Food Pairing Friday with Dan Tullio

Canadian Club 100% Rye Whisky
All photos provided by Canadian Club
I recently had the chance to attend a whisky tasting with Canadian Club. It was a good experience, as I haven’t explored spirits in great depth and am always excited to learn more about how things are made and why they taste the way they do. One interesting point was the potential food pairings for whisky.

I typically stick to wine for dinner but I was curious to learn more, so I reached out to Dan Tullio, Master Ambassador, Canadian Whisky, Beam Suntory Inc., one of the representatives for Canadian Club. I’m happy to offer up his thoughts about cooking and pairing with Canadian Club as my latest Food Pairing Friday guest column.

People don't necessarily consider pairing spirits with food. Why do you think rye whisky is a good option for this?
People think that as a result of the higher alcohol strength of spirits versus wine/cordials/beer, the spirits will numb the taste buds, meaning you’re not able to really enjoy the food. On the contrary, Canadian Club 100% Rye (CC 100%) used in proper proportion in the preparation of food simply ramps up the taste experience.  It’s is a distilled spirit, clean and crisp as it flows out of the line on the small copper pot still.  Then it is aged in brand new white oak barrels and matured in the dry–arid high altitude elevation of central Alberta.  During maturation the wood imparts flavors such as caramel, vanilla, butterscotch, nuttiness, aromatic and smoky tones. These are prime candidates for a delicious paring, which basically ramps up the dish.

Rob Tucker and Dan Tulio
Dan (right) and brand manager, Rob Tucker.
What is your favorite pairing and why?
My job entails a lot of time away from home, but when I am with family and friends I take over the kitchen and barbecue.  The best planned meal for me is to marinate my T-Bone steaks overnight with at least 3oz of CC 100% per steak and a bit of salt and pepper—that’s it!  The spiciness of this rye whiskey is slowly absorbed and as the steaks get infused, the high rye whisky breaks down the molecular structure of the meat, making it tender and deliciously spicy.  To complete the overall experience, I flash barbecue at a very high temperature for no more than 4-5mins while I enjoy a CC 100% over ice with friends.

Dan Tullio, Beam Suntory
Dan leading a talk about Canadian Rye
Do certain types of rye whisky pair better than others?
Canadian rye whisky is a nickname for Canadian whisky.  In fact, there does not have to be any rye grain alcohol in the recipe. Canadian whiskies can add other spirits [up to 9.09%] of any type as long as its two years old [i.e. rum, scotch, bourbon, etc]. Also the majority of most Canadian whiskies have corn as the predominant grain. I personally like using CC 100% because it’s made from a single grain type – rye. It’s like what a single malt scotch is to a Canadian whisky. 

Are you a fan of pairing or cooking with whisky? Share your favorite brands or recipes in the comments below or on social.