We love to experiment with cheese pairings: wine, beer, amaro, you name it. In fact, one of our favorite sips to pair with cheese might surprise you. With flavors ranging from vanilla and citrus to forest and smoke, whiskey shines when served with a variety of cheeses. Read on for our tips on pairing whiskey and cheese, and check out our virtual pairing events to get a hands-on lesson!
Whiskey varietals are dynamic in flavor profile, even within their own categories. There are a variety of whiskey processes that effect the final flavor:
- Distillery: The terroir of the distillery (location and the design of the production rooms) really shapes how a whiskey tastes.
- Peat: The level of smokiness of the whisky is determined by how the peat is burned to dry the barley in the whiskey recipe.
- Fermentation: The length of time the liquid is fermented can affect how nutty and spicy the whiskey is.
- The Size of the Stills: Small stills mean more liquid contact with copper during the distilling process, resulting in lighter, floral, and fruity whiskies. Larger stills produce a heavier in flavor.
- Maturation Cask and Length: The style of cask - whether it is European or American oak, or if the cask has been toasted and re-used, all effect the flavor profile. Like cheese each whiskey has its peak moment of maturation, which is a decision on the part of the craftsmen.
- Craftsmen Skill: The whiskey craftsmen must take all these factors into consideration. Like specialty cheese making, it is a craft worth mastering to get desired results.
To explore whisky by flavor, we recommend visiting The Whisky Exchange.
Bourbon + Clothbound Cheddar
This whiskey style has sweeter notes of caramel and vanilla and can be described as softer in flavor. We recommend pairing this with a clothbound cheddar style, like Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, that is grassy, bright, and sharp with a caramelized nutty flavor. Round out the experience with some sweet Italian sausage and apples.
Rye & Dense + Crystalline Cheese
Rye and Dense whiskey is characteristically more spicy and full-bodied with flavor notes of earth. Rye whiskies pair well with harder cheese with a crystalline texture, like Gouda or Parmigiano-Reggiano. It’s dynamic flavor is also a great match for rich cheese, like a Camembert-style.
Scotch + Blue Cheese
Intensely smoky and pairs great with a Stilton, Roquefort or Bayley Hazen Blue (see below), scotch is a natural pairing with blue cheese. The minerality of a blue balances out the smokiness of the scotch.
Irish Whiskey + Bloomy Rind Cheese
Expect a more light, floral, and clean in flavor with hints of vanilla and citrus from this style of whiskey. Our recommendation is to pair it with rich, soft cheeses, like Brie, Camembert, or Lil' Hosmer (see below). Clothbound cheddar can also work wonderfully here.