Sipping a glass of wine with a selection of cheeses in front of you is one of the great pleasures of life. But it’s time to step out of the box when it comes to what you’re sipping alongside that cheese plate.
Sure, a fresh goat cheese and a glass of rosé is tough to beat, but a sharp cheese paired with a smooth, malty dram of whiskey will open you up to a whole new world of taste. And with a bit of exploration, you just might find whiskey to be a better match for your fromage.
“Unlike wine, whiskey doesn’t have tannins, which can dull your taste buds, allowing you to taste more of the flavors in the whiskey and cheese,” says Samantha Leotta, brand director of The Macallan.
From Leotta’s perspective, “When pairing whiskey with cheese, the goal is not just to find things that go well together, but to create a combination where the cheese and whiskey bring out something new in each other.”
Pairing whiskey with a creamy, yet robust cheese allows for a welcoming tasting environment. The pairing helps new whiskey drinkers to discern the complex flavor profiles of the spirit.
The trick to pairing cheese with whiskey is to find a whiskey that doesn’t overwhelm the cheese and, likewise, a cheese that doesn’t overwhelm the whiskey. Here are a few to try:
Alpine cheese and smoky whiskey
Alpine cheeses like comté and gruyère tend to have a nutty flavor. To pair such cheeses, you’ll want to find a whiskey that’s smoky, but not too intense. For a perfect pair, try sipping The Macallan Sherry Oak 12 Year while eating a challerhocker, which has a flavor reminiscent of caramelized onions or French onion soup. Scotches finished in sherry casks, like this one, tend to leave a smooth, fruity finish after the initial smoky flavor when the scotch first hits your lips. The mellow smoke and fruitiness marries well with the nutty cheese, almost like peanut butter and jelly.
Mellow blue cheese and floral whiskey
Thanks to added cream during the cheese-making process, a low-key blue like Chiriboga Blue is even creamier than you might imagine. This is a blue cheese for people who don’t like blue cheese. A buttery, yet mildly funky cheese like this requires something equally light, but with its own distinct flavor. A light, citrusy whiskey like Japanese darling Hibiki Harmony pairs perfectly, adding floral flavors to the light funk of the cheese.
Mildly pungent soft cheese and spicy, nutty whiskey
Either one of these selections – a mildly pungent cheese like a triple crème brie, camembert or taleggio; and a spicy, nutty spirit like The Macallan Rare Cask – are perfectly delicious alone. They’re both strong enough to hold their own, but they compliment each other perfectly, making the pairing greater than the sum of its parts. Take a funky cheese that has sweet, creamy, slightly mushroom-y notes and pair it with a whiskey with vanilla and spice in it, and you’ve got a match that will meld together beautifully, with the spice of the spirit cutting through the richness of the cheese.