What is a good food pairing with whisky like Lagavulin 16?

Last year on Islay Ben Ellefsen from Master of Malt made some pretty damn fine BBQ ribs for myself and theimage from specialistwhisky.com Chaps at Caskstrength.net which we ate with the 2011 port aged Ardbeg feis Ile bottling. On returning home I was inspired to challenge my catering consultant/private chef wife to a rib off.

Being a chef she was pretty confident of winning already, but we set a time for some friends to come over and judge the results. To cut a long story short, when the day finally arrived I ultimately won hands down. The comparison made was Heaston Blumenthal versus Carol Brady.

Since then in our house BBQ ribs have became a meal that legends are written about and the one food item our friends & family regularly request.

So here is my take on Ben's at Master of Malt's original recipe:

Preparation time: 3 hours over two/there days

Cooking time: 6 hours

After buying some ribs (I'd recommend Waitrose British Pork Rack of loin Ribs) you'll need to make your own smoker or you could buy something like a Little Chief. Personally I used a Weber BBQ and some improvisation that would make the people at Blue Peter proud!

What you'll need is a BBQ, a medium sized candle, a small cup sized sieve (wire mesh will do to, but make sure there's no plastic), hickory chips and tin foil.


  1. Start by opening the rib packets (keeping the meat close to hand, but somewhere clean).
  2. Close the vents and remove all the shelves. 
  3. Then place the candle in the bottom of the BBQ.
  4. Cover the bottom shelf with the tin foil, tearing a little hole in the foil above the candle.
  5. Light the candle and place the sieve over the hole you just made in the foil.
  6. Stack the wood chips around the sieve and quickly place the next shelf on top as the wood chips will start to smoke.
  7. Lay the Ribs on the top shelf (by this point the wood should be smoking if not check the candle).
  8. Place the lid on the BBQ (making sure the vents are closed) and check every hour. Personally I smoke the ribs for 3-4 hours, but you could do longer. You may need to replace/relight the candle.

While the ribs are smoking you can prepare the dry rub (the ingredients below are for three medium sized racks):

  • 1 cup of Dark Brown Muscovado sugar
  • One and a half tablespoons of sweet smoked paprika, 
  • One teaspoon of organic cayenne pepper powder,
  • Half teaspoon of organic white ground pepper,
  • Two teaspoons of organic garlic granules, 
  • One tablespoon of Maldon salt,
  • One tablespoon of fresh ground black pepper

Once the smoking process is over you'll need to add the dry rub to the ribs. Coat each rib well, stacking them together on cling film and wrap tightly together when your finished. Let them marinate in a fridge overnight, or for 24 hours if you have the time.

When your happy that they have had enough time in the fridge, simply unwrap and place the ribs and juice in a deep dish. Seal the dish with tin foil and place in an oven at 100 degrees for around six hours.

Once the ribs are cooked reserve the liquid in the pan for the all important BBQ sauce!  Allow the ribs to cool on the side while you make the sauce. Once the sauce is ready the ribs can be pan fried without oil or quickly cooked on a BBQ (the sugars will caramelise quickly so be careful not to burn them after all this effort!).

Finally enjoy with a glass of Lagavulin!

The BBQ Sauce!

Now this is in my mind one of the most critical parts and for the ease of this step it's important not to be lazy and think Screw it! Myself and my wife have tested lots of the bottled BBQ sauces out there and they just don't seem to live up to the recipe that follows.

OK, so to make the BBQ sauce you'll need:

  • All the juices from the cooked ribs,
  • 150ml Ketchup, 
  • 150ml of Lagavulin 16 (Personally I normally use a bourbon like Four Roses or Makers Mark as both make a pretty good Manhattan to help the process),
  • 100ml Red Wine Vinegar.


Pour all the ingredients above into a sauce pan and allow it to gently simmer. Stir regularly until it's reduced to a point where if you tip the pan the liquid runs down the surface slowly. Then simply serve it as a dipping sauce on the side.

Any left over sauce is fantastic as a condiment with most meals and should last a good week or so if stored in a sealed container in a fridge.

Please note that this will bubble and splash onto the hob, plus the red wine vinegar can be a little bit pungent.