A MATTER OF TASTE: Master distiller Mark Littler says matching the right whisky to the right food is subjective.
A MATTER OF TASTE: Master distiller Mark Littler says matching the right whisky to the right food is subjective. Rob Burnett

What goes with your whisky?

PAIRING the right whisky with the right food is subjective.

Hellyers Road Distillery's master distiller Mark Littler says the emerging trend of matching food types with whiskies (or vice versa) provides no hard and fast rules.

"We all have different tastes, a different sense of smell and a different way of seeing things, it's what makes our world interesting and involving," Mark says.


Subjectives aside, he says there needs to be an element of structure when determining which whisky goes best with what dish or food type.

"In our case we put the whisky first by using our formal tasting notes from each varietal to steer us toward food types we believe pair up with a particular whisky," he said.

"We first went down this path in 2014 at an official launch of our 12 Year Original single malt. We held a degustation style event that paired up dishes with our whiskies and it was enormously popular with the 60 odd guests who attended."

Mark Littler has just returned from a three-week trip to Europe where, apart from attending Whisky Live Paris, he visited Germany, the Czech Republic, Scotland and Sweden.

"I conducted a number of private master classes arranged by our local distribution agents in these countries and at almost every one of them I was asked what foods I would recommend with the whiskies presented.

"While most were happy to take my recommendation as gospel, others were more inquisitive and wanted to know succinctly why particular food and whisky varieties had been matched up".

Here are several of Mark's general whisky/food pairing tips:



Examine the tasting notes of the whisky. If you can't find tasting notes on the labelling or packaging then go online, or contact the distillery to request them. Most distilleries will be happy to oblige.


From the tasting notes, identify the elements that are key to the nose and palate. Words like; smokiness, citrus, dried fruit, sourdough, toasty, teacake, dried herbs and vanilla, for instance.


List the key words that have been taken from the whisky tasting notes and consider food types you believe would match up with these elements of taste and nose.


Once you have identified food types that are in harmony with the attributes of the whisky, select recipes or food formats that incorporate the food type.


Prepare several entree-size dishes and match them with the appropriate whisky. This process is really involving of your guests and a lot of fun.

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