Sweltering hot days may see many of us swap a copita for a highball, but with the right whisky and food pairing, you can still enjoy your favourite whisky in the warmer weather.
The classic depiction of enjoying a Scotch whisky is often by a roaring fireplace, tucked up in a merino jumper, savouring slowly. But, in a world of flavour that promises a taste of the tropics, curious conundrums of the herbal variety and promises of sweet shop delights, penning Scotch whisky into just one occasion seems such a shame.
Days of sizzling temperatures means we’re far more likely to reach for a highball refresher, but with the right seasonal produce, there’s no reason not to explore the world of flavour awaiting within aged whisky, elevated with the right food partner.
Why Should I Try Whisky with a Food Pairing?
Good question, and the answer is firmly rooted in science. Food pairing is typically based on common flavour compounds between the paired food and whisky, or in some cases complimentary contrasting flavours – e.g., a whisky with a high ABV and sweet profile can ride through the heaviness of a dairy or meat product, enhancing and balancing the flavours within.
How the brain perceives flavour is enveloped under the study of neurogastroenterology, and specialist labs around the world are dedicated to the research of combining these compounds for optimum output – with the most surprising of results. Perhaps one of the most famous (and mindboggling) instances of food pairing came from chef Heston Blumenthal, who in the year 2000 discovered a perfect match between caviar and white chocolate due to similar flavour components in each food.
Thankfully in the instance of whisky, we rarely see a combination that could trigger such a psychological queasiness – and pairings are suitably matched for social occasions, be it hosting friends, a garden party or entertaining with a meal.
Choosing the right food pairing will be based predominantly on its aromatic qualities – with most of the flavour conceived via the sense of smell. In fact, in comparison to our sense of smell, which can identify up to 10,000 different aromas, the taste of the tongue is limited to just five, albeit broad areas: sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami.
The good news is there’s no need to embark on an experiment with chocolate and seafood as we’ve already composed the perfect food pairings to go alongside your House of Hazelwood Summer Whisky Collection for 2023.
Discover the Zesty Spirit of Scotland…With Lemon Meringue Pie
First created in 1994 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the oldest recorded reference to Scotch Whisky, a further 28 years of maturation has given way to an unexpectedly tropical triumph within the Spirit of Scotland, a 46-Year-Old Blended Scotch Whisky.
The nose offers up an enticing character of syrup, treacle and baking, offset with undertones of manuscript papers and old books. From here, the palate develops, hinting at a whisper of smoke, before moving into a creamy, citrus quality – not unlike a lemon pie.
The Spirit of Scotland offers up bold, enveloping flavours – and for this reason, the perfect pairing partner to enhance those baking and citrus notes is a hearty slice of home baked Lemon Meringue pie, the ideal after-dinner summer dessert.
Bask in Sunshine on Speyside…And Taste the Tropics with Grilled Pineapple
If an era could be defined by a whisky, Sunshine on Speyside, a 39-Year-Old Speyside Blended Malt, would without a doubt be an ambassador for the best of the 1980s.
A curious one-of-a-kind expression, this Speysider shuns its signature sherried counterparts from the region, taking on a tropicana characteristic redolent of the brightly coloured cocktails popular at the time of distillation.
The nose alludes to tropical tales of fresh pineapple and barbecued fruit, solidified by a palate of charred fruit in combination with creamy caramelised barbecue smoke and zesty citrus.
Naturally the right partner to compliment this citric character could only be grilled pineapple, ideally made on the barbecue to enhance the smoky undertones within this golden drop.
Wander Through the Lost Estate…And Pick the Perfect Pear
The distilleries within The Lost Estate, a 43-Year-Old Blended Grain Scotch Whisky, may be lost to history now, but the flavours within are far from gone. A rare and compelling blend of aged whiskies from two now-defunct distilleries offer an insight into the glorious grains of the past.
The nose invites the drinker to begin their journey on an estery path of pear drops, developing into bright mandarin orange. The palate reveals a sweetness, with further hints of fruit alongside a crisp, clean barley sugar character.
Naturally, a fruity presentation should be met with a complimenting partner – and in this case, pear drops are the recommended pairing to help enhance these notes further. If pear drops are a little too sugary, dial back the sweetness with a slice of pear or two.
Go Savoury with A Singular Blend…And a Hard Cheese and Chutney
A Singular Blend, a 1963 Vintage Blended Scotch Whisky, offers a depth and density of flavour that few whiskies can rise to. Unprecedented in provenance and age, this Blended Scotch features both grain and malt components from the same distillery, distilled in the same year.
A long slumber of over half a century in American oak has given way to complex flavours: a butterscotch sweetness on the nose, with a hint of saddlery workshops. Moving into the palate, a balance of sweet and sour comes to the forefront, redolent of waxy fruit skin.
With such a distinct palate, a savoury serving of a hard cheese such as a mature cheddar with red caramelised onion will compliment this whisky perfectly. The complex flavours of A Singular Blend will cut through the fattiness of the cheese, and enhance the sweet, orchard fruit notes – the ideal pairing for enjoying al fresco.
Whisky and Food Pairing: Finding the Perfect Partner
With such a wide inventory aged Scotch whisky, the opportunity for combining whisky and food pairings within the House of Hazelwood is boundless. If you’d like to try your hand at finding the ideal partner, a general rule to play by is to ensure your whisky’s flavour profile is never overwhelmed by your meal.
For instance, a light, grassy expression such as the Lowlander is unlikely to pair well with beef, whereas a drop such as the Cask Trials is likely to rise to the occasion due to its spicy, sherried and meatier profile.
Finding the ideal food pairing will also come down to personal taste, so never be afraid to experiment and unlock the hidden flavours within your chosen whisky – you may just find the perfect partner.