whiskey glass with fruit

Comparing Whiskey Pairings: Dried Fruit vs Fresh Fruit

Whiskey is a wondrously versatile liquor. It’s a terrific ingredient in cocktails, delicious when enjoyed neat, and makes for a great food pairing. Some styles delectably meld with richly flavored dishes like barbecue brisket or ham — a bourbon food pairing you need to try. Or it can be a perfect post-dinner sip, mingling well with cheese, chocolate, or fruit. Tailoring the ideal bottle for each foodstuff is an intricate task that requires acute attention to detail.

So when serving alongside fruit, you’ll even want to hand-select the style based on whether your pairing’s dried or fresh. Since dehydrated fruits have a much more concentrated sweetness, you’ll want a bolder whiskey that puts its tasting notes at the forefront. The malty, drinkable notes of a tasty Scotch make for a great candidate. Alternatively, you can focus on the caramel sweetness of Tennessee whiskey, which differentiates from bourbon due to a single step.

Conversely, with fresh fruit, it’s all about amplifying the complexity of whiskey with the delicate fresh flavors. Employ whiskies in which you really want to sip the intricacy. Light styles like Irish whiskey mix alongside berries, or match the tartness of stone fruit with a complex rye. There’s lots of crossover to explore, with a satisfying synergy of flavor when it hits just right.

Dried fruit lets intricate whiskeys to shine while fresh brings out complexity

whiskey pictured with grapes

The beauty of liquor pairing is the malleability. A starting framework lends some guidance and many deviations are possible from there. Additionally, whiskey-fruit pairings don’t need to be constricted to a bite served alongside the liquor. The food can be employed in a cocktail or used as a garnish. You may have heard of some enjoying a berry soaked in liquor — it’s a tasty, gentle vessel to pick up on subtle whiskey notes. So consider the application as much as how the palates mesh.

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As Justin Lavenue notes in our expert guide to pairing whiskey with dried fruits, whiskey often contains fruit notes the pairing can work to accentuate. So a food as simple as a crisp, tangy apple can bring out the nuance of a vanilla and caramel-laden bourbon by contrast. In a similar fashion, berries will emphasize the fruity notes in rye that may be subdued by the spice. The advantage of fresh fruit is eliciting otherwise hidden notes, which can be done by either contrasting or complementing flavors.

Alternatively, dried fruits offer a bold dose of fruit flavor, so think of them as an aromatic palate cleanser. They’re the move for bold, terroir-driven whiskeys like Scotch, or similarly complex Japanese whisky. You wouldn’t want to take away from such expressions, so the fruit takes more of an augmentation rather than an accentuation route.

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