Something Unusual…

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Something Unusual…

March Outturn 2024 Ambassador’s Address


Almost every whisky tasting I’ve attended, or hosted, in the last 10-ish years has had some component of food associated. It ranges from a paired degustation with a 12-course meal, to meticulously crafted desserts, all the way to the good old days of Scotty Fitz flinging a bowl of dry water crackers out with a tasting. Gour-met. 

But when you think of food with whisky, there are some well-worn paths along this journey and some foods constantly come to mind. Cured meats, smoked salmon, cheese, bread and crackers etc. How did we come to this? Some fats to soak up the spirit? Some bread to line the stomach? Or is this perhaps all a carry-over from the Scottish cuisines of yesteryear with our cured meats being the modern Aussie equivalent of black pudding and square sausage?

I was at a wine tasting a few years ago with the head winemaker presenting. In the Q&A portion of the presentation, a question from the audience came through: “Which cheeses would you recommend pairing with these wines?”. The winemaker grimaced slightly, and then politely asked that no cheeses be paired with any of their wines. “The usually pungent odours and flavours in cheese ruin all my wines, so please don’t. The sodium, the fats, the whole thing just masks and kills off any nuance I’ve worked hard to create. In fact, wine and cheese for the most part is a terrible pairing”. The audience was somewhat stunned. Had everything they thought about pairing wine and cheese been wrong? Was this just all clever marketing?

Maybe. But my real takeaway from this was asking myself why and what food we pair with whisky. Did we also have it all wrong? Whisky pairing with food is a far lesser-researched art form than wine, but it can be done so masterfully. March is all about ‘Unusual Pairings’. A chance for us to break some waves, ask challenging questions around pairings, and create some new ‘eye-opening’ moments where we wonder “How did this not get thought of before?” What happens if you pair KFC with an SMWS 94? What happens if you taste tripe before a 53? Anything is possible. 

For this issue of Outturn, we look to long-time collaborator Franz Scheurer to help answer these questions and focus in on odd pairings with whisky.

Read on, and I’d love to hear your ‘unusual pairing’ this month. What food have you tried with whisky that really made you have a proper flavour epiphany?

Cheers, Matt


This article is featured in March 2024 Outturn — bottles will be available to purchase on Friday the 1st 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.

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