A Scottish hotel has devised its own blend of coffee to match a locally-produced malt whisky in what is thought to be the first time a coffee has been blended specifically to pair with a whisky.
The new coffee is the Cuillin Hills blend, which the Cuillin Hills hotel on Skye has created to complement the whisky from the island’s Talisker distillery. It was blended by the Edinburgh Tea and Coffee Company to the specification of Peter Sim, the hotel’s general manager.
“I wanted a coffee that would be able to be robust enough and flavoursome enough to stand up to a malt whisky after dinner,” he told us. “Although the blend was developed with Talisker 18-year-old as its ‘marker’, it can work with all malts. But it had to be able to have a lingering finish that complemented Islay and Island Single Malts.”
The answer, says Peter Sim, was found in a blend of Indonesian, south and central American coffees. The central American is an El Salvadorian coffee from the well-known La Fany farm, there is a Brazilian ‘pulped natural’ (a drying method which keeps more of the natural sugar in the bean) and the Indonesians are a Sulawesi and a Sumatra, which bring a fruity-chocolate character to the blend.
“The Indonesian coffee is the secret key,” says Peter Sim.
This is the latest of several projects to match whisky and coffee. In recent years, the master blender at Whyte and Mackay, Richard Paterson, has worked with Union Hand-Roasted of London on a series of pairings which could actually go on restaurant and hotel menus. In that experiment, the coffees were not blended to match the whiskies, but Jeremy Torz of Union used his coffee expertise to seek out existing coffees which would match.
“After numerous tastings together, Richard Paterson and I matched coffees with particular ‘expressions’, the highly-appropriate whisky industry term for different styles and tastes. It became apparent that in finding very high-quality single origin coffees and exploring their own nuances, one could not only complement to the whisky, but allow the drinker to enjoy additional notes in each beverage that were only realised when the two were brought together.
“Whilst we have not run the coffee and whisky pairing in the press or public domain recently, it did generate lots of interest and at least one bar in London did offer a carte of 4 distinct pairings that guests could choose from. Last summer I also ran a tasting of our most popular pairings for the Peach Pub company last summer at one of their houses in Warwickshire – it was an evening ticketed event that proved very popular.”
By Ian Boughton