Honey, buy me this bottle!

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Four distinct whiskies, paired with cheese and chocolate, all presented as the winning silent auction experience to benefit Massachusetts’ Silver Lining Mentoring. I provided the whiskies from my personal collection, after all I can’t drink it all and it is nice to share.

The tasting was set up for eight guests and four whiskies, but the host and a few early guests were offered a tasting of the fairly new Israeli Milk and Honey Distillery‘s Young Single Malt Whisky. It is not every day one has the opportunity to sample a whisky not yet distributed locally, but hosts who support quality youth mentoring deserve big time kudos and a generous pour.

The four whiskies were selected to highlight variation in taste, locale, access, and stories. The cheese pairings, purchased at the Cheese Shop of Salem, were based on the 2016 Whisky and Cheese Infographic. Dark chocolate, ranging between 52% and 85%, rounded out the experience.

Following my simple ranking scale, below, the tasting and scoring began.

1 = Don’t buy   2 = Buy, maybe   3 = Honey, buy me this bottle   4 = Buy me two, please

I  slipped in an outlier for this single malt tasting as a surprise element and exposure to a whisky many might not be inclined to purchase.

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Kavalan: The Symphony. Distilled in Taiwan, cask strength at 58.6% APV with no age statement, it is a special release. For my money, The Symphony a prime example of the quality whisky produced by this distillery. The Kavalan was paired with Isle of Mull cheddar, complimenting the whisky’s fruity and honey notes. The chocolate, which was the hit of the night, was Fin Carre Noir Dessert 52% from France. The Kavalan scored a solid “2” average.

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Aberlour A’Bunadh Batch 53: Highland Region, Scotland. The thrill of A’Bunadh is the every changing notes as each new batch hits the shelves. This 59.7% APV whisky burst forth and exploded, amazing guests with the stark difference from the Kavalan. Strong, rich, sweet honey, burnt sugar and raisins noted the guests. Napoleon, a sheep cheese from the Pyrenees, France, paired well with the A’Bunadh, bringing out the sherry notes with its own richness. The Fin Carre and Hebert chocolate (MA produced) held their own. The A’Bunadh scored a tremendous “3+” average.

 

I shifted gears with the final two expressions. Islay peat and smoke does not appeal to everyone, but does offer a glimpse to the far end of the whisky notes spectrum.

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In a salute to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, Ardbeg‘s Galileo, Islay, Scotland, was the third dram of the night. Originally bottled (1999-2012) in honor of Ardbeg’s own launch of whisky in space, this special edition has long since left the shelves. It spent time in both marsala and bourbon barrels, resulting in smoke, pepper and a hint of fruit. Wilde Weide, a gouda from the Netherlands, is strong and complex and grabbed the attention of the guests. Turtle Alley Wicked Dark Chocolate 70-85% made in Salem, MA paired perfectly with the Galileo and the fourth and final whisky of the night. The peat overwhelmed some of the tasters resulting in a “2” score for most but a whopping “4” for one.

Another nearly impossible to find whisky, the Bruichladdich Port Charlotte PC6, Islay, Scotland was poured. After hearing about the 40ppm peat level, and leery after the peat in the Galileo, a few guests tentatively tried is sip, a few went all in. The impression was one of “I’m glad I had the chance to taste it, but…” Not for everyone, nor for most, this limited edition is one of the rare over-the-top peat giants. I love it for that reason. England’s Colston Bassett Stilton, while silky and smooth had the bite to work with both the Galileo and the PC6. The Wicked dark chocolate was right there, too. Needless to say, the PC6 was the least favorite – not a peat leaning crowd. Yet, the Stilton and the Wicked dark chocolate were gobbled up.

Congratulations to Aberlour A’Bunadh Batch 53 for wowing everyone! The guests were surprised to know it was also the least expensive of the foursome. Once again reminding all of us that price alone does not signify quality. In my humble opinion, personal preference of flavors has the biggest impact. Tasting and comparing elevates not only whisky knowledge but development of a whisky palate and personal preference.

However you prefer your whisky! Enjoy!

I raise a glass to all who actively support youth mentoring, either through financial donations or becoming a mentor to a young person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“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!