Whisky pairings: how to pair whisky and Christmas food

whisky and Christmas food

Have you ever found yourself scouring the wine aisles at Christmas, desperately Googling what type of red wine goes with turkey (you can’t go wrong with a Pinot Noir, if you were wondering) and wishing that there was a way that everything you served at Christmas could be accompanied by whisky?

(No? Just us?)

Well, in the interest of science, whisky and all things festive, we put our heads together and came up with a few whiskies that will pair up nicely with everything you serve over the festive season, from the turkey to the cheese. (In fact, we’ve proved once and for all that whisky and Christmas food are a match made in heaven.)

Here’s the one-stop guide to pairing your whisky and Christmas food:

Whisky as an aperitif

OK, we’re not off to the best start – the first entry for whisky and Christmas food contains no food at all.

But stick with us.

You know how at Christmas you always hand out Champagne or sparkling wine, even though nobody ever drinks the stuff?

Well, why not replace that with a nice warming glass of whisky?

Of course, you’re not looking for a peaty monster or a complex single malt here, but a crisp whisky that cleanses the palate and gives the rest of the day that nice warm glow.

A Lowlands single malt works really well, in fact. (This 15-year Rosebank in particular).

Whisky with Christmas Dinner

A traditional Christmas dinner is full to the brim with rich and varied flavours.

You’ve got the meaty flavours of the turkey, the pigs in blankets and (if you use sausage meat) the stuffing, the creamy, buttery flavour of the potatoes and the sweetness of the root vegetables (plus extra sweetness if you honey roast them).

But, while it may seem that the cacophony of flavours might make it difficult to find a whisky that pairs well with them, it’s actually quite simple.

After all, rich, salty flavours with sweet notes is hardly unusual for a whisky, is it?

A single malt aged in a bourbon barrel is a perfect whisky and Christmas food choice – the creamy, smooth mouthfeel matches well with the textures of the dinner, while the sweet vanilla and caramel notes match up with the vegetables and compliment the meat.

(Not sure which bourbon-aged Scotch to pick? We’ve put together a list of our favourites.)

Whisky with Christmas pudding

Christmas pudding and whisky are a match made in heaven – the rich fruitiness of the Christmas pudding (as well as the port that the fruit was soaked in) are the perfect partner for a deep, rich Scotch with fruity notes and sweet characteristics.

In fact, why not go the whole hog and choose a whisky aged in a sherry cask?

This Gordon & Macphail bottling of a 45-year-old Glenlivet would be our choice. On the nose, it has that classic sherry character with hints of fruit, nuts and liquorice, while the palate brings forward rich chocolate notes. Finally, the fruit warms into an almost Christmassy winter spice that’s an ideal match for your figgy pudding.

Whisky with cheese

Yes, we know – you’re supposed to pair wine with cheese.

But, we’re mavericks. We’re rebels. So, we’re going to pair whisky with cheese.

Now, you’re never going to find a whisky that pairs nicely with all of your cheese – a mild cheddar needs a sweeter, milder whisky (a bourbon, for example) while a mature, in-your-face Roquefort needs to be matched in terms of intensity with a smoky whisky (an Islay, for instance).

The key is to think in terms of boldness and to match like-for-like; mild whiskies with mild cheese, bold whiskies with bold cheeses.

Here are a few pairings that work really well:

Brie and a peated whisky: the smoothness of the brie mellows out the peaty hit of the whisky, while also helping to emphasise the whisky’s sweeter notes that are often hidden beneath the smoky posturing.

Highland Single Malt and Gouda: the gouda draws attention to the Highlands’ saltiness and nuttiness, making the whisky and cheese combination much richer and more rewarding.

Whisky and chocolate 

There’s lots of things to consider when you’re pairing whisky and chocolate. For starters, you’ve got to think of everything from the peatiness of the whisky to the age, the smokiness, the barrel it was finished in, the proof and the grain.

After that, you’ve got to weigh up the type of chocolate, the bitterness of the chocolate and the cacao content to see if it matches up with the whisky. (If you thought pairing whisky with Christmas food had been difficult so far, then think again!)

But – before you give up and wash a strawberry Roses down with an Islay – we’ve put together an easy-to-understand guide to matching your chocolate with your whisky.

(Take it from us – when you get it right, it’s really good.)

Whisky as a nightcap

Who are we to tell you what whisky to treat yourself to at the end of a long, stomach-bursting Christmas Day? Treat yourself to a dram or two of your favourite whisky, sit back and relax.

(And, as it’s Boxing Day the day after, start working out how to pair your favourite whiskies with the leftovers…)



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