THERE is an old Irish saying that ‘what butter and whiskey cannot cure, there is no cure for’.
I have enjoyed enough fine Scotch malts in my time to appreciate the finer points of the ‘water of life’.
Indeed, it was my late grandfather who was passionate about the drink, and it was his friends on the ice rink where he played curling high up in the Alps in his native Switzerland who gave him the nickname ‘Whisky’ because of his penchant for excellent malts.
My grandfather was very much a whisky-on-its-own kind of man. But I like to drink my Scotch with a side order of fine food and friendship.
It’s something you can try for yourselves on Friday, October 26 when we will be holding a whisky and game evening here at the Bistro at Yummleys.
Whisky and game is a marriage made in heaven. The three-course dinner will be accompanied by fine malts and an educational, entertaining and sometimes irreverent talk about each from Peebles-based Glenross Whiskies.
The retail outlet only opened in 2010, but it’s a hidden gem selling an impressive range of Scottish and world whiskies.
Many will be familiar names, but the shop stocks lesser known examples too.
It promises to be an evening of great craic, company and culinary concoctions guaranteed to keep the autumn spirits up (in more ways than one).
We hope it will broaden people’s perceptions of whisky and food pairings and take it away from being just an after-dinner drink enjoyed on its own.
Whisky is every bit as complex as wine. It has so many flavours, finishes and ages.
It can be single malt, single grain or blended. And just as wine tastes different depending on where it is grown and made, so too does whisky.
The quality of the water and each distillery’s specification will both play an important part in the final product. It’s for these reasons that whisky can be enjoyed not just on its own but alongside many foods from chocolate to cheeses, game and even spicy dishes.
Wine and food evenings are a popular combination, but a whisky and food pairing offers something different.
I have to admit to being a bit wary the first time I attended a whisky and food event. Food and wine is accepted the world over – even if it is only really in the last few decades that here in the UK the two have moved from being a special occasion combination to an everyday occurrence.
But once I had been taken through the whisky making and tasting process, I began to understand its complexities and the unique undertones each picks up from the specially sourced wooden barrels – whether they are wine, sherry or port – that many are matured in for the last few months of their life.
The way whisky takes on these flavours, especially of the wood each barrel is made from, is pure magic.
Game, like venison, pheasant, quail and grouse, tastes particularly good with whisky, perhaps because they both retain the heathery and peaty taste of their separate births, and the rich and bold flavours of the meat cuts through the strong alcohol.
There is an art to combining the right whisky with the correct foods, and it’s one we are very much looking forward to painting a bolder and more detailed picture of on October 26.
We hope you can join us.
•Oli Hofer is the owner of Scotland’s only Swiss coffee shop, Yummleys, Main Street, Reston, TD14 5JP, tel: 01890 761 266, www.yummleys.co.uk, Twitter: @yummley_berwick. Yummleys is open daily 10am-6pm.
The Bistro at Yummleys is open Friday and Saturday 6.30pm-9pm and for Sunday lunches 12.30pm-3pm.
Yummleys’ three course Whisky and Game night in association with Glenross Whiskies of Peebles takes place on October 26 from 7pm.