Whisky and food pairing is quickly becoming a hot trend to help you pioneer the latest style of Scotch drinking in the safety of your own home tastings.
The principles and knowledge they have built while pairing Cheese and Wine for years gives us a great starting point for the types of pairing to look for with Whisky.
Let’s keep things simple and say that generally speaking when pairing Wine and Cheese you are looking to unite two strengths of flavor. Whisky and cheese work in the same way. In other words, a smelly, hard blue cheese requires a strong, full-bodied Malt while a soft and creamier cheese works best with light, smooth tasting Scotch.
The exception to this rule, however, is Peaty Scotch. Whether full-bodied or light it tends not to work as well with cheese as it overpowers a lot of flavors. Nevertheless, if you can’t keep away from the smoky stuff we’ve thrown in a sneaky peaty option for you to enjoy as our final pairing.
The Classic Combo
Crottin de chavignol is the most well-known type of goat cheese that you’ll regularly find on any respectable cheeseboard. Aside from the fancy French name it offers a nutty creaminess that often gets paired with a classic medium-bodied French red wine like Côtes du Rhône.
Hate to mess with an old-time favorite so it seems only fair to choose a medium-bodied Whisky from the classic region of Scotch. Your favorite fruit Speyside malt may be worth a try here but we’d recommend the Aberlour 12-year-old. The combination of maturation in Oak and Sherry Casks with this Scotch create a nicely balanced Malt with flavors of sweet raisins and cherry. It’s always a crowd pleaser of a Scotch and with its medium body will be the ideal way to get your cheese tasting up and running.
A Salty Surprise
For our second one we need to start things off with a bit of education on cheese crystals. These are the harder white crystals of salty deliciousness that you’ll find growing on cheeses as they are left to mature. They aren’t desirable on all cheese but with the popular hard cheese Comté they are a real sign of quality. A well-aged 24-month Comté will still contain the iconic earthy and creamy flavors of this famous cheese, but also offer some scrumptious hits of an almost crunchy salt flavor.
To help bring this out we’d pair this with a Scotch from the Orkney Islands called Scapa Skiren. It’s been matured in first-fill Bourbon Casks and offers some delightful honey and vanilla notes that work well with the cheese. Interestingly though it has gained a bit of a reputation for clear salty notes in the flavor and therefore does a great job of bringing out the flavors of those lovely crystals.
Blue Sherry Boom
Now we are getting into the strong stuff. Blue cheese tends to be loved or hated but no quality cheeseboard will be without it. They are real melt-in-the-mouth cheeses with a distinct and lasting flavor that screams out for a strong full-bodied Scotch. Roquefort for example is a rich sheep milk cheese with tangy, sharp flavors that would overpower a lot of Scotch Whisky. For that reason, we’d highly recommend full-bodied Scotch that has benefitted from long periods of Sherry Cask maturation.
The GlenDronach Allardice has been matured exclusively in Oloroso Sherry Casks for all 18 years of its maturation and is as richly flavored as any Scotch on the market. With dark notes of red cherries and even chocolate this is one of the finer Sherry boom Whiskies out there and will stand up against the strength of any quality Roquefort you can get your hands on.
The Soft Royal
After all that blue cheese strength it’s time to take things down a notch with a softer cheese and light Scotch Whisky. Mont d’Or is one of those oozy French cheeses made from cow’s milk that you have to serve with a spoon. No cheese knife necessary!
The lighter creamy flavors work really nicely with a more refined and floral dram like Royal Lochnaggar. Again this is a nicely balanced Whisky so ideal for food pairing and its subtle complexity of Lemon and Oak tasting notes do not get lost with softer cheese.
Sometimes you’ve just got to break the rules. Although a lot of people will shudder at the thought of trying to pair a peaty Whisky with cheese we may have found a way to do it. Smoky cheese of course!
Most varieties of cheese have smoky editions so get a hold of your favorite and try it with a really peaty Whisky that can hold its own against the smokiness of the cheese. We’d suggest a Laphroaig 10-year-old. The unique peaty flavor does not get lost in the cheese and brings an added edge of smokiness to the cheese.