Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Whisky and Food Pairing

Whisky & Food Tasting at The Butlers Wharf Chop House
(Kat's first solo post)

Last week I was invited to London to The Butlers Wharf Chop House by the lovely Tara Sura. To begin with let me tell you a little bit about Tara; she’s one half of the Fork and Dram blog: www.forkanddram.wordpress.com and an event organiser at The Butlers Wharf Chop House. In terms of whisky, she’s newbie at the start of her journey. 

This was my first proper food & whisky pairing and the evening was being hosted by the delightful Colin Dunn of Diageo, so I had high expectations. This is the fourth tasting I have done with Colin this year, same as every time before, his enthusiasm for whisky and the whole tasting experience is contagious. He seems to be able to give everyone ‘the Meg Ryan moment' as he calls it; this is when someone suddenly gets what whisky is all about. 

There were around twelve people at the tasting, it was a good size crowd and we were sat in the end corner of the restaurant making it an intimate affair. The consisted of a few residents who lived in the apartments above the restaurant (lucky them), a recently qualified sommelier, and from what I can gather a couple of bartenders or from the restaurant/bar industry, and obviously Tara and myself. 

The canapés were looking very delicious, all made in house by the resident chef and the six whiskies were looking just as delicious with the light shining through each glass reflecting different shades of gold onto the table. 

No.1 Talisker 10 Year Old paired with Severn & Wye smoked salmon 

The tasting began with a Talisker 10 Year Old. The nose gives smoke from a wood fire with some wood charcoal. The smoky characters continue on the palate with more of the wood charcoal coming through, has a slight oily character that coats the mouth with the smokiness that’s followed by a fiery chili kick. For me this is a red Thai bird eye chili.

This was paired with smoked salmon from Severn & Wye smokehouse on pumpernickel bread. The whisky brought out the sweetness in both the salmon and the bread. The red chili notes in the whisky cuts through the richness of this canapé giving it light & fresh feel. This was a little surprising for me as I was expecting the smoky character of the whisky to be more over powering. Instead it was there nicely mingling with the sweetness and fresh notes all doing the waltz. 

The Severn & Wye smoke salmon brings back good memories of various camping holidays around the Forest of Dean. We always pass the smoke house on our journey and have to stop in. 

No.2 Oban 14 Year Old paired with Haggis and swede on toasted sour dough bread

The second whisky was a 14 Year Old Oban. On the nose I got mineral qualities, salt, dried earth and dried leaves, baby powder, and buttery sweetness of short bread. With water, the smell changes to damp wood like wet fencing or decking. On the palate there’s some heat, with a citrus zest, and sea salt comes through. Overall found it light and refreshing compared to the Talisker. Water didn't change the taste much, just made it sweeter and mellower for me. The finish was long & warm, full of black pepper. 

This was paired with Haggis with swede on toasted sour dough bread. The crisp zesty notes cut through the richness of the Haggis and brings out the spices used in its flavouring. The cinnamon and nutmeg is more pronounced than they would normally be compared with just eating it on its own. 

No.3 Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old paired with shortbread made by the chef

We then moved onto the Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old. On the nose it’s floral and smelt similar to the shortbread that’s it was being paired with – sweet buttery creaminess. On the palate the sweet floral notes came through. I noted this to be a light and refreshing whisky. There is a little bit of heat on the finish but doesn't stay for long. 

With the shortbread, same as previous it, it just turbo charges all the flavours that already in the food. Here it brings out malt flavours in the shortbread and cuts through the richness. The mouth is left fairly clean, not coated with shortbread. 

No.4 Lagavulin 16 Year Old paired with Coulson Bassett Stilton cheese 

The fourth whisky was a Lagavulin 16 Year Old. On the nose it’s a very bold whisky with smoky peat aromas. I also got iodine and sour cherries. On the palate its sweet, smoky peat and black cherries towards the end with a sweet smoky finish. 

This was paired with Stilton Cheese.  I'm not a big fan of Stilton or blue cheeses in general but the whisky really balanced out the strong flavours of the cheese. It brings out the creaminess and the saltiness, more like I was eating salty ricotta. The blue cheese flavour that’s the main character of the Stilton is still there but much more mellow. It was really quite pleasant.

No.5 Glenkinchie 12 Year Old paired with Gran Padana cheese 

Our fifth whisky was the lowland Glenkinchie 12 Year Old. On the nose I got a light floral and a malt note, that reminded me of Horlicks. By this point the conversation was flowing so I didn’t get to nose the whisky for long, hence the short notes. 

This was paired with Gran Pandana cheese which is similar to Parmesan cheese. It really brings out the saltiness of the cheese, makes it really creamy and brought out a nutty note out of the cheese; definitely enhancing the umami taste. The whisky also added a hint of spice which was nice towards the end which cuts through the creaminess to leave a clean palate feel.
This was one of my favourite combos so far, making me go back for seconds. 

No.6 Singleton of Dufftown 18 Year Old paired with 70% Valhrona dark chocolate tartlet

Our final whisky was the Singleton 18 Year Old. I must apologise though, as by this point I had got too wrapped up in the evening and only took down a very short note: the nose was sweet, malts, fruit cake, and Sherry notes, but if you want to know more check out our Whisky Discovery #48 

The Singleton was paired with a dark chocolate, and two pieces just wasn't enough! The smooth chocolate melted like butter and when combined with the whisky made the best tasting chocolate whisky liquor. Again it elevates the chocolate, bringing out the rich bitter cocoa tastes but didn't have any of the heaviness of being 70% cocoa. 

We have tried all of these whiskies before and Dad has had most of them on his shelf at one time or other, and still has a Dalwhinnie 15 Year Old on it.

If you are interested in The Butlers Wharf Chop House they can be found at www.chophouse-restaurant.co.uk, and details for Severn & Wye Smokehouse can be found at www.severnandwye.co.uk.

Thank you for reading and I hoped everyone enjoyed my first full solo post! x Kat x

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