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How to host a whisky pairing dinner

Whisky is no longer a post-pudding drink. Whether a sweet, light finish or a deep honeyed scotch, whisky has a rich character profile of flavours that lends itself to all things sweet and savoury. From seafood and spices, to roasted meat and desserts, there’s not much on the menu that can’t make a perfect match.

Rather than reaching for the red or bottle of sparkling wine, up your entertaining game with a whisky pairing dinner. Here we share what to serve for each course, alongside the perfect blend to compliment each dish.

 

Whisky aperitif

Set the scene for your whisky dinner party with a round of aperitifs. A pre-dinner cocktail is designed to heighten your appetite and wake up the senses.

A light drink with a lower quantity of alcohol is best to start. Pick something smoky, spicy or herbaceous to stimulate your palette such as a Golden Storm or Smoky Sputnik, both made with warm, zingy ginger.

The starter

Introduce your whisky pairing dinner with a sumptuous starter set to impress. Your first course should be light, simple and delicious, just like the drink you serve it with.

Lighter whiskys such as our The Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve pair well with equally light dishes. Notes of pear and citrus fruit offer a sweet, silky finish, best served over ice or with a dash of water. Why not teach your guests how to taste whisky before they take a sip? 

This course is where seafood shines. Serve smoked salmon, creamy crayfish or grilled scallops dripping in butter. Traditionalists can’t go wrong with a tangy prawn cocktail, best enjoyed with a glass of The Glenlivet Distiller’s Reserve.

Don’t eat fish? No problem. There’s plenty of options to tempt your tastebuds. Char asparagus stems with plenty of salt, or drizzle olive oil over a generous portion of sweet, tomatoey bruschetta.

The main course

The main event is all about those full-bodied flavours. Smoked meat and quality cuts of beef work perfectly, balancing the earthy, rich taste with smooth whisky notes.

Our favourite whisky and meat pairings include The Glenlivet 15 Year Old Single Malt with a tender venison dish, honeyed The Glenlivet White Oak Reserve alongside a fillet of Aberdeen Angus Beef, or for an extra special occasion, try the elegant notes of The Glenlivet 18 Year Old with fillet mignon.

If poultry is more your bag, then roast a whole chicken slathered in a sweet BBQ glaze. Or go one stop further and add whisky directly into your dish – there are plenty of ways to cook with whisky from marinades and sauces to sweet desserts and pies. Adding a small slog to your meat can also enhance its tenderness, so don’t be afraid to make whisky the core of your main course.

The dessert

Ready for something sweet? This is where your whisky will really get to work, mingling notes of caramel, fruits and spice with your dessert’s signature flavours. 

So what will it be? Most whiskys complement most sweet ingredients, so your options are open when it comes to what to serve. If you always pick the most chocolatey choice then pair with a glass of The Glenlivet 21 Year Old malt scotch. This discerning whisky has a distinctive warming flavour with deep notes of dried fruits and toasted hazelnuts. 

If lemon tart and ripe poached pears are more your style, then sip The Glenlivet Captain’s Reserve, a succulent, citrus liquid best suited to fruity puds. Or, add something nice to your sugar and spice with The Glenlivet Caribbean Reserve. This tropical twist on single malt whisky is one for a summer evening and something memorable to end on.

Can’t decide? If you’re stuck between crème brulée and key lime pie, then why not try a whisky and dessert flight board? Pair miniature puds with shots of scotch to satisfy every guest. But remember to take your time – sniff and savour each sip and bite to enjoy a sweet, sensory experience.

The cheese and coffee course

Now you could end your whisky pairing dinner party here. But why would you? Cheese is always a good idea – and with a whisky accompaniment, who can say no? 

We’ve really saved the best till last when it comes to the finale bottle. Got the in-laws round? Trying to impress your colleagues? The Glenlivet 25 Year Old single malt scotch will get you in their good books. A nose of bittersweet chocolate and sweet sultanas are worthy of a sniff before you sip its long, rich finish. Pair with creamy camembert and a selection of fine, artisanal cheeses.

In need of a wake-me-up? Coffee is a go-to after dinner drink – but don’t end on something mundane. Take your espresso up a notch with a caffeine-infused digestif certain to awaken the senses. 

Go classic with a Spiced Spey Coffee, our take on the original scotch drink with a pinch of pepper to perk your energy. Or celebrate the evening with a round of Celebración cocktails that blends cinnamon and cold brew with Mexican eggnog.