In this inaugural Peggy’s Palate article, master taster Peggy Noe Stevens puts her pairing skills to the test
Written by Peggy Noe Stevens
Peggy Noe Stevens is a master taster, whiskey reviewer and competition judge. She is known for her super palate in the industry, as well as her founding innovations connecting whiskey and food pairing styles and methods.
Sometimes in the foodie world we say, that was “delicious”. When you are a foodie like me from Kentucky and come across a bottle that is impeccable, I say, “that’s a doozy!” So now, put a food and whiskey pairing together for the double doozy, and that is what this new article series is all about, pure and simple. Great food and great whiskey ideas delivered to your door, or should I say your kitchen. Preach.
No surprise that I spent my life and career surrounded by flavors, and actually drown in them sometimes. Yet, I still find that audiences request perfect pairings with their favorite libations. My goal here is to educate to the point that everyone is comfortable doing pairings in their own home. That is what my book, “Which Fork Do I Use With My Bourbon,” is all about: home entertaining our whiskey way.
So here we go. I will choose my top two scores in reviewing American Whiskey Magazine’s 24 blind samples with my co-reviewer, Susan Reigler, and then pair to perfection. (Almost sounds like a game show introduction.) That’s right. Put on your seat belt: we are going for a wild flavor ride, and you have a front-row seat. And the whiskey isn’t too shabby, either.
How to Pair
The below is a simple chart outlining my three-part breakdown to pairing.
|Balance is when you complement a predominant note in the whiskey and balance the flavors so one does not dominate over the other. It creates harmony.|
|Counterbalance is when opposites attract and you fire up a food flavor, only to have the flavors of the whiskey tame and neutralize any spikes of difference.|
|Explosion is almost too much of a good thing, when you take a predominant whiskey note and dial up the food match, to create surround-sound flavors that slap an immediate smile on your face and palate.|
This month we feature the following brands and hear the inspiration for creating flavor profiles:
Cask Strength Bourbon
115 proof (see page 79 for tasting notes)
Filmland Spirits’ blending team is made up of Troy Bolotnick (founder/CEO), Charlie Flint (VP of ops) and Steve Canepa (CFO). “We are long-time whiskey fans and bourbon nerds. When we created the blend for our regular 94-proof Moonlight Mayhem we wanted it to be accessible to newer bourbon drinkers, but with enough complexity to satisfy aficionados as well. When we set out to create the Extended Cut cask strength version (115 proof), we made it for ourselves – the kind of bourbon we love to sip neat. Our goal was to create a flavor profile with a supremely rich, creamy mouthfeel that sipped smoother than its proof would imply and had as much complexity of flavor as possible, leaning heavily into cherry and chocolate notes. We selected eight barrels from several hundred and precisely blended them together to achieve this goal. One of our favorite things about Moonlight Mayhem!”
|Moonlight Mayhem Cask Strength Bourbon||Simple Pairing||Appetizer / Entrée / Dessert|
|Balance||Candied dates||Bread pudding with a vanilla cream sauce|
|Counterbalance||Pickled Jalapeño slices||Jalapeño poppers wrapped in bacon and goat cheese|
|Explosion||Toasted marshmallow||Decadent molten lava cake with a toasted marshmallow topping|
Rum Cask Finished Bourbon
112.6 proof (see page 77 for tasting notes)
Caleb Kilburn, master distiller of Kentucky Peerless Distilling and recently named the Master Distiller/Blender of the Year in the Icons of Whisky America, speaks to the flavor profile of his new innovation. “I believe that a barrel finish should enhance and complement the notes of the original spirit. We hand selected barrels that exhibited a bold, traditional bourbon flavor and entrusted them to premium rum casks for finishing. The resulting spirit introduced notes of warm molasses, sweet grasses, toasted citrus, and a host of other characters to our already complex profile.”
Rum Cask Finished Bourbon
|Simple Pairing||Appetizer / Entrée / Dessert|
|Balance||Honeyed figs||Dry-rubbed ribs with a sorghum BBQ dipping sauce|
|Counterbalance||Cajun Pecans||Paella with a dusting of paprika|
|Explosion||Molasses and caramel lollypop i.e. See’s Candies||Baked ham with a deep crusted dark brown sugar and maple syrup coating (continue basting throughout the cooking process)|
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