Out Top Food Choices To Pair With Whisky

Written By:
February 15, 2023

A whiskey neat can’t be beat, but when paired with food, it just could!  

Like a fine wine, whiskey pairs well with many foods, but you won’t see it frequently categorized for particular foods due to complexities within the distilling method and final product. This makes very few whiskies alike. Flavors of whiskey vary, so it is important to have a basic understanding of the different classifications when pairing with food. Each whiskey can have different tasting notes, from light to full-bodied; a touch of sweetness; fruit or citrus notes; strong peat, earthy and/or smoky notes. The dram you choose should complement and elevate the dish to obtain the best tasting experience. For example, since bourbon has a hint of vanilla with caramelized sweetness, it will most likely pair favorably with foods containing similar flavors.  

Our general rule of thumb is:  

  • Light whiskies blend well with seafood or spicy meals.  
  • Medium whiskies pair well with high protein foods.
  • Full-bodied whiskies complement hearty dishes containing high-fat content.

Luckily for you, we’ve helped simplify and rounded up our top dish pairings to enjoy with your next dram. Cheers!

Chocolate

Chocolate and a good dram go hand in hand. Aside from American bourbons, which pair well with all kinds of chocolates, take careful consideration when pairing the two together. For instance, plain dark chocolate and strong whiskies go well together as they enhance the subtleties found in each other, such as vanilla, hazelnut, leather or stone fruit.  Milk chocolates, on the other hand, work well with spirits both spicy spirits – such as rye whiskies, smokey whiskies –and slightly salty whiskies such as Old Pulteney. Dark orange flavored chocolate is a great choice to experiment with earthy scotch such as a mild peat or with sherry cask such as Kilchoman Machir Bay, as these expressions enhance the orange flavor of the chocolate.

Cheese

There’s nothing like bringing people together over a good whiskey and solid cheese board. Like whiskey, cheese is similarly aged and comes in a variety of flavors. The fat of cheese also naturally mellows the burn of the alcohol, enabling people to taste the intricate nuances of each sip, making it an ideal combination.
Here’s a simple breakdown of our must try cheese & whiskey pairings.  

  • Aged Cheddar - Opt for a wheat-based bourbon or a sweeter whiskey to offer a savory, yet delicious contradiction.                
    Our Suggested Pairings: Weller 12-year-Old Bourbon or for a more accessible bottle, Maker’s Mark
  • Blue Cheese - Go for a smoky or spicy scotch when indulging in a strong, blue cheese.                                                                      
    Our Suggested Pairings: 
    Talisker’s Port Ruighe Port Finish or Port Charlotte 10 Year
  • Soft Ripened Cheeses - Prefer a rich, softer cheese like Brie or Camembert? Try pairing these with a light, fragrant Irish Whisky to complement the flavors for a nice sweet and savory juxtaposition.                                                                                        
    Our Suggested Pairings: Redbreast 12 Year Old or Knappogue Castle Single Malt 16 Year
  • Aged Hard Cheeses - Aged hard cheeses like Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino or aged gouda are best enjoyed with a smoky bourbon or great rye with spicy and bold flavors. The whiskey cuts through the intense flavors while adding a layer of fruitiness behind it.
    Our Suggested Pairings: WhistlePig 15 Year Estate Oak Rye or Catoctin Creek’s Rabble Rouser Rye

Dried Fruit & Nuts

Looking for an easy snack to enjoy with your next dram? You can never go wrong with dried fruits and nuts. On their own, or mix and matched like a Trail Mix, presents the tasting notes when paired. For example, sweeter nuts like pistachios and pecans go well with a strong peaty whiskey such as Ardbeg or Lagavulin. A sweeter whiskey like as Glenmorangie Original or The Glenlivet will pair nicely with bitter nuts such as walnuts or Brazil nuts. Smoky whiskies and roasted nuts -- need we say more?

Grilled Steaks

What’s the Beef? None when it comes to putting these two together at your next dinner. Upgrade your simple steak dinner with an unmatched whisky pairing. Pro Tip: Know your cut of beef and how you're preparing it, then decide which whisky you want to pair it with.  For instance, a leaner steak such as a sirloin pairs well with a lighter bourbon such as a Maker's Mark or Larceny's Small Batch. Meanwhile, heavily marbled cuts like Kobe or Wagyu Beef would pair better with a more robust whisky like a Woodford Reserve Bourbon or Bunnahabhain 12 Year.

Our Pairing Suggestions:  Woodford Reserve Bourbon or Bunnahabhain 12 Year

Smoked Salmon

Looking for a power breakfast combo? Pair your bagel with smoked salmon and a glass of whiskey! The dark, bitter smoky flavor of the salmon pairs well with lighter styles fares that have a high rye content.

Our Pairing Suggestions: Sazerac Rye or Sagamore Spirit Rye

Apple Pie

Oh, my, apple pie! From light floral whiskey to a heavy peat, there’s no doubt that apples and whisky are a match made in heaven.  Whether crumbled, deep dish, Dutch or just plain and simple pie — our go to type of whiskey for baking America’s favorite dessert is a light fragrant whiskey that has a touch of sweetness.

Pro-Tip: Always top your slice of pie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream to take it to the next level.  

Our Pairing Suggestions: Highland Park Single Malt Scotch or Four Roses Bourbon

Barbecue

Barbecue and bourbon make a match made in heaven, as the bold rye, oaky vanilla, fruity, spicy, and smoky undertones of bourbon perfectly complement the rich flavors of barbecued food. With its subtle sweetness, bourbon balances out the meat's savories and salty components, creating a harmonious explosion of flavors. Whether you prefer a succulent rack of ribs, hearty brisket, or charred chicken, slather it with BBQ sauce and sip back with a nice bourbon to pair.

Our  Pairing Suggestions: Noah’s Mill Small Batch Bourbon or Breckenridge Whiskey Port Cask Finish Bourbon

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