February 6, 2019

American Whiskey And Food Pairing

Whiskey is gaining traction as an ideal accompaniment to dinner in South Africa according to Theo Buchler, a member of the local Whiskey Tasting Fellowship and global whisky aficionado collective Whisky Pigs.

Speaking in Johannesburg this week at a food and whiskey pairing hosted by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, Buchler said, “It’s a relatively new trend in recent years for people to pair whiskey with food – it works exceptionally well, depending on the flavour profiles of the whiskey and the food it’s paired with.”

American Tennessee Whiskey, Bourbon and Rye Whiskey distilled in line with legislated methods offer a huge range of flavour profiles, says Buchler. In addition, numerous distillers are bucking trends and experimenting with exciting new and non-traditional approaches to distilling, which are bringing to market an even broader range of whiskeys.

This means there is an American whiskey to suit practically every dish.

Buchler recommends:

–          Pairing Tennessee Whiskey with fish, meat or a braai

–          Pairing sweeter Bourbon with dessert or, chocolate

–          Pairing Rye Whiskey with cheese and biscuits, or savoury snacks

At the Distilled Spirits Council’s food and whiskey pairing held yesterday, South African buyers, industry stakeholders and members of the media were guided through a portion of food and drink pairing designed by Buchler and chef Alex Webber of Workshop 55 in Parktown North.

After a welcome Old Fashioned cocktail blending Wild Turkey Bourbon – with its notes of sweet vanilla, pear, and hints of spice – with cherries and burnt orange, guests discovered a range of American whiskey and food pairings:

–          Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey, featuring a bold and spicy upfront taste that mellows with sweet caramel and maple, was paired with a fire-grilled orange and ricotta starter incorporating slow roast exotic tomatoes, rosemary and citrus vinaigrette and pumpkin seeds. This pairing matched the sweet finish of Uncle Nearest with the citrus, while the savoury ricotta offset the whiskey’s sweetness.

–          Makers Mark 46 Kentucky Whiskey, with a bold character and hints of wood staves, caramel and sweetness, was paired with 30-day aged sirloin, fire-grilled and served with summer berries, mushrooms, rosemary and cherry gel, and shoestring potatoes. This matched the fire-grilled meat with the woody profile of the whiskey for a complimentary savoury profile.

–          Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Port Barrel Finish Rye Whiskey, with sweet port, spicy rye, charred and spicy flavour notes, was paired with chilli and chocolate tarts served with pistachio ice cream and fresh figs, creating a sweet complexity in the dessert course.

–          Jack Daniels Single Barrel Select, with its subtle notes of caramel and spice, bright fruit notes and sweet aromatics, was paired with a hand-roasted cold coffee shooter, allowing the sweetness of the Bourbon to offset the slight bitterness of the coffee.

Buchler, who says he fell in love with American whiskey 30 years ago, believes American whiskey is entering an exciting new phase: “The U.S. is probably the most exciting sector of the international whiskey producing community at the moment – there is something new happening all the time. While traditional distillation is quite rigidly governed, we’re seeing producers becoming quite innovative – for example, finishing whiskey in port barrels instead of new oak barrels. All whiskey aficionados drink American whiskeys – the quality is superb, and we’ve never had a bad Tennessee Whiskey, Bourbon or Rye Whiskey,” says Buchler.

As American distillers start focusing more on the African market, and as local consumers discover a broader range of American whiskeys, Buchler expects American whiskey sales to pick up in South Africa over the next few years. “In addition to a huge range of excellent products being available, American whiskeys are also very well suited to use in cocktails – and that sector is booming,” he notes.

The Distilled Spirits Council, which has stepped up its market awareness campaigns in South Africa in recent years, reports increasing local interest in American whiskeys – particularly premium stock.

American whiskey imports to South Africa are still climbing on the back of eight record years for American distillers.  American spirits imports to South Africa climbed by 35.92% in 2018, topping $19 million in value, with imports of American whiskeys, including Tennessee Whiskey, Bourbon and Rye Whiskey, growing 43.99% year on year to be worth over $13.9 million in 2018.

For more information about American whiskey in SA, go to www.distilledspiritsusa.co.za/ or follow https://www.facebook.com/USwhiskeyZA/ and @USwhiskeyZA

The U.S. distilled spirits industry is committed to social responsibility. Adults who choose to drink should do so in moderation and responsibly at all times. For more information: www.drinkinmoderation.org.