Everyone has heard of wine going phenomenally well with cheese. Why not try whisky instead of red? The dynamic and complex flavours of whisky is relatively a new entrant to the world of cheese but it is a wonderful match for cheese, slicing through the creaminess and providing a rich palette of flavours to play with.
The key principle towards an extraordinary pairing experience is balance. It is imperative to match powerful whiskies with powerful cheeses, and respectively, body with body, and flavour with flavour. It is also vital 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, therefore need a whisky with higher acidity to cut through them.
Too many cheese options will confuse the palate. It will be wise to choose a nice moderate variety of cheeses. There are many cheese options to play with when it comes to whisky- different types of milk cheeses – such as cow, sheep or goat- as well as blue, hard and rind cheese.
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 will match well with mellow cheddar and sheep’s cheese.
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 works well with cheese with a high salt content, such as aged pecorino or manchego.
Aged Gouda is another outstanding match. As the cheese gets old, its salt crystals come through. It needs to be complemented by more intense whisky flavours, which it finds in the Balvenie 21 Port Wood which is rich and mellow. It also goes well with Bourbon brands such as Makers Mark and Wild Turkey.
The Islay Whiskies are renowned for their peat flavour, whose intense aromas are more compatible with yet more powerful cheeses, and should therefore be sampled towards the end. Islay Whiskies such as Ardbeg 10 Year Old, Lagavulinn 16 Year Old, or Laphroaig Quarter Cask will hit the right spot. Laphroaig 10-year-old with its medicinal Islay smoke, sweet vanilla and a touch of nuttiness combines to make this a great cheese whisky with Cheddar and a crisp slice of apple. Match Lagavulin 16 with a mature Cheddar such as Montgomery or Isle of Mull.
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.
Our very own Amrut 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 works very well with the whisky.
Try the wild road of pairing cheese and whiskies to be more creative. There is one rule to follow: start with the lightest whisky and work toward the stronger selections. Save whiskies with the highest alcohol content and peatiest flavor for last.