Mixing whisky and beer is nothing new (Boilermaker anyone?) – but Scottish distillery Highland Park has conceptualized four beer and whisky pairings designed to bring out the best in each other when consumed in tandem. And since Highland Park’s been doing this for over 200 years, we thought we’d take them up on their suggestions. What we discovered were flavor notes and aromas our senses would have never picked up on before.
Highland Park 12-Year-Old + Lightly Hoppy IPA: Highland Park’s mainstay expression, this sweet amber malt is known for its rounded flavor and full malt delivery. Pairing with a lightly hoppy IPA, such as Goose Island or Sierra Nevada, brings out a smoky, almost herbal aroma and rich sultry honey notes that contrast beautifully with the bitterness of the IPA.
Highland Park 15-Year-Old + Belgium Farmhouse Ale: This earthy, complex expression starts off sweet with notes of butterscotch and vanilla. When sipped alongside a Belgium Farmhouse Ale (we like Goose Island’s Sophie), it takes on a flavor profile reminiscent of the top layer of a creme brulee. The citrus notes of the ale highlight citrus notes in the whisky you may not otherwise have noticed, while its spicy white pepper notes and velvety vanilla finish dovetail flawlessly with the whisky’s smoke and sweetness.
Highland Park 18-Year-Old + Coffee Stout: We’ve heard more than a couple whisky drinkers refer to the 18-Year-Old as their “desert island bottle of whisky.” Rich and luxurious with a hint of floral smoke and layers of honeyed malt, it’s a great standalone spirit. Try pairing it with a coffee stout (an oatmeal stout should do if you can’t find coffee), and sit back as it reveals flavors reminiscent of Heathbar, sherry and chocolate toffee, all wrapped up in aromatic smoke.
Highland Park ‘Dark Origins’ + Chocolate Porter: our favorite of the four Highland Park expressions is also the newest, created as a tribute to the distillery’s founder, Magnus Eunson (who was minister by day and a whisky bootlegger by night back in the late 1700’s). True to its name, this earthy and mysterious whisky is characterized by its dark mahogany color and mellow, dark chocolatey flavor. While pairing it with a chocolate porter may sound like a bit much, the combination brings out the whisky’s subtle fruit notes and creates an experience that reminded us of bing cherries dipped in dark chocolate. The chocolate porter, in turn, starts to taste like toasted hazlenuts the longer you sip it.