Bourbon Whiskey and Food Pairings

Here in the UK, we’ve seen a distinct increase in the amount of Bourbon whiskey drinkers. Whereas we’ve always had a fondness for Bourbon whiskey such as Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, and Wild Turkey, we’ve also seen an increase in the amounts of independent Bourbons making their way over here from the States. 

Now, before we go any further, we’re not getting into the whole, ‘Is Jack Daniels a Bourbon Whiskey?’ Debate, because we’ve far better things to do with our time. Incidentally however, JD chooses not to be referred to as Bourbon, and instead identifies as a Tennessee whiskey, so make of that what you will. 

Bourbon whiskey may typically be made for mixing and work incredibly well with mixers such as cola or lemonade, but it also works incredibly well with a wide range of different foods, which we’ll be looking at below. Forget your cheese and wine parties, here’s a look at several foods that pair perfectly with Bourbon whiskey. 

First off, what is Bourbon?

Bourbon is very different in taste to the single malt Scotch we get over here, as well as Irish whiskey, and any other whiskey for that matter. It has a much sweeter taste which all comes down to what it’s made from. 

For a whiskey to meet the Bourbon criteria, the grains it is made from must be comprised of at least 51% corn. Scotch for example, contains primarily malted barley, whereas Bourbon whiskey is primarily made from corn. The Mash must be 51% corn at least, though some will use as much as 90% corn. The rest of the mash is usually made from malted barley, rye, wheat, or a combination. 

A Bourbon must also be distilled at a max of 160% proof, or 80% ABV. Contrary to what some may tell you, Bourbon whiskey does NOT legally need to be produced in Kentucky. It can be produced anywhere in the US, as long as it meets the typical Bourbon standards and criteria. More than 90% of all Bourbon is however, produced in the state of Kentucky. 

Tennessee for example, produces Bourbon whiskey, along with Tennessee whiskey. A Tennessee whiskey must legally be produced in the state of Tennessee. Now you can see why people get so confused over the whole is Jack Daniel’s a Bourbon or Tennessee whiskey? Debate. 

Foods that pair with Bourbon

Now that we know a little more of the specifics behind what a Bourbon whiskey is, let’s now get to the fun part and start looking at some of the best foods to pair with a Bourbon whiskey. 

Oh, and a little disclaimer, we may or may not recommend Jack Daniels with some of the foods listed below. If we do, the reason is that we’re simply big ole hypocrites. 

Now that that’s out of the way, check out some of these amazing foods to pair with Bourbon whiskey. 

Apple Pie and Custard

If you’re a fan of Tennessee whiskey, or any other fine Bourbon for that matter, to satisfy your sweet tooth and take your desserts to a whole other level entirely, try sipping on a fine Bourbon while tucking into a warm apple pie or crumble.

The sweet and slightly spiciness of the Bourbon whiskey helps to compliment the richness of the pastry or crumble of the pie, while enhancing the tartness of the apples and balancing them out with sweetness.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Fatty meats

What could be better than sipping on a chilled glass of your favourite Bourbon whiskey? How about doing so between mouthfuls of rich, tender, greasy, fatty meats.

Bourbon has a high ABV and can be sweet and spicy. This makes it absolutely perfect when paired with fatty meats such as duck, lamb, pork belly, glazed ham, or ribeye steak.

Sipping on a glass of Bourbon such as Maker’s Mark or Woodford Reserve will help you to really get more flavour from your meats as the whiskey will cut through the richness with the sweet and spicy notes helping to enhance the flavours.

Photo by Peter Bravo de los Rios on Unsplash

Aged cheeses

Cheese and wine of course pair up incredibly well, but did you know that you can also pair up aged cheeses with Bourbon whiskey? 

Whereas Scotch whisky works best with creamy cheeses because it is so harsh, as Bourbon is sweet, spicy, and strong, it can handle stronger flavours. An extra-mature cheddar or an aged Gouda will pair up beautifully with a Bourbon such as Wild Turkey. 

You can even add a splash into your Mac and Cheese sauce to give it a whole other element of flavour. 

Photo by Jez Timms on Unsplash

BBQ meats

There’s a reason why so many BBQ sauces, rubs, and marinades use Bourbon whiskey (as well as Tennessee whiskey it has to be said) and that reason is that the flavours just work so incredibly well.


The smoke from the BBQ will help to compliment the charred oak notes of the Bourbon whereas the sweetness will help to elevate the flavours of the meat and cut through the richness. A simple BBQ cheeseburger topped with mature cheddar and maple-glazed bacon for example, will be taken to a whole other dimension if you pair it up with a glass of Bourbon.


In particular, a Bourbon with sweeter maple syrup notes such as the Woodford Reserve Single Barrel works very well with fattier BBQ meats such as brisket or burgers. For a sweet and tangy BBQ sauce however, you can’t go wrong with a good splash of Jack Daniel’s, or even Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey (we did warn you). 

Photo by Manuel Silva on Unsplash

Crème Brulee


Crème Brulee is another sweet dessert that goes so, so well with Bourbon whiskey.


The sweet, smoky, woody, slightly spicy notes of the Bourbon compliment the rich and creaminess of the cream and the sweet crunch of the caramelised sugar coating.

Wild Turkey Rare Breed Bourbon works especially well here, as the sharpness of the whiskey’s 58.4% ABV cuts through the richness of the cream so you can taste every single flavour in both dessert, and whiskey.

With caramel and chocolate notes, topped off by a hint of brown sugar and a touch of black pepper, your Crème Brulee dessert will taste divine when paired with this Bourbon. In truth however, virtually any Bourbon will work well with this dessert, though try to avoid ones which are especially floral. 

Photo by Alex Munsell on Unsplash

If you’re looking for a bottle or two of your favourite Bourbon to have on hand as we approach BBQ season, make sure you head on over to and check out the huge selection of whiskey they have available.


Whether you want Bourbon, Scotch, Irish, Japanese, Canadian, English, or any other whiskey/whisky, Great Drams will almost certainly have you covered.


Tags: Bourbon Whiskeyfood pairings
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My name is Greg, and I’m a brand strategy consultant, writer, speaker, host and judge specialising in premium spirits. My mission is to experience, share and inspire with everything great about whisky, whiskey, gin, beer and fine dining through my writing, my brand building and my whisky tastings.

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