“A mysterious, passion-inspiring, mind-boggling force of nature…”

…that leaves in its wake a sensual afterglow and longings for more.” One would think I am speaking about whisky. Actually this is a quote about cheese from the book The Cheese Lover’s Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst.

Piave, Montgomery Cheddar, Coolea, Colton Basset Stilton
Piave, Montgomery Cheddar, Coolea, Colton Basset Stilton

Yes, whisky is passion-inspiring for those of us who drink, collect, blog, tweet and ooze excitement about whisky most every day of the week. Cheese, as so eloquently spoken above, does the same.  What then happens when you pair fine single malts with equally taste-worthy cheeses? There is a chapter in my book Whisky Tales: Tastings and Temptations that focuses on the pairings of whisky and cheese. Here is a snippet from the cheese chapter.

I have found that most people do not associate whisky with cheese. Cigars, surely, and leather chairs in a mansion library, movie-set style. Cheese, really? Certainly not all cheeses complement or contract suitable with first-rate whisky.

If you want to bring an added dimension to a whisky tasting, then bring on the best cheeses possible. Think carefully about the cheese and the progression of the whisky that you will be serving. Finding the right cheese for the right whisky takes patience along with homework on both the profile of the whisky as well as the cheese. Most of the time, but not exclusively, I select a cheese from England. The cheddars pair well with the Highland malts vs blue cheeses, such as a Stilton, which pairs well with the heavy Islay malts. Keep in mind, this is a broad statement for a wide range of cheeses but it gives you a starting point and direction to proceed. For example, I have paired an Aberfeldy 12 Y.O. with a French Petit Basque. The Petit Basque is mild and slightly nutty and to my palate the Aberfeldy in the same profile range. At the intense and robust flavor scale is the Valdeon, a Spanish blue with earthy, salty notes that can stand up with whiskies like the Talisker 10 Y.O. and the Islay Ellenton 12 Y.O.

When considering cheeses to sample so you can discover which whiskies you prefer to pair, purchase semi-hard and hard cheeses that cover a spectrum which encompasses:

  • light and subtle
  • sweet and savory
  • chewy and meaty
  • robust and blue

Here are examples of some of my preferred pairings with cheeses from several countries and single malt scotches from four different regions:

Oops! Finished the Longrow 10 YO!
Oops! Finished the Longrow 10 YO!

Whisky                                                              Cheese, Country, Type

  • Auchentoshan Classic, Lowland                 Piave, Italy, Cow
  • Glenfarclas 30 Y.O., Speyside                     Berkswell, England, Sheep
  • Longrow 10 Y.O., Campbeltown                 Coolea, Ireland, Cow
  • Blackadder Peat Reek, Islay                        Colton Bassett Stilton, England, Cow

Whichever cheeses and whisky you choose, be prepared to discuss the selection choices to your guests.   As many of us would agree, and as mentioned in a previous blog of mine: preferences are Purely Subjective.  Be prepared for a lively discussion about your guests’ likes and dislikes.

I raise a glass to fine whiskies, exceptional cheeses, and a good time had by all!