Music & Malts 2023

Music & Malts 2023

April Outturn 2023 Article

I come from a rather music-oriented family background. I went through a music-focused high school, the same school my mother and grandmother went through, on trumpet as my main instrument. I also had to study piano as a mandatory course, music theory, musicianship, advanced composition, Viennese modelling, audiology, transcription, sight-reading, arranging, notation, orchestration, and recording tech. 


I’ve also been lucky enough to perform with some incredible ensembles, solo with an orchestra, travel parts of the world with a band, Scandinavia with a quintet, and section with some of the best orchestras in Australia. I’m not saying this to brag, I’m saying this to let you know this was the easy part when compared to pairing whisky with music! Reading black dots on a page and turning it into music is a breeze when compared to finding that perfect whisky pairing with music. 

Pairing whisky with other things is also relatively a bit easier in some ways, depending on who you ask and to what lever of complexity you’re striving for. Whisky with food, with chocolate, with mixers, with fruit, with citrus, etc. This is all fun in the flavour and can invoke those mind-blowing moments of where the perfect pairing comes together in either a complimentary or contrasting way. It’s rare, but when it happens a certain perfect pairing can change everything we think in food and spirit. It re-wires our brain. It creates those moments of flavour elation which seem almost impossible in meeting textures together. I’d like to think that it might be possible to occasionally create the impossible here as well.

You want to know what’s harder than all of that sometimes? Pairing music and malts! Yes, it’s true. Music is infinitely subjective, and will mean something to someone that carries no meaning to someone else. So then we find the technical aspects of pairing: this whisky is a nice big grubby peated malt. That could pair with a big dirty grubby metal album? Maybe, but that comes across as a bit mono-dimensional and simplistic. A bit like pairing blue cheese with peated whisky; sure it  often works, but is only one side of the story and lazy. Ok so we then have to look at character in music vs character in malts. Maybe start by pairing the textural and timbral qualities of the music with the textural and timbral qualities of the whisky? A whisky that is thick in mouthfeel with an album who’s production quality is thick and cloying? How about The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds with a big creamy Glencadam? Or on the other end of the spectrum, some Leroy Anderson with this month’s 2.134 ‘Herbs on a sponge cake’? It has been a while between Light & Delicate flavour profile appearances, and the last one we saw was a properly incredible Welsh whisky from memory! 

I guess my point here is we need to find the ‘anchor’ for each of these pairings, much more so than simplistic flavour pairings can cater for. The mix of texture, time, origin, and personal connection will play a much stronger role. I hope you enjoy our month of Music & Malts for its 2nd year running this April. As always, you can catch some cask previews on our YouTube channel (of which we’d love for you to hit the subscribe button too), and more at our amazing experiences this month.


Cheers, Matt


This article features in the April 2023 Outturn — bottles will be available to purchase on Friday the 7th of March at midday AEDT exclusively to members of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. Not a member? Click here to learn more about the world’s most colourful whisky club.


About the Author:

Matt Bailey is the Branch Director for the Scotch Malt Whisky Society Australia. He's tirelessly trying to meet every member and share a dram with you all.

Register as a Taster!