FOOD and wine matching is a well-trodden path – just take a look at the “Wine to Dine” column each month in Scottish Field magazine. But how about food and whisky matching?
Richard Prendiville, a former global ambassador for The Famous Grouse, is out to prove that food can be paired with whisky just as successfully as wine.
He’s running whisky experience dinners at The Golf Inn, the new bar and brasserie with rooms that’s taken over one of the most famous addresses in the sporting world – No 1 Golf Place in St Andrews.
Joining Prendiville for a menu of dishes paired with whiskies was fascinating; he explained the need to approach a dram using all your senses – looking at the colour, smelling the aromas, tasting the liquid, but most important of all, using your “sixth sense”, your feelings of who you’re drinking the whisky with and the memories it stirs.
We opened with a Glenrothes Select Reserve, the light colour of which belied its chunky caramel, honey and vanilla flavours, but which hinted at its subtler orange notes. Those citrus characteristics became more apparent after Prendiville added some lemon rind.
Onto the food and the starter featured a Campsie Glen smoked seafood trio. Prendiville paired the fish with a classic 12-year-old Highland Park.
Orkney’s flagship Scotch is famed for its balance of sweetness, smokiness, peatiness and almost saltiness and the whisky worked perfectly for me with the smoked salmon because it didn’t mask the texture of the fish, which is sometimes lost when it’s matched with Champagne or a crisp Sauvignon Blanc.
A main course of Hopetoun Farm fillet of beef would normally have me reaching for the Pinot Noir, but Prendiville’s choice of Aberlour A’Bunadh was equally as special. It was the first time I’d tried the whisky and I was impressed by its rounded feeling in my mouth, which was rich and chewy enough to handle the beef.
It’s a dram I’m keen to return to on its own, with its aromas of ginger, oats and raisins and its flavours of dark chocolate and cinnamon.
Sticky toffee pudding with a butterscotch sauce and vanilla ice cream required a different approach for dessert and my host opted for Dalwhinnie Winter’s Gold, which he served from the freezer. I was never a fan of Snow Grouse – a similar product from Famous Grouse owner Edrington – but the low temperature of the Dalwhinnie brought out more of its grapefruit aromas and spun sugar flavours.
The spirit cut through the cloying nature of the sauce, but I thought it worked better as a stand-alone drink after the dish to cleanse the palate.
Cheese and whisky matching is becoming particularly popular. Bruichladdich’s Octomore – billed as the peatiest whisky in the world – was Prendiville’s selection to accompany three offerings from cheesemonger I J Mellis. It’s a really warming whisky, with all the bonfire and TCP notes you’d expect, but adding water brought out subtler flavours of apple, malt, raisins and walnuts.
Octomore proved to be very versatile, working in different ways with different cheeses. The smokiness worked well with a smoked German cheese, while the saltiness of a Brie brought out the sweetness in the whisky, and the tang of a blue cheese emphasised the warming heat of the dram.
Coffee and tablet rounded off the meal, accompanied by Auchentoshan’s Three Wood, which draws together influences from bourbon barrels and oloroso and Pedro Ximénez sherry casks, giving it a whole spectrum of flavours from vanilla through prune and raisin to brown sugar and treacle.
I’ll confess, I have very fond memories of One Golf Place. As a student, it was a favourite – if a little expensive – spot to escape the cold and tuck into a pint of Theakston’s Old Peculiar… remember, this was in the days before small brewers’ duty relief and the explosion of microbreweries that followed.
Alex McKie – the owner of Fusion Group, the company behind Logierait Lodges near Pitlochry, Old Churches House in Dunblane and the Red Brolly Inn at Ballinluig – took over the running of the St Andrews institution in the spring and has added a bit of the Old Churches House styling to the six simple-but-straightforward rooms above the bar and brasserie.
No whisky with the breakfast the following morning, but the enjoyable fry-up still hit the spot.