Pairing Wise: Whisky & Cheese
One rainy Mumbai afternoon, team Hipcask got together with a motley crew of food and beverage industry professionals to experiment with cheese and whiskies. Sound like a disaster? It wasn’t. A group which included a restaurateur, a brewer, an importer and a cheese maker came together in an easy, informal setting to come to an easy conclusion – whiskey with cheese is more than just a successful pairing.
Based on our homework we had a pretty good idea as to what type of whiskey is supposed to work with what type of cheese, like Islay or Speyside with Cheddar and that Blue Cheese is supposed a good pairing cheese with whiskey but we found Camembert and Brie worked much better. We, however, realized that there are no hard and fast rules of what works and what doesn’t when it comes to these pairings. In fact we found that our palates went against the stereotype pairing choices.
For us these were the pairings that stood out. Our decisions were governed by the fact that every whiskey had something new to offer once tasted with the cheese and vice versa.
Speyside Single Malt with Camembert – The smooth texture of the cheese made the already smooth whiskey smoother still with subtle sweetness taking over.
Highland Single Malt with Camembert – The character of the whiskey changed quite dramatically with the spice notes of the whiskey becoming more prominent and sweetness moving on to the back palate.
Peated Single Malt with Brie – The complex flavor of the cheese cut right through the whiskey. The tell tale harshness of the whiskey tamed itself making itself more palatable with sweeter notes coming to the fore.
Bourbon with Monterey Jack – An American whiskey with an American cheese was a no brainer. The cheese with its tang brought out the smokiness of the whisky and making it richer. It also took the typical bourbon bite out of the whiskey.
Highland Single Malt with Gouda – This whiskey and cheese pairing was a surprise pairing. Gouda brings forth the salt and nuttiness in the whiskey adding more character. It made the whisky more intense and rich.
Peated Single Malt with Monterey Jack – The sharpness of the cheese made the whiskey more subtle, it became distinctly sweeter and fresh.
Peated Single Malt with Gouda – The rich bacon notes of the whiskey became more prominent with this cheese. The saltiness of the cheese added to the complexity of the whiskey making it both sweet and salty.
To give you a quick insight into the whiskies we tried with the cheeses, we’re listing them below:
Balvenie Doublewood 12 years – From Speyside in Scotland, this single malt has spent time in 2 varieties of oak – traditional whisky oak and European sherry casks. The original casks mellows the whisky and adds character, the sherry casks add more depth and flavor to it. Sweetness of honey, hints of nuttiness and spices are key characteristics of this Scotch.
Glenmorangie Original – A popular and well known single malt is Glenmorangie, this original expression is the base for all other Glenmorangie variants. The subtle and gentle whisky has citrus, fruits and spices as its key notes. There is vanilla, candy and caramel which also make their presence felt.
Amrut Peated Single Malt – Award winning distillery from Bangalore, Amrut Distillery, created this whiskey using imported peated barley from Scotland which was then distilled in India. Coffee, vanilla, bacon, caramel and smoked wood are key.
Maker’s Mark – Bourbon from Kentucky uses wheat instead of rye and aged for 6 years takes pride in its artisanal style of whiskey making. The Bourbon itself has a subtle, clean nose with vanilla, floral notes.
Wild Turkey 101 – Another Kentucky Bourbon, Wild Turkey 101 is one of the 5 varieties that the distillery creates. 101 signifies the proof of the spirit and has the distinct sweetness which reminds you of vanilla and butterscotch which finishes off with hints of spice.
We had a mix of artisanal and supermarket cheeses. The Brie and Camembert style cheese came from Mumbai based The Spotted Cow Fromagerie (TSCF) who have named them Bombrie and Camembay, respectively.