Whisky pairing tips from chef Nigel Richter

Updated on April 28 2014

Another of Johnnie Walker’s ‘Keep Walking’ ambassadors took centre stage for a unique experience of food and whisky pairing. Canadian-born chef Nigel Richter (of Dining in the Dark fame), took us through a three-course meal — a combination of Asian and Western influenced dishes paired with either Johnnie Walker Black Label, Double Black or Gold Label.

First course: Tiger prawn tempura and Dungeness crab maki with Johnnie Walker Black Label

Chef Nigel picked this dish to complement the whisky because of the light hints of fruit and the crispness of the whisky itself, and the the flavours of sake, bonito, soy sauce, konbu and yuzu citrus flavours within the maki rolls.

Tiger prawn tempura and Dungeness crab maki paired with Johnnie Walker Black Label — a winning combination.

“My technique of pairing is to identify the flavours within the drink first, whether it is whisky or wine,” explained Nigel. “Figure out what flavours are prominent in that drink, and from there you can go two ways, you can match those flavours with the flavours in the food or you can choose contrasting flavours within the drink.”

Second course: Spiced oxtail cappuccino with Johnnie Walker Gold Label

Cinnamon, star anise and allspice in the oxtail cappuccino broth of charred flavours and aromas of browned oxtail (umami) is brought out and enhanced by the woody and honeyed flavour of Johnnie Walker Gold Label.

“When you are pairing something feel free to play around and don’t think too much about it,” continued Nigel. “You can’t read people’s minds about what they will enjoy. If you are a chef and you are entertaining, you have to open your mind and use your intuition and try things out. Regionally there is always going to be two handfuls of ingredients you can choose. Pick, trust your gut and go with it.”

Spiced oxtail cappuccino is made fragrant by Johnnie Walker Gold Label.

We asked Nigel what his favourite ingredients to use in this region are, and he explained his passion for spices and their versatility for pairing.

“Spices can go so many different ways — savoury to sweet, from starters to desserts to main courses. They give you that depth, that aroma, and they bring back memories of something. Malaysia is a very unique place because of all of these different cultures coming together. It makes it very individual.”

Third course: Smoked cheesecake with Johnnie Walker Double Black

Dessert is an unusual treat and one that we haven’t come across before — smoked cheesecake. With an infusion of natural vanilla in a shortbread crust, malt-flavoured crumble and enriched with butter and white chocolate, this created a perfect match for the woody and grit flavours of the whisky.

Using fresh fruit in his dishes isn’t new to Nigel, who told us that growing up near his grandparents farm indirectly had an influence on his career choice and possibly his cooking style.

“Strawberry farms in the highlands remind me of picking strawberries from my grandmother’s farm,” he recollected. “They had two or three acres and they would grow a number of things — cherries, plums, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, corn, peas, potatoes – it was endless, so looking back, I was really lucky for that.”

A unique pairing of smoked cheesecake with Johnnie Walker Double Black.


Chef Nigel Richter is an ambassador for the Johnnie Walker ‘Keep Walking’ campaign, as someone who embodies the spirit of its founder John Walker. He and four other Johnnie Walker ‘Keep Walking’ ambassadors will be celebrated at the Johnnie Walker Circuit Lounge 2014 event on 29 March.

Read about more of the Johnnie Walker ‘Keep Walking ambassadors here with our cocktail making session with Shawn Chong and Karl Too from Omakase + Appreciate.

For more information on Chef Nigel Richter, visit www.chefnigelrichter.com or www.facebook.com/chefnigelrichter 

For more information on Step Inside the Circuit Lounge, visit the Johnnie Walker Malaysia Facebook page, www.facebook.com/JohnnieWalkerMalaysia

Keirsten Clark left urban commuting, frosty mornings and chilly evenings of the UK behind for sunnier climes. She is a cake freak and loves to run -- everywhere. Follow her on Twitter @keirsten for updates on all things geeky and content related.