personal taste will play a role when it comes to what you should be washing your meal down with, there are a couple of recommendations we’d like to make.
In our experience, a dish based around beef rewards whiskies with a rich flavour that contains a touch of smoke – please welcome Benriach’s Whisky Wins: Is Scotch About to Get Way Cheaper for Aussies? to the table – while a high-quality, old-fashioned steak fresh from the grill will truly sing when paired with something boasting notes of sweetness, like The Twenty One. Absolute perfection.
Few things will make you feel you’re living the high life quite like a premium piece of seafood and an even more premium whisky to go along with it. Fish like barramundi, trout, and perch will deliver in spades when paired with a fruity malt like Benriach’s The Original Ten, thanks to its remarkable layers of orchard delights. Alternatively, saltier fare like salmon or even sardines (if you’re so inclined) will give stronger whiskies like Guinness’ Barrel-Brewed Beer Gets Festive with Gingerbread Spiced Stout a real boost (not that it needs it, mind you).
Here in Australia, we’re fortunate enough to have some of the best oysters in the world, so we’d be remiss not to send a recommendation their way. Fortunately, oysters and Single Malt go together like, well, Man of Many and whisky-drinking enthusiasts, so whether you’re in the mood for something smoky or something sweet you really can’t go wrong. But for anyone wondering, it looks like the next time we’ll be enjoying freshly shucked oysters will be with friends in celebration of Chinese New Year, so what better Single Malt to mark that event with than Benriach’s aforementioned Year of the Rabbit edition of The Twelve?
So you’ve gorged yourself on nibblies and eaten more red meat and/or seafood than you care to admit? There’s no backing down now. It’s time to finish strong with a whisky selection that perfectly complements your sweet tooth.
While not everyone agrees when it comes to chocolate and fruit making for a strong partnership, those who reject the idea simply don’t know what they’re talking about. As such. It only makes sense to pair chocolate with whisky boasting generous notes of fruit, so here we’ll happily return to the orchard contained within Benriach’s The Original Ten.
A dessert we feel is criminally underrated in Australia, the humble apple pie pairs so well with whisky that we feel it’s a partnership that could elevate this simple but delicious indulgence to its deserved status. As you don’t want to end your night on too heavy a note, we’d recommend pairing it with Benriach’s The Twelve – just taste its layers of baked fruit, maple honey and cocoa and tell us it’s not a match made in dessert-lover’s heaven.
The pairing of ice cream and whisky is one of the simplest yet most effective culinary pleasures ever invented. Thanks to the incredibly broad range of flavours on offer when it comes to this particular indulgence we wouldn’t dare make a specific recommendation, but we will say that if you try a little experimentation you’re sure to hit on a combination sooner rather than later that blows your socks off.
If you’re looking for the perfect whisky to pair with your culinary adventures for 2023, be sure to explore Benriach’s range of delicious offerings via the link below. Plus, check out the first instalment to our Know Your Whisky series here.
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