Food for Thought - Single Malt Whisky and food

In many parts of Europe locals drink their native spirit before, after and even during some of their meals. In Normandy, the home of Calvados, it is local tradition that during an evening meal, a glass of the local 'apple brandy' is drunk in one gulp to aid digestion and settle the stomach. As Norman gastronomy is rich in butter and cream, and with local cheeses such as Camembert, Livarot and Pont l'Eveque the accompaniment of Calvados seems a sensible suggestion. In Germany, a varied selection of Schnapps is often presented with rich cake and pastry dishes while the Alsatian attitude to their extremely individual eaux de vie is to enjoy them with everything. This includes some of their most delectable charcuteries in France and the delicious fruits from their famous orchards in Alsace.

However, in Scotland where we have one of the world's noblest spirits, single malt whisky, we tend only to drink our own spirit after a meal and usually with no more culinary extravagance than a handful of peanuts or crisps. During the meal we accept wines from all over the globe that in many cases just cannot completely cope with the stronger, richer and intrinsic flavours of certain foods.

Why? Is it simply because we have never tried it or that it may be perceived by some as bad etiquette?

Most of the happiest discoveries of food and wine combinations have almost definitely been made by accident and this has proved no different with whisky and food. Where the complexities of a wine can often be defeated by the strong flavours and textures of some foods, single malt whisky's sheer concentration and pungency however, can compete and in many combinations complement such dishes much better. Just be adventurous, trying local specialities wherever possible. After all, they have developed and been produced in the same climatic conditions as the malt.
The addition of water, rather than simply diluting the nose and palate, enhances and awakes the malts hidden delights. This offers a more realistic accompaniment which can now be served in a similar quantity to that of wine in a glass.

Our own single malt whiskies and our own home produced foods offer a vast area for adventure. We offer various food types for matching and classic combinations for each area but try for yourself the many other options available. Treat our suggestions as a guide, however, try any cheese, particularly our own Scottish varieties and oatcakes, with any malt wherever possible. You may be amazed at the results - "Slainte" and "Bon Appetite"!

The Regions

Speyside

The wide range of single malts from Speyside are generally best known for their sophistication and finesse often with just a touch of delicate smokiness. This allows for a broad section of foodstuffs suited to their complex flavours. In particular poultry, game birds, rich fruit cakes and puddings.

The Highlands

In the north there are several whiskies with a certain sweet spiciness and heathery character. A more fruity style can be found in the more sheltered east Highlands and the midlands of Scotland (sometimes described as the south Highlands) while in the west their are definite mild salty and peat sensations. This diversity across the region lends itself ideally to the cheeseboard and charcuteries.

The Lowlands

The lack of Highland peatiness, seaweed and coastal brine seem to allow the Lowland whiskies a softness and malty fruitiness with even a gentle sweet lemony feel that match superbly well with the more delicate smoked fish dishes and various cheeses

No lovingly prepared picnic hamper should be without a Lowland malt.

Islay

The single malts of Islay are celebrated for their seaweedy, iodine like, phenolic character. Quite simply they are so flavoursome and beautiful on their own that there are few foods that can stand up to them. Speciality continental sausages can work along with certain blue cheeses with oatcakes and fresh nuts.

Campbeltown

The distinctive malts of Campbeltown are briny with a fresh saltiness that can suit some blue cheeses and smoked fish such as smoked halibut.

The Islands

Orkney

It simply has to be Highland Park with Smoked Orkney cheese and oatcakes.

If you can get the traditional cheese matured in a barrel of oatmeal it is an added bonus. The finishing subtle dryness of the malt and smoky creaminess of this cheese is perfection.

Skye

The explosive flavours of a Talisker and Scottish black pudding served with a coarse Apple and Raspberry sauce is an unique combination with the calming and refreshing fruitiness of the sauce

Mull

The malts aromatic sweetness and gentle smokiness on the finish is just the right balance with the slightly salty smoked mussels.

Jura

Suited to many cheddar style cheeses, the stronger the better. Try with fresh walnuts as an added treat.