Pairing whisky, food: Hit or miss?

Friday December 20 2019

Surf and turf served at Fairmont The Norfolk in Nairobi. PHOTO | COURTESY


At the Fairmont Norfolk in Nairobi last week, food and whisky were paired. But was it a match made in heaven or a long shot?

To start with, the amuse bouche of seared beef fillet with zucchini awoke our palates. It was paired with 10-year-old Glenmorangie Original. The tiny serving of amuse bouche went down in just a couple of mouthfuls, and a sip of whisky followed swiftly.

The spicy Scotch tasted strongest at the front of the mouth, and did not catch up with the food fast enough to combine tastes.

On to the starter of tuna avocado tartare on grilled focaccia with wasabi dip and micro greens. The yellow fin tuna was marinated in lemon, salt and ginger and matching the spiciness of the whisky. The smooth avocado toned down the whisky making it a comfortable pairing on the palette.

Next on the menu was the lobster bisque with whisky foam, paired with Glenmorangie Lasanta.

This whisky is said to be popular with Kenyans and is hotter on the palate than the original, coating the entire mouth all the way down to the back of the throat.


Glenmorangie global ambassador Hamish Torrie explained that the Lasanta is made by maturing Glenmorangie Original for two more years in sherry casks from Spain. The whisky gets a rich red colour and added flavour from the casks, giving it a strong Seville orange taste.

The lobster bisque soup was made with the stock of lobster shells and topped with whisky foam rather than the traditional cream. The bisque has a mouthwatering aroma, pleasant on the nose but not so much on the tongue. The consensus at our table of six was that the chef may want to stick to the original lobster bisque recipe.

For the main course, the chef served a surf and turf of whisky-and-coke glazed pork belly, rosemary flavoured lamb rack and grilled jumbo prawn, served with spinach with butternut and parma ham mashed potatoes.

The pork belly has a delicious crispy skin, and the lamb was tender and well flavoured. The jumbo prawn was perfectly cooked, firm and soft with a hint of crunch.

This meal was paired with 14-year-old Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban. The Quinta Ruban is made by pouring the 10-year-old Glenmorangie Original into port wine barrels from Portugal for four years.

Port is a rich, sweet, fortified red wine. The resulting whisky is milder and sweeter than the original, with a velvety texture and hints of mint chocolate, and is popular in Soctland. It paired well with the dishes from the land and the sea, and could also be paired with dessert.
Speaking of dessert, on the menu were strawberry tartlets served with vanilla custard and caramel ice cream, and a garnish of chocloate. It was paired with 12-year-old Glenmorangie Nectar d’Or, which is made by putting Glenmorangie Original in French wine barrels used to make the sweet Sauterne wine.

Nectar d’Or has a vanilla and ginger taste, that was too strong for the dessert. Adding a little water to the whisky would soften the taste and perhaps not overpower the sweet dessert.

Whisky pairing is a delicate art and greatly depends on the palate in question. For the Kenyan tongue, there’s probably more research needed. And as you enjoy your favourite food and drink this holiday season, I hope they pair well.