OK, your extremely sessionable Glenlivet Captain’s Reserve has arrived (if you missed it or need a top up be quick to grab one of our last bottles here) and with it an amazing foodie heaven of opportunity for pairing its Cognac rich malty goodness with some of your favourite dishes.
But before we hit the kitchen, perhaps it’s time for a little food science lesson.
To kick-off, it’s important to understand how the elements fuse together when whisky is created – earth (grain and peat), water, fire (distillation) and air (maturation) all work in harmony to produce the layered and complex flavours we love. As the spirit matures and mellows, it’s the unique interaction with the cask that brings about the aroma, colour and tannins, enhancing the flavours and experience for the lucky person who gets to drink it.
Known for its fruity-floral style, The Glenlivet’s spirit defines Speyside’s profile and brings pear and citrus flavours into the mix, while the Cognac finish gives a range of mouth watering flavours like liquorice, honey, apricot jam, cinnamon and mandarins.
Now, with all this magic happening, we need to make sure we don’t go doing anything that will upset the balance. The key here when looking to pair whisky with food is to make sure all the flavours are not only retained, but enhanced, by:
1. Identifying the key aromas and flavours of the whisky
2. Connecting key food and whisky tasting notes
3. Creating a flavour and taste framework within which to work
4. Focusing on, and understanding the marriage, balance, sensation and enjoyment of food and whisky.
5. When you’re done playing by the rules, have fun, experiment and do what works for you!
There are definite flavours that will enhance the nose and tastes in The Glenlivet Captain’s Reserve and it’s helpful to keep your food within a complimentary range of aromas and spices, rather than contrasting or too big and dominant. Going the wrong way with certain aromas can all but destroy the subtle notes and wash out the smoothness of the Glenlivet’s newest release.
Here’s a handy toolkit of what does and doesn’t work to get you started – followed by an awesome laksa recipe if you want to skip to this tried and tested Club favourite!
Do use a little bit of salt to enhance flavours, such as spices, acidic fruits, and cocoa to balance the sweet flavours.
Don’t use too much salt, easily done with products such as soy sauce. This will alter the palette and affect the subtleties in the whisky.
Do use fruit when it compliments the whisky’s fruity notes, such as apricots, pears, apples, grapes, bananas, small quantities of orange.
Don’t go overboard on citrus and acidic fruits, such as grapefruit, oranges, pineapples, even tomatoes, as they will alter the balance of the pairing.
Do pair with top quality pure dark chocolate in small quantities, as the cocoa bean marries well with whisky as well as cognac, and helps to enhance the smoothness and satisfaction of the finish.
Don’t pair the whisky with chunks of milk or liquor chocolates as the fat content and sweetness will destroy all of the sensory notes.
Do drizzle over a milk or creamy pudding if required. Alternatively, add to a custard base, or caramelised bananas.
Don’t drizzle or add a different alcohol such as Drambuie, Glayva, Baileys etc as it will kill the unique taste of the Captain’s Reserve.
Do go for creamy/roasted or toasted nuts – this compliments the taste and work well with the spicy toasted notes.
Don’t go heavy on commercial nut butters, such as peanut, as the added sugars will mask the natural flavours.
Do pair with duck, chicken and rabbit. The rich fat content of duck marries with the smoothness of the finish and is well known for being paired with cognac. The succulent flesh of chicken and rabbit in creamy, lightly spiced dishes also compliments the smoothness.
Don’t go overboard on game meat. The flavours can be too strong and the accompanying sauces or fruits can be quite distracting or acidic with the subtle flavour profile of Captain’s Reserve.
Do pair with fish and shellfish. The robust, firm flesh of trout and salmon marries well as do scallops, big prawns, crabmeat, and oysters. Smoked oysters also work with the natural sweetness of Captain’s Reserve.
Don’t use too many overpowering flavours in sushi, such as wasabi, pickled ginger, strong garlic and soy sauce – keep the aromas subtle, relying on a little fresh ginger, chilli, coriander, even a dash of Captain’s Reserve!
Do use measured quantities of vinegar if required but stick to wine, apple, coconut and balsamic for the fruit spectrum. Lemon and orange juice can also be used as alternative.
Don’t use malt and rice vinegars.
Do use aromatic and floral honeys, jaggery, coconut and muscovado sugars to sweeten as they all will enrich and enhance the flavours.
Don’t use super-strong honeys like Manuka, as the flavour will take you in a different direction, and don’t overdo the sweetness as you will lose the natural sweetness in the whisky.
Do pair with rose and orange blossom waters, garlic and chillies. Work within the natural spice family palettes and the yin and yang of the dishes so that you are always building layers and enhancing the taste without losing the flavours of the whisky. Use fruity or roasted chillies, rather than fiery hot ones, and use small quantities of garlic or roast the garlic.
Don’t be too heavy-handed with raw garlic, raw onions and hot chillies.
USE OF CAPTAIN’S RESERVE
Do use Captain’s Reserve to cure beef, venison and salmon for bresaola and gravlax, or to make a light syrup for a sweet dish that is being served to compliment the whisky.
Don’t use Captain’s Reserve for making sauces, gravies, or even as the cooking liquid for poaching shellfish, as the subtleties will be lost during the cooking process and amongst the other flavours. If you need whisky in your sauce, grab a blend!
So now duly armed with your whisky and food pairing toolkit, it’s time to get down and dirty in the kitchen. But you know us, we wouldn’t take you this far and leave you hanging, so we’ve got the perfect Salmon Laksa recipe to enjoy with your Captain’s Reserve. This is enough for around eight servings, so invite some friends over and make a night of it.
Salmon Laksa for 8
• 4-6 dried red chillies, soaked in water for 24 hours to soften, deseeded and roughly chopped
• 4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
• a big knob of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
• 4 lemongrass stalks, trimmed and chopped
• sea salt
• 6-8 macadamia nuts
• 1 tablespoon of cumin seeds, coriander seeds, coconut oil, shaved jaggery (raw palm sugar), or honey
• 2 onions, finely chopped
• 1-2 tablespoons ground turmeric
• 3 x 400ml cans of coconut milk
• 400ml chicken or vegetable stock
• 1-2 tablespoons fish sauce
• 2 tablespoons soy sauce
• a big bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped
• 450g fresh egg or rice noodles
• 4 – 6 skinned fresh salmon fillets, cut into bite-size chunks
• 2 limes, cut into quarters
Using a mortar and pestle, pound the soaked chillies, garlic, ginger and lemongrass with a little salt to form a coarse paste.
Add the macadamia nuts, which help to form a thick and creamy paste.
In a small heavy-based pan, dry roast the cumin and coriander seeds until they darken slightly and emit a nutty aroma.
Tip them into a spice grinder and grind them into a deliciously aromatic powder.
Heat the coconut oil in a large wok, or a large heavy-based pot.
Stir in the onions, until they begin to soften, and stir in the spice paste until it emits a lovely aroma.
Stir in the jaggery, ground roasted spices and the turmeric.
Pour in the coconut milk and stock so that the paste and spices don’t burn and bring the liquid to the boil, stirring gently from time to time. Add the fish and soy sauces and half the chopped coriander.
Reduce the heat and simmer gently, giving it an occasional stir, for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavours to mingle.
Taste the laksa and adjust the seasoning. Stir in the noodles and add the chunks of salmon, making sure they are submerged in the liquid for 1-2 minutes – the salmon barely needs to be cooked as it will continue to cook in the heat of the soup in your bowl.
Spoon the laksa into bowls, scatter the rest of the chopped coriander over the top, and squeeze a segment of lime over it. Serve a bowl with a pour of the Captain’s Reserve to each of your friends and enjoy!
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