Hispanic.com Chats with Master of Whiskey
We had the great opportunity to talk with a "Master of Whiskey", Kristina Sutter. The Master of Whiskey is the regional Diageo spokesperson for brown spirits. Masters of Whiskey undergo extensive training to develop expert knowledge in the products of scotch, Canadian, Irish, American, and other whiskies.
Q: Let's talk food pairings, specifically pairings with spicy, flavorful ethnic-style food such as Mexican, Spanish, Southwest cooking etc.
A: Food pairings are one of my favorite things to talk about. Whisky was actually the original spirit used to pair with food for ages. Wine pairings didn't start happening until the 1980s.
It's a similar thought process as pairing wine. You can do flavors that will complement or match food in flavor and texture or conversely pairings that will contrast. We'll talk about both methods. And remember it's about experimenting and having fun with it!
Q: Okay for instance lets talk about matching a whiskey to a spicy, peppery dish.
A: It's very interesting pairing ethnic food such as Hispanic foods. A spicy peppery dish would go well with the Talisker 10-year singe malt or the Talisker 18 year old single malt. The 10-year old is known for being peaty and smoky and it also has a pepperiness to the scotch as well. (The 18-year old would be richer, smoother, and tad spicier.) So that's an example of matching flavors and textures. (Talisker is from the Isle of Skye which is known for its peaty soil.) The bold flavors of Talisker will be able to stand up to a spicy dish and each flavor set will enhance the others.
Q: So what might be an example of contrasting flavors with the spicy, peppery dish?
A: Take Glenkinchie 10-year old single malt, and that same dish, that spirit will do something very different because it is a lighter, sweeter whiskey. Glenkinchie is our lightest single malt from the Lowlands of Scotland which produces the light fruit forward scotches. So pairing Glenkinchie with a spicy, peppery dish will make it appear even lighter...but it will bring out the sweetness in the whiskey.
Q: Okay great. Let's look at another dish such as something with a lot of queso, or perhaps something with a mole-style sauce.
A: Yum. With queso dishes, or white chicken, and mole-style or other thick sauces- that's when we are talking about texture. You would not want to pair that with the Talisker. All that's going to do is enhance the smoke in the Talisker. The Cragganmore [single-malt] has a really light taste to it and it will pair wonderfully. That's a matching. It's got a light maltiness, butter-biscuity, and light fruit taste to it. It would pair really nicely with queso, white chicken, or with other thick flavorful sauces.
Q: Excellent. Well anything else you'd like to share with us?
A: Yes, if you are looking for an affordable yet delicious and really all purpose whiskey, go for Johnny Walker Black Label (JWB). JWB is known as the benchmark for all scotch whiskies. It represents every section of the scotch flavor wheel. You have the general flavor characteristics. These are smoke, rich dried fruit, light fruit, vanilla, and oak. JWB has all of those flavors. It's a blended scotch whiskey and very affordable. JWB is a standard go-to whiskey. It's well-known and people are comfortable with it. Also people are comfortable mixing cocktails with JWB. Generally among Hispanics they are mixing Coke or Diet Coke with JWB. Other options are soda, ginger ale, a Manahattan, an Old Fashioned, and my list could go on.
Q: Thanks so much Kristina
A: Thank you. It's been a pleasure.
Photo courtesy of Laser brain (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons