Cooking with whisky: great ingredient or waste of a dram?

on 30/09/13 at 5:32 pm

Booze News
This traditional Scottish dessert of oats, cream, whisky & raspberries is a delicious alternative to trifle.

This traditional Scottish dessert of oats, cream, whisky & raspberries is a delicious alternative to trifle.

Chefs are increasingly using whisky in cooking to enhance salty, smoky or sweet flavours. Would you cook with a single malt, or is it so precious it must be sipped?

As the autumn Speyside whisky festival gets under way, single malt aficionados will be flocking to the doors of the dozen or so distilleries producing one of Scotland’s best-known products. They’ll be nosing, tasting, imbibing, doing all the things whisky lovers do, and the purists among them would probably throw up their hands in horror at the idea of wasting a wee dram by adding it to the cooking pot.

But whisky is increasingly venturing out of the drinks cabinet and into the kitchen. The spirit is the alcoholic equivalent of salt – it brings out the flavor of the sea in seafood, the smokiness of smoked food, and the sweetness in a dessert. This is all down to its peculiar chemistry, says Rachel Barrie, master blender for Bowmore Distilleries.

“Whisky has an incredibly diverse flavour spectrum, much more so than wine,” she says. “The flavours of a single malt Scotch whisky, for example, are derived from malted barley fermentation, the distillation process and maturation in oak casks over several years, which makes it ideal to boost a wide variety of flavours in foods.”

So the citrus, herbal flavors of a single malt Auchentoshan Classic brings out the herbal notes in dishes such as chicken in a creamy tarragon sauce. In contrast, the robust and full-flavored Glen Garioch single malt from the eastern Highlands, with its balance of ripening fruit, heather honey, barley malt spices and mature, creamy texture, makes it the perfect partner for ripe, mature cheese.

FULL STORY