Whether he’s cooking up a fusion of Scottish and Italian cuisine at home, or coming up with perfect pairings using Highland Park whiskies, it seems that food is always on our Distillery Brand Ambassador’s mind.
Born in Positano, on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, Sergio Paolo worked for many years in the hospitality business in London and the Middle East before moving to Orkney in 2011 and joining the Highland Park team in 2019. It’s fair to say that Sergio’s passion for food is matched by his passion for Highland Park so he was more than happy to share his expertise on how to prepare a whisky and food pairing event at home…
Although a restaurant may serve four or even five courses, each paired with a whisky, that’s maybe a little bit much for a home event. I’d recommend basing your menu around three whiskies, one to accompany each of the starter, main course and dessert. You don’t need to use a full measure each time – what you’re looking for is simply the taste of each whisky to complement the flavours of each dish. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, you could always replace the dessert course with a cup of good coffee (preferably Italian!) accompanied by little squares of Highland Park infused Tiffin - or with a cheese board. We had great fun putting together our suggestions for whisky and cheese pairings at the end of last year!
Focus on flavours
When you’re planning your menu, it’s important to think about the key flavours of the food and then choose a whisky that will enhance or complement those flavours. It’s really the same as wine pairing – you wouldn’t overpower a delicate fish dish with a full-bodied Shiraz for example. Here in Orkney, we have an abundance of scallops and crabs – they have a delicate and slightly sweet flesh, so I’d recommend 16 Year Old Wings of the Eagle which is elegant and refined. For stronger food flavours – dark meats or cheeses for example – Twisted Tattoo, Cask Strength and our 21 Year Old would all be ideal.
The honey, toffee, vanilla and citrus notes that abound in Highland Park come into their own with a whole variety of desserts. Our classic 12 Year Old Viking Honour is perfect with a dish like panna cotta while our 18 Year Old Viking Pride is wonderful with anything that’s chocolate or cherry based. Whisky is also a great way to finish a meal, with a cup of coffee, when you’re looking for something beautifully balanced and well-rounded. Triskelion would fit the bill here too.
Keep it clean
When it comes to eating and drinking, I prefer to try the food first to appreciate its flavours, then taste the whisky to see how it complements the dish. One thing that’s really important to remember is that you should have plenty of fresh water on hand, to cleanse the palate between courses and keep you hydrated.