Whisky & Cheese Pairings
Whisky & Cheese Pairing
Whisky is a drink enjoyed casually among friends, as well as on important occasions when only the best whiskies will do. The recent trend however of the constantly restless whisky lover is to enjoy a glass of whisky paired with cheese as an inspired finale to an indulgent meal.
In the quest for an integrated tasting experience, the key principle is balance when combining whisky with cheese. Make sure that you match powerful whiskies with powerful cheeses, and respectively, body with body, and flavour with flavour.
It is also imperative to look for good salt and fat content in the cheese, to balance out the flavours and body of the whisky. Creamier cheeses have quite a high fat content, and therefore need a whisky with higher acidity to cut through them.
Since too many cheese options would complicate the palate, choose a nice variety of cheeses, but be careful not to offer too many. Choose one or two different types of milk cheeses – such as cow, sheep or goat- as well as a blue, a hard and perhaps a rind cheese, but don't go overboard.
Come tasting time, start with the mildest combinations first. The Scottish Lowlands produce the lightest styles of malt whisky, which are smooth with floral, grassy and cereal aromas. Glenkinchie 10 Year Old is a classic malt that is not too overpowering, and has a subdued aroma that grows on you. It would match well with mellow cheddar and sheep's cheese.
Another recommendation for beginners is Glenlivet 12 Year Old, from Speyside. Both this and the Glenkinchie 10 Year Old would appeal to introductory whisky drinkers, or to the ladies who find whisky very strong. On a side note, for those who do find whisky too strong, they can also add water to bring down the alcohol level. Add the water in drops, while the whisky is at room temperature making sure not to drown it.
Most of the Scottish Islands whiskies are famous for their maritime aromas and flavours of subtle smoke, iodine and peat. These whiskies need cheese with more character. Talisker 10 Year Old is ideal for those more used to the taste of whisky. This Island whisky is sharp, with an iodine character that comes from being distilled near the sea. It works well with cheese with a high salt content, such as aged pecorino or manchego.
Aged Gouda is another excellent match, because as the cheese gets old, its salt crystals come through. It therefore needs to be complemented by more intense whisky flavours, which it finds in the Balvenie 21 Port Wood which is rich and quite mellow,it also pairs well with mulled ripened cheese such as the Irish St. Killian, which itself has a mellow mouth-feel.
And finally, the Glenmorangie Nectar D'or is a great match with Brie de Meaux.
The Islay whiskies are renowned for their peatiness, whose intense flavours are more compatible with yet more powerful cheeses, and should therefore be sampled towards the end. For those with more macho preferences, Islay whiskies such as Ardbeg 10 Year Old, Lagavulinn 16 Year Old, or Laphroaig Quarter Cask will hit the right spot. Match Lagavulin 16 with a mature cheddar such as Montgomery or Isle of Mull.
For dedicated Irish whisky drinkers, Bushmills is very soft, subtle and sweet, very much like Glenkinchie in style, and goes with bloomy rind cheeses such as Brie and Camembert.
Looking across the Atlantic ocean over to America , who can forget Bourbon? Heavy whiskies with lots of flavour, such as Bourbon, go very well with blue cheeses like Roquefort. The richness of the Bourbon goes well with the salty flavour of the cheese. Aged cheeses like Gouda also go well with Bourbon brands such as Makers Mark and Wild Turkey.
Finally, looking across the Indian ocean, there is Amrut from India . It has a powerful nose of oak, honeycomb, nuts, and spice, with light fruit on the palate. Pair Amrut with cheddar or a good French cheese called Mimolette. The firm texture and nutty flavour are the ideal complement for one of India 's best-known whiskies.