Food & Drinks

Just how do you pair food with whisky?

Fairmont The Norfolk Executive Chef Aris Athanasiou (left). Some of the Dalmore whiskies (right). PHOTOS | COURTESY
Fairmont The Norfolk Executive Chef Aris Athanasiou (left). Some of the Dalmore whiskies (right). PHOTOS | COURTESY 

A single malt whisky is not a staple on most dinner tables. It is usually drank before or after a meal.

But how do you pair whisky and food that it complements rather than battles the meat flavours, for instance?

Aris Athanasiou, the executive chef at Fairmont The Norfolk showed us how to.

For starter which was lobster-crab bisque cappuccino, lobster tail medallion, micro green salad and orange parfait, it can be paired perfectly with a Dalmore 12-year-old scotch whisky.

“To have your whisky, add a splash of cold water and an ice cube. The rule of thumb is to swirl it around your mouth for as many seconds as the age of the expression,” explains Ashish Monga, director, Whyte & Mackay, a Scottish seller of blended whiskies.

The flavour of whisky depends on the ageing process and the casks used, termed as an expression.

The flavour notes in whisky and the casks they are aged in, determines how well it will pair with a dish.

The 12-year-old Dalmore is aged in two casks. The first nine years in an American white oak cask and for an additional three years in a 30-year-old Matusalem oloroso sherry cask.

The pairing with the lobster ‘cappuccino’ works with this whisky. The citrus notes in the whisky cut through the richness of the creamy bisque, all that topped with the freshness of rocket salad and orange parfait.

The Dalmore principal collection has six bottles which are 12, 15, 18, 25 years old, as well as Cigar Malt and King Alexander III, that sit on display at Fairmont The Norfolk in Nairobi.

The second course of crab cake croquette is the reason one needs to add Chef Aris’ food to their culinary bucket list.

The crisp exterior of the cakes gives way to the moist crab interior that has taste buds wanting a second serving. This is part of the month-long culinary experience at Tatu Restaurant, Fairmont The Norfolk’s fine-dining hotel.

The crab cakes are paired with Dalmore 15-year-old whisky. It is aged for 15 years in four different casks.

The first 12 years are in an American oak cask followed by three separate sherry casks. The first is Matusalem oloroso Sherry, the second is an Apostoles sherry cask and an amoroso sherry cask.

The flavour of ‘The 15’ is bold and takes over the crab cakes flavour. This pairing does not work as well as one would think. The whisky is overly rich and would be better be served with red meat or a bold dish.

Grass-fed, dried, double-aged beef is the main course for our pairing. Served with mashed potatoes, caramelised onions, sweet pepper coulis and broccoli puree, it is paired with the Dalmore 18-year-old whisky.

This whisky is aged for 14 years in an American white oak cask then transferred to the Matusalem oloroso sherry cask for four years.

It has a smoother finish than the Dalmore 15, which makes it a better pairing for the crab course. 

A whisky dessert is one that cannot be turned down. Chocolate and whisky seem to be a match made in flavour heaven. The rich and bitter undertones of dark chocolate bring out the vanilla hints in the Dalmore Cigar Malt.

The spice of the apple crumble and the hints of tropical fruit in the whisky all offset by the sweetness of the butterscotch sauce.

The whisky which is meant to be sipped while smoking a cigar seems to have been aged with the dessert in mind.

The fine cigar malt is matured in an American White oak cask initially, followed by a premier cru cabernet Sauvignon wine barriques.

“Whisky has become one of the most expensive in the auction market,” says Ashish.
A bottle of Dalmore EOS 59-year-old went on auction in February selling for over Sh11.3 million for the 750 millilitre bottle.

It is not the most expensive bottle sold at an auction. A six-litre Macallan ‘M’ Imperiale Lalique decanter sold for Sh64.8 million. This indicates the increase on returns on collector bottles.

However, if you just want to enjoy a bottle, try and pair it with a meal, cook with it and see how that works out.