Wine and food have obviously been being paired together for centuries. The same cannot be said for whiskey. Even the most uninformed observer of the wine world has an understanding that white is best paired with fish, red with beef.Of course a true oenophile or gourmand realizes it goes much deeper than this, and these rules of pairing are sometimes broken.

Whiskey and food pairings
Whiskey and food pairings

Sometimes the particular characteristics of a white wine would go best with that bloody steak. And sometimes, rules are meant to be broken simply because they can be. Not every discerning palate, thankfully, is the same.

It is only in the last decade or so that official thought has been given to pairing food with whiskeys. While basic guidelines have been developed through trial and error in this time frame, part of the joy in life is discovering new things and exploring new concepts.

So it is with whiskey and what foods pair best. A bit of planning is involved, because not all whiskey goes with all foods. About the only hard and fast rule though is that whiskey should never be paired with any flavor that would aggressively impregnate the taste buds. One wouldn’t want something tantamount to a culinary Altoid skewing the palate all evening long. The complex flavors of whiskey won’t work with every food type, of course, and whiskeys themselves have many different subtleties. Organic natural foods, from the fields and the mountains and the sea, pair best. Briny oysters and their shellfish liquor , tender beef carpaccio with woodsy peppercorns and mustard seeds, pork with crisp ginger root and cinnamon, and earthy mushrooms and truffles are the foods that best complement the essence of whiskey, the water of life. Whiskey, and the food it is paired with, is all subjective because that’s what taste is, subjective. What tastes good to one won’t necessarily to all, and it can be difficult to prescribe precisely what will work well together. Experimentation has suggested a few flavor combinations that work with the complex flavors of whiskey without overwhelming them.

Cheese

Aged cheddars, havarti, a mature gouda, and a creamy brie make good choices. A really good Gruyere, or black peppered Boursin are particularly nice.Most any cheese will complement any whiskey.

Charcuterie

Hams and salamis, terrines, liver pâtés, and sausages are delicious. Lightly smoked salmon or trout with fresh dill is divine. Serve with grilled caraway rye crisps and a glass of whiskey.Life is good.

Chocolate

Whiskey is a great complement to chocolate, the darker the better. Dark chocolate chili truffles made with Madagascar chocolate is divine.

Fruit

Fresh pears and apples, or grilled figs and dried dates go very well with whiskey.

Heavily spiced

The bold flavors of Indian or Asian food pair up nicely.

Greens

Spicy or bitter greens like arugula, radicchio, dandelion, and escarole are enhanced by the earthy undertones of whiskey.

Seafood

The delicate nature of sea scallops and shellfish, like a nice lobster bisque, create a decadent delight when paired with the perfect whiskey.

Red meat

A beautifully smoked Wagyu beef brisket with horseradish creme, or grilled venison loin with cherries provide a nice canvas for whiskey to paint its magic on.

Desserts

Whiskeys seem to naturally go well with desserts like bread pudding, fruit cake, sticky toffee pudding, or ginger snaps. As more people grow to appreciate the less conventional flavors available in food, the link between food and whiskey is sure to grow.