For a person who knows almost nothing about whisky, I was really fortunate to be invited to a food and whisky pairing demonstration held at the Food Studio just a few days ago.

Chef Nigel Richter, from Canada, also the ambassador of Johnnie Walker Keep Walking

The chef's objective is to dispel whisky as merely being a 'drinker's drink', making the demonstration nothing short of being insightful and educational for people like myself who would only revel in a glass or two of Johnnie Walker whisky during social events, when food is not usually served.

Natalie Harley, Senior Brand Manager of the Johnnie Walker Deluxe

We were swept off our feet with a three course meal that evening, each being paired with a different blend of whisky in accordance with the flavor profiles of the dishes.

First dish:
Tiger Prawn Tempura & Dungeness Crab Maki paired with the JW Black Label

The maki dish contained avocado, cucumber, and garnished with scallions, radish, black and white sesame with a generous serving of ponzu sauce at the side.

JOHNNIE WALKER BLACK LABEL is a classic masterpiece of depth and complexity. On the nose, there are intense aromas of spice and hints of fruitiness. With each sip, layer upon layer of bold flavor is revealed – it is crisp and light, with flavors of rich vanilla from the grain whiskies; fresh fruits from the Speyside Malts and rich, dried fruit from the oak sherry casks.

The chef paired the rich flavors from the grain whisky with the ponzu sauce which is made up of sake, bonito, soy sauce, konbu, and yuzu citrus - each containing some identical aromatic molecules found in the Black Label.

I personally find the pairing really interesting. Whisky and maki? Who would have thought! Mushy rice, tangy dip, together with the peaty taste that the whisky leaves on your tongue which isn't too overpowering, is a surprisingly delightful combination altogether.

Spiced Oxtail Cappuccino paired with the JW Gold Label Reserve

Slow-cooked oxtail stew with roasted shitake and smoked parsnip, graced with carrot dust and frothed milk flavored with fenugreek, and served with a piece of crusty ciabatta

JOHNNIE WALKER GOLD LABEL RESERVE is a structured, multi-layered blend with a smooth balance of luscious sweet fruits that evokes deeper honey tones. Lingering waves of wood and light sweet west-coast smoke.

The chef structured the dish to complement the earthy flavors of the Gold Label Reserve. Cinnamon, star anise, and allspice were added to round off the woody and light sweet flavors of the whisky. The fenugreek used to flavor the milk foam has common flavor compounds with the Gold Label Reserve, which was aged in oak barrels.

This dish was my absolute favorite. The strong woodsy and smoky taste given out by the shitake mushrooms made the dish so distinctive from all the other oxtail stews that I've tried. The whisky complemented it really well as it leaves a long, toffee-like sensation to the taste-buds.

Okay let's face it - describing the tastes of whiskies is evidently not my forte (yet), but trust me when I say that they go really well together. :)

Dessert: Smoked cheese cake paired with JW Double Black

Flourless smoked cheese cake with vanilla-hazelnut crust as base, decked with pomegranate sauce, forest honey, white chocolate malt crunch, and fresh strawberries.

The chef elegantly sprucing up the presentation of the cake with local forest honey

JOHNNIE WALKER DOUBLE BLACK. This uniquely rich smoky flavour is derived from a combination of aged, naturally smoky whiskies that have been matured in deep charred old oak casks. Its smokiness is complemented by notes of creamy vanilla, apples, pears and orange zest.

The chef picked strawberries as it can enhance the citrus and fruity flavors of the Double Black. The cake was further flavored by hickory smoked water which matches the smoky wood tones found in the Double Black.

The whisky is smoky and malty with a hint of sweetness, and the sweetness from the cake comes from the sauces - all which tasted very natural (not the kind of sweetness that gives you five cavities and a gum infection) - and the aftertaste of this combination is simply gratifying. Bitter, yet very addictive.

So here's a quick recap of my culinary experience there:
Eat, sip, eat, talk, sip, eat, sip, talk, sip, eat, sip, eat, talk, sip, sip, eat, talk.

Yeap, it was that awesome.

Through this event, I have personally garnered a lot of knowledge on whiskies and the proper ways to pair them in order to bring out the best in both the food as well as the liquor. A lot of attention has been given to the ingredients (down to minute details like the spices, aromas, and seasonings) and it was a joy learning how the slightest similarity in the flavor compound could bring about the perfect combination.

Being raised in a Chinese family, you could hardly tell the whiskies apart because we drink them in almost every occasion and we pair them with almost anything that is edible, from shark fins soup to cotton candies. *dismissive shrugs*

It's great getting to gain new knowledge from the JW food and whisky pairing demonstration by Chef Nigel Richter. Got me all pumped up and eager to learn more!