Chef Carl Hazel’s Top 4 Tips for Pairing Scotch & Food — Gamlin Whiskey House

24 Jul

July 27 is National Scotch Day. What better way to celebrate than by pairing your favorite Gamlin Whiskey House dish with the perfect Scotch?

A proper Scotch pairing can enhance your dining experience by bringing out the multitude of flavors in both the food and the Scotch. Carl Hazel, executive chef at Gamlin Whiskey House in St. Louis’ Central West End, shares his top tips for pairing Scotch with food like a pro.

When asked how the massive whiskey collection at Gamlin Whiskey House — more than 300 and counting — inspires his menu creation process, Hazel said the spirits are “super integral.” For private events or tasting dinners (like the monthly Women & Whiskey series), he likes to taste through all of the planned whiskies first before committing to any dish. Then, he said, he follows the following “rules.”

Complement or contrast?

Hazel says making a conscious decision to either complement or contrast the flavors of your dish is an important part of the Scotch pairing process. The goal of any whiskey pairing is to craft a combination that brings out the flavor(s) of the food, the spirit or both.

Pair your Scotch like you pair your wines

For those new to Scotch or Scotch pairing, it can be helpful to start with the principles you’d use for wine pairing. Start light and build upon the complexity with each course.

Avoid overpowering your protein

For red meat: Reach for a rich, full-bodied Scotch that stands up to a fattier (a.k.a. more flavorful) cut of meat. Recommendation: Glenfiddich Project XX.

For poultry: Try a whiskey with a clean finish that complements the oiliness of birds like chicken, turkey or quail. Scotches with hints of caramel, fruits and nuts work well. Recommendation: Glenmorangie 10 yr.

For seafood: Fish dishes that are light and slightly salty pair well with the smoky, peaty, creamy Scotches of the Islay region. Recommendation: Laphroaig Quarter Cask.

Understanding the nuances of Scotch can be overwhelming, so don’t hesitate to ask your Gamlin Whiskey House bartender for a personal recommendation!

Speaking of wines …

Think about the wines or craft beers you like — are they complex? Clean? Fruity? Spicy? Chances are, you’ll enjoys a Scotch with a similar flavor profile.

“Ultimately, the most important thing when it comes to choosing the ‘right’ Scotch is your personal preference,” Hazel says. “The ‘right’ pairing is the one that makes your meal the most enjoyable to you.”

As for his favorite Scotch? Hazel recommends The Balvenie 25, a beautifully balanced single malt with dessert-like flavors and a clean finish, or something from the Compass Box collection of innovative blended Scotches.