Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and preparations for a romantic night with your other half are underway. If your partner is a whisky fan then nothing will work better than a fun night of food and whisky pairings. While whisky is often viewed across the globe as an after-dinner spirit, the Japanese population rarely consumes alcohol without some type of food or snack present. For this reason, alcoholic drinks from Japan, like sake, shochu, and in this case, Japanese whisky pair wonderfully with food. Here are some of the most popular Japanese whiskies out there, and a few dishes to pair them with. Check what your partner has in his/her cabinet, and start pairing!
Hakushu 12 & Tempura
The Hakushu 12 Year-Old is one of the most popular expressions by Suntory’s second distillery, Hakushu, in Japan. Unlike most Japanese whiskies, the Hakushu character is green and fresh and brings subtle hints of peat and smoke to the palate. The green character of the whisky is perfect to pair with tempura, as it cuts through the weight of the deep-fried batter. Vegetable and seafood tempura will work. After the crispy, oily batter coats your mouth a sip of Hakushu 12 will cuts through, refresh, and keep up, as the smoke and green notes will hold their own in terms of flavour and depth.
Hibiki Japanese Harmony & Nigiri Sushi
This one is all about smoothness and balance. While the flavour is important, great nigiri sushi and sashimi is defined by the silky, soft texture of the seafood, which makes freshness so important. Delicate flavours and varied textures define the Japanese staple, and bringing in the smooth, balanced addition of the Hibiki Japanese Harmony will only enhance those. Tuna, salmon, mackerel, prawn, go nuts! Bursting with notes of delicate fruits and subtle sweetness, the whisky and sushi complement each other. Some cinnamon and pepper spice in the whisky works with the palate-cleansing ginger in between sushi pieces, once again adding extra layers to the experience.
Yamazaki 18 & Steak
Rich, deep, and complex the Yamazaki distillery’s 18-Year-Old pairs well with a succulent cut of red meat. Both fatty and lean cuts will work, but the ones with higher fat content will add more depth to the pairing. Instead of balancing here, the pairing will enhance each component. The rich, dark fruit and molasses notes in the whisky will act as a platform for the rich umami notes and chargrilled flavours of the steak. Vice-versa, the steak will add depth to the Yamazaki, and bring out the more subtle spicy and sherried notes.
Nikka From The Barrel & Dark Chocolate
Moving on to dessert! The Nikka From The Barrel is an affordable and very complex expression and comes in at a strong 51.4 per cent ABV. Because of the whisky’s intensity, a stronger, darker flavoured chocolate is recommended, although milk chocolate will work too. Vanilla, berries, citrus, and spice lead the nose and palate of the whisky, and a bit of chocolate delivers an extra layer of creamy smoothness to the mix and helps cut through the high alcohol percentage.
Taketsuru 17 & Cheese Plate
Last but not least, the Taketsuru 17-Year-Old, one of the most world-renowned blended whiskies. This expression is defined by fruitiness; tropical, summer fruits, citrus, dark berries. The juicy, vibrant palate of the whisky pairs well with smooth, creamy cheeses, from Camembert and Brie to Gruyere and Mozzarella. One note: As the Taketsuru is very smooth and subtle, extremely strong cheeses may overpower it. Keep the selection rich and flavourful yet light enough to allow both components to shine.
Following these guidelines, you can now venture out and pair the expressions with different dishes, and find the ones you love most. The world of whisky and food pairings is vast and exciting, with some unlikely yet delicious combinations that will blow you away. Happy Valentine’s Day!