Cooking with different types of whiskey
Although certainly not anywhere near as popular as other cooking alcohols like wine or brandy, whiskey is highly underrated as an ingredient, providing an excellent flavour boost to a wide variety of dishes.
It’s the chemical properties of whiskey that make it such a good flavour enhancer, bringing out the salty freshness of seafood, the bittersweet tones of smoked meats, and the richness in a dessert.
Rachel Barrie, master blender for Bowmore Distilleries, told The Guardian:
“Whiskey has an incredibly diverse flavour spectrum, much more so than wine. The flavours of a single malt Scotch whiskey, for example, are derived from malted barley fermentation, the distillation process and maturation in oak casks over several years, which makes it ideal to boost a wide variety of flavours in foods.”
Its price is one reason why people might be put off of using whiskey in cooking. However, the whiskey world is vast and varied, offering an array of prices and flavours – so there is a great deal of choice available. Here’s what’s on offer.
Arguably the most famous of all whiskies, Scotch is made in Scotland traditionally from malted barley. If you’ve ever been to Scotland, this flavour permeates the air in some parts – it smells a bit like bran flakes!
The flavours of this whiskey are varied, meaning you can use it in all kinds of dishes. A delicate and floral single malt will boost the herbal flavours in savoury sauces – though be warned that these are generally the most expensive kind, so it may be best to avoid recipes that call for too much.
A cheaper option might be a blended scotch like Johnnie Walker Blue Label. With a dark and complex flavour from the various malts used in its production, it’s a great choice for boosting any deep flavours like beef stock or dark chocolate.
Bourbon whiskey, named after the county in Kentucky where it was first made, is a type of American barrel-aged whiskey. It’s made mainly from corn and had a distinctly strong smoky, sweet flavour, which is derived from the scrapings of old bourbon barrels (known as ‘sour mash’).
Jim Beam, for example, has a similar flavour profile to brandy, so can be used in its place for a number of different recipes, such as in custards, creams and brandy sauce.
Bourbon is also a mainstay of the South’s favourite cuisine: “barbeque” food. Its high sugar content means it makes a deliciously sticky barbeque glaze that goes beautifully well with all kinds of slow cooked meats like pulled pork or beef shortrib.
Irish whiskey – named (you guessed it) because it’s made in Ireland – is smoother and more subtle in flavour than other types, as it’s usually distilled three times, making it incredibly pure.
Possibly the most famous Irish whiskey is Jameson – light, floral and triple distilled, it has nutty and vanilla notes with hints of sweet sherry and exceptional smoothness. This makes it an excellent addition to more delicate fruit desserts such as summer berry trifle.
It also mixes deliciously with cream. We’re all familiar with Bailey’s, the traditional Irish cream drink – well, why not have a go at making your own from scratch?
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