Wow - buying a house and moving takes up A LOT of time...consequently I haven't posted any new blog entries for a really long time – sorry about that.
At the moment I am preparing for some upcoming cheese and whisky tastings – a couple of private events in the next month, then a couple of public ones coming up in October.
Whisky and cheese matching is becoming really popular – and it’s really not surprising that they work so well together – whiskies exhibit notes of dried fruit, nuts, citrus, salty crackers and cured meats: all foods that are traditionally served with cheese. Whisky has none of the acidic tannins found in wine, which so often clash with the acidity naturally present in cheese.
On this note, I thought I would provide some cheese and whisky matching hints and tips – winter is a great time to stay in and experiment with your favourite drams and a great cheese board.
Not necessarily the first food that comes to mind when thinking whisky, but goat’s cheeses are a delightful partner to delicate, floral whiskies such as Lowlands styles and also some Kentucy Bourbons. Look for semi-matured cheeses with a wrinkly mould such as Holy Goat La Luna from Victoria, or Brunet from Italy. Some harder styles also work well, such as Garrotxa from Spain or a Tomme de Chevre from France. This is a lovely combination to enjoy before dinner, because it creates such a light and refreshing sensation on the palate.
Bries and Camemberts
A lot of people enjoy Bries and Camemberts with classic Highland styles, but for me it this combination can be a bit hit and miss. These types of cheeses mature so quickly, they can be very different from day to day, season to season. It is particularly important to make sure your cheese isn’t over-ripe, as sometimes the ammonia can combine with certain notes in whisky to create an unpleasant metallic hotness in the mouth. If you do want to try this match, find a good French brie and experiment with whiskies with soft fruit notes and a full, round mouthfeel. If you are finding unpleasant notes coming through, try just eating the soft interior of the cheese, and giving the rind a miss.
Washed Rind Cheeses (a.k.a ‘the stinkies’)
These pungent cheeses are a great match with most whiskies and Bourbons, particularly any with a well-developed sweet note – look out for mentions of vanilla, desserts, rich dried fruits or chocolate in the whisky tasting notes. Taleggio, Milawa King River Gold and Epoisses are all great choices. These cheeses will also match well with lightly peated and coastal style whiskies.
Full flavoured, matured cheddars are great matches with full flavoured peaty whiskies like those from Islay. It really is a case of the bigger the whisky, the bigger the cheese – you really need a well-developed cheddar tang to offset the rich peat and slight saltiness in the whisky.
There is something divine about a sherried whisky matched with a good quality Parmigiano Reggiano which has been matured for at least 24 months – a heady mix of salty-sweetness, dried fruit and roasted nuts – the perfect aperitif! Simply put out a big wedge of parmigiano and let your guests chisel off bite-size chunks as you serve drinks. Dutch Gouda, French Mimolette (a bit like an aged Edam), and Gruyere are also great partners to any whiskies that have been matured in ex-sherry and/or bourbon casks and have a rich fruity and floral note.
As a general rule, blue cheeses are firm friends with coastal and peaty malts. You could quite easily have an entire tasting session devoted to these partners in crime – there is something about the match of spicy blue mould mingling with salty smoke that just can’t be beaten. However, generalisations can be dangerous, and just as whiskies vary in their flavour intensity, so do blue cheeses – some are mild and creamy, and some will just about knock your socks off. This can be amplified further when you match a peat monster with a big blue cheese – the results can be literally breathtaking. To begin with try Blue de Laqueuille from France, or an Italian Gorgonzola Dolce (a milder style) – both cheeses are medium strength and have a nice balance of spiciness and cream. When you feel ready to ‘go all the way’ try Roquefort (a very strong French sheep’s milk blue) with Ardbeg Uigeadail – it lives up the old cliché of ‘an iron first in a velvet glove’ and is a match I never grow tired of.
Hopefully this gives you a few ideas to start with – you may even like to keep a little whisky and cheese diary with notes about your matches. Remember to have fun in your experimentations and always ask your local cheese-monger for help and advice when selecting your cheeses.