Pairing good food and quality whiskey is an art form in itself. While you can lose yourself in books and papers written on the subject is much simpler than it first seems. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from diving headfirst into the more complex depths of food and whiskey pairing (there are even fully qualified courses based on this skill, should you wish to explore them). But, the majority of us are happy enough to stick to the basics and find plenty to love in even the simplest pairings. A little knowledge goes a long way and learning to pair your whiskey and fine foods can take your next party to new heights.
At its essence, bringing together a perfectly-paired combination of food and whiskey isn’t just a way of ensuring you don’t end up with clashing flavors. It’s a process that allows you to heighten both the flavors of the food you’re eating and the character and tasting notes of the whiskey you’re drinking. It’s a sensory journey that’ll help you massively up your game as a host for dinner parties, tastings, and whiskey encounters, and as making you a well-rounded whiskey appreciator, too.
We’re going to be exploring the heady and flavorsome world of whiskey and charcuterie pairing, looking at the types of whiskeys to reach for when seeking out pairings for your cured meat products. Why charcuterie? Well, there are a number of different reasons.
Just like fine whiskeys, regional, local, and traditional cured meats are having a craft food-driven renaissance right now. Across several countries and regions, there is a renewed enthusiasm for the flavors, methods of production, and sense of history and tradition behind charcuterie. Furthermore, just like fine whiskey, top-notch charcuterie provides a fun and accessible way to sample different flavors from around the world.
Pairing Prosciutto with Whisky
When it comes to delicious and flavorful hams, prosciutto reigns supreme. Including world-beating varietals such as Prosciutto di Parma and other, more localized and lesser-known types of the high-end Prosciutto, it’s a firm favorite right across the globe.
Elegant, silky, and sliced into deliciously thin slivers, this ham is characterized by a unique sweetness and deep flavor that’s both instantly recognizable and impossible to resist. When it comes to charcuterie boards laid out for whiskey tastings, it’s the item most likely to be snapped up most the fastest!
The distinctive sweetness of prosciutto makes it highly flexible and whiskey-friendly when it comes to pairings, but it’s most comfortable being paired with relatively young Scotch Single Malt whiskeys. For real pairing paradise, match up this charcuterie item with a Scotch that has been aged in Sherry or Port casks - that subtle fruitiness and ruby sweetness really works wonders alongside this delectable ham.
Jamon and Whisky Matches
When it comes to global cuisine that’s admired around the world, there’s nowhere quite like Spain. Spanish food is, at its heart, all about letting unique and powerful flavors hold their own. Nowhere is this more prominent than in Iberico and Serrano ham, two historic charcuterie products which are beloved everywhere and raise the standard of what charcuterie can and should be.
While prosciutto tends to be gossamer-thin and silky, Jamon tends to lean towards the darker, firmer, and more textured side of the spectrum and has a richer flavor with a touch of smoke. Spanish Jamon is always great with whiskey, and due to its darker, meatier character, it goes well with smoky, robust Scotch - especially those with an intense and peaty flavor.
Spicy Salami Sausage and Whisky Pairing
Few food pairings are better than a good slab of salami - or other spicy cured sausage - and a crusty hunk of artisan-made bread. It’s a formula for excellence that has maintained itself as a cornerstone in a number of global cuisines, namely France, Germany, Spain, Austria, Hungary, and right across Southern and Eastern Europe. In each of these countries, and many more besides, you’ll uncover a cornucopia of deliciously spiced and peppered salamis, bursting with delicate flavors and robust herbal notes that make these charcuterie items perfect for both cooking and eating on their own.
There’s been plenty written about successful pairings of whiskey with chorizo sausage and France’s signature saucisson sec - but these represent the tip of a large and meaty iceberg. We’d suggest that any cured sausage that packs a spicy or peppery hit is ideal for pairing with fully-flavored whiskeys - Islay Single Malt would be our dream pairing - as well as wheated Bourbon from Kentucky. Rye whiskeys also make a good match.
Pairing Whisky with Pate and Rillettes
Now we’re talking! When it comes to delicious items on any whiskey and food pairing board, the rich, silky, and indulgently fatty nature of a high-quality pate or rustic rillette really hit the spot. It makes for a delightful light lunch or luxurious snack to pair with your favorite whiskey. Typically made from offal, chicken liver pate is known for pairing perfectly with almost any whiskey you could imagine. And, packing a punch of flavor from herbs, garlic, and spirits like brandy, pates and rillettes were just made for sitting back, relaxing, and treating your palate.
If you’re on the lookout for the ideal whiskey to pair up with your favorite pate (and we’d highly recommend making this a regular habit if it isn’t one already), then the most obvious choice would be an American or Canadian rye whiskey, which has the peppery profile that really makes this food sing. Bourbon whiskey with a high rye or wheat content would also be a good match, but let’s be honest, this kind of charcuterie would work with more or less anything you throw at it!
Truffled Charcuterie and Whisky Pairing
With their incredible aromatic properties and earthy flavor, both white and black truffles fully deserve their reputation as the food of kings. These remarkable fungi are frequently used as a key flavor note for all kinds of charcuterie. They lend a deep punch of flavor to sausages, salamis, hams, and pates, creating a true culinary experience.
With their decadent nature, their earthy and heady aroma, and their essence of luxury, it’s best to save this kind of charcuterie for when you’re bringing out your prime bottles to taste. Truffles go great with high quality, smooth, and peaty whiskeys. So, primarily Islay whiskeys or the high-end of Japanese whiskeys where peat is prized as the ultimate flavor compound. However, anything with a delicious earthiness will do the job.
Pair Your Whiskey with The Ultimate Nosing Glass
There you go - five stunning categories of charcuterie and the kinds of whiskeys you’ll want to reach for when pairing with them. Naturally, this is just a guideline. You don’t need to follow this advice to the letter, and we’d encourage freely experimenting to discover a whiskey that best suits your favorite charcuterie and the uniqueness of your personal palate. All that’s left is to get yourself some beautiful whiskey nosing glasses that perfectly suit your whiskey needs… and that’s where BruMate steps in. Discover yours today!