CSL Guide: How to Pair Whisky & Dessert

A very quick guide on getting the most of your after dinner sipper and treats.

City Style and Living Magazine Food how to pair whisky and dessert Sticky Toffee
/ K&S Media

A very quick guide on getting the most of your after dinner sipper and treats.

Ask a single malt whisky connoisseur and they will assert that they only sip the golden liquid neat, or, perhaps with a drop of water to open it up. For most of the rest of us, the strong spirit takes getting accustomed to as an after dinner sipper by itself.  While most sommeliers will match a sweet wine or port with dessert, think outside of the box and try something new — whisky!


Whisky made with corn, or a combination or grain and corn tend to be lighter, fruitier and sweeter.  American bourbon whiskey (Makers Mark, Bulleit, Basil Hayden) is made from at least 51% corn, while Canadian whiskey is made from a blend of grain (Signal Hill is a new favourite).  To counteract the inherent sweetness of the spirit, pair with a cheese plate with a variety of styles, textures and age.


Peat smoke used to dry the malt barley grain of Scottish single malt scotch imparts its characteristic campfire-like taste.  These distilleries are concentrated on Islay, and include Laphroaig, Bruichladdich, and Balvenie. These complex whiskies lend well to bitter-sweet desserts.  Bitter dark chocolate brings out the subtle sweetness of smoky styles, while dark caramel-based desserts like sticky toffee pudding and pecan pie pair well with the earthy flavours.  

This original wine and spirits article first appeared in the Fall 2019 issue of City Style and Living Magazine.

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