Whisk(e)y How To

How to Pair the Right Whisk(e)y for The Occasion


How do you pick the right whiskey for the occasion? I mean, pairing whiskey with food is one thing. But how do you pair with an intangible concept? Because that’s what an occasion is. It’s an event in time that you cannot hold or touch. So what whiskey goes with that? Fortunately, the principles used to pair whiskey with food are applicable to whiskey and event pairings. Read on. You’ll soon be known as the mastermind who picked the perfect whiskey for that thing you’re doing.

In this article here, we talked about two principles for pairing food and drink: Siblings and echoes. Siblings are food and drink that come from the same place. Echoes are elements of your food that are repeated in the whiskey. Let’s see how each of those apply to occasions or events.

Siblings, or better put, origins. Where is your occasion happening? Is there a whiskey from that area? Chances are good that the whiskey from there will go with what you’re doing. How does this work in real life? For example, are you floating down the Mississippi on a riverboat? Then a Bourbon would be wholly appropriate! What if you are hiking along the emerald and turquoise fairy pools of Scotland? Then only a Scotch would do. Or are you in British Columbia, nestled in a winter cabin with your feet up in front of a fire? Then, by all means, you should have a Canadian whisky. When in doubt, go with the local whiskey of choice.

Echoes. What element of your occasion can be echoed in the whiskey? The echo can either be physical or symbolic.

Here are some examples of physical echoes. Are you going camping? Then why not try a smoky whiskey to echo the campfire you’ll be sitting around? Or are you going to the beach? If it’s a tropical beach, then try a whiskey that’ll echo coconut and citrus fruits. If it’s a brooding rocky beach, then bring a whiskey with dark salty notes.

What are some examples of symbolic echoes? Are you going to a fancy event like a wedding or lifetime achievement award? Then it’s probably best to shell out the extra money for an expensive whiskey to echo the finery of the event. Are you going to an anniversary party? Can you find – or afford – a whiskey that’s the same age as the anniversary? I don’t know why, but with this one, people don’t even care what the whiskey tastes like. They just get a kick that the whiskey is the same age as their anniversary. Is the occasion a celebration? Then pick an Irish or Speyside whiskey that has bright sparkly notes.

So, what did we learn? The next time you want to punctuate an occasion with whiskey, you have two easy options:

  • Pick a bottle that shares origins to the place you’ll be.
  • Choose a whiskey that either physically or symbolically echoes the event.

— Zac Smith