Cheese goes with almost anything you can eat and drink. And, if you thought cheese and wine was the best match ever, you need to hold your horses. Combining this dairy with whisky will make you think twice when deciding what to drink when eating a delicious and nutty cheese. Whisky and cheese pairing is the ultimate match, and it will definitely lift your spirit to another dimension.
For whisky and cheese lovers, there is no better combination than an Ardbeg and a blue cheese, a Bushmills with a goat cheese or even a Woodford Reserve with a creamy Gruyere. That’s right, in this article we will review 13 amazing cheese combinations with Scotch whisky, Irish Whiskey and Bourbon!
Besides, you will also know why cheese works so perfectly with whisky and to have a proper whisky and cheese tasting.
One thing is for sure, it’s a match made in heaven!
Table of Contents – Sip this Article
- Why Cheese is Good With Alcohol
- Whisky and Cheese Pairing – 4 Types of Whisky and Their Best Matches
- Final Thoughts
Cheese has always been the best party partner when it comes to pair it with alcohol. Usually, people pair it with wine and beer, but pairing cheese with a higher alcohol content beverage is also a great idea.
There is something about cheese that makes it so versatile and a perfect match when having a drink. Being it the saltiness, smokiness, or the fat, the truth is that it works perfectly. And even better: cheese works perfectly with almost any kind of alcoholic beverage.
Cheese and red wine are a classic match when it comes to tastings, but have you thought about cheese and cognac? Or with Brandy? Ever thought about cheese and Gin? And Cheese and Vodka? For us, the best pairing is, of course, cheese and whisky.
This pairing goes so well, sometimes it starts in cheese production. There are a few of these diary products that have some kind of alcoholic beverage mixed in production to help developing the cheese’s character.
But why is cheese good with alcohol? First, it all comes down to the fat of the cheese. It has the ability of coating one’s palate and help you feel the flavours without the alcohol bite, especially when talking about high alcohol content beverages. And the opposite is true as well. The alcohol cuts the fat on the cheese, letting one taste the cheese in its true form.
When pairing alcohol with cheese, one of two things can happen: either the flavours are reflected in one another or the main characteristic of each other is intensified. And one way or another, you’ll have an amazing experience.
Besides being the pairing to go to whenever having a tasting or just to snack while drinking, cheese can be your best friend preventing a hungover. Yes, you have read it right! All the nutrients of this food (the carbs, protein, and fat) will coat one’s stomach and inhibit it to soak up the alcohol faster. And, by doing this, you’re hungover is avoided. You welcome!
The sort answer is to this question is: Yes! And it is a match made in heaven. Whisky and food pairings might be a little hard to uncover, but cheese is the safest and best choice.
In fact, whisky go so well with cheese that the Scotch Whisky giant Macallan have already made a collaboration with Murray’s Cheese. The result: 4 perfect matches between Macallan exquisite whisky expressions and the fine and creamy Murray’s Cheeses.
Besides this truly amazing project, there are a bunch of whisky and cheese pairings that were meant to be together. Some cheeses have a totally opposite flavour but end up bringing the whisky flavours to light; and other pairings just complement each other perfectly.
Whisky and cheese pairing is great, but there is a way to experience this combination even better! The whole tasting process can make you discover a lot more than just the flavours you expected in the cheese or the whisky itself.
Firstly, richest cheese goes last. For instance, if you have a goat cheese, a brie and a blue cheese in your cheese board, you should start with the brie, then the goat’s and the blue cheese will come in last. Why this order? Because richer and smokier cheeses will overpower the lighter whisky expressions and the flavour of other cheeses.
The second thing you’ll have to do is to let the cheese to be at room temperature, as it happens with the whisky.
Lastly, we have a suggestion on how you should taste whisky and cheese together:
- Smell the whisky and discover the aromas it unveils.
- Smell the cheese and see how it connects with the whisky.
- Sip the whisky and swirl it around your mouth before swallowing it. Notice the flavours and the background notes.
- Now that you know the flavours of the whisky, have a second sip.
- While you still have a bit of whisky on your mouth, bite a little of the cheese and notice how the two of them interact. Ask yourself the questions:
- Are the flavours complementary?
- Or they bring other flavours upfront?
- Did the cheese change any flavours of the whisky?
- Is the finish of the whisky any brighter?
Discover how to properly taste whisky, in this guide: https://www.whiskyflavour.com/blog/how-to-drink-whisky-properly/
As you taste the whisky and the cheese, flavours and density can change, making this a very interesting pairing within the whisky tasting world. Not only the flavours of the whisky can be brought to life with the right cheese, the cheese’s flavours and aromas can also be enhanced by the spirit you chose.
Scotland is one of the biggest producers of whisky and, as the name says it all, owns all production of Scotch Whisky.
As the final product, scotch whisky one the most searched and sold types of whisky in the world. From Single Malt Scotch Whisky to Blended Scotch, there are endless expressions of this spirit, so it is difficult to provide a flavour profile. However, there are a few things that are characteristic of scotch. We’re talking about the peaty and smoky flavours, the malted barley backgrounds and even the light sea salt notes present in some scotch whisky expressions.
To have a great scotch whisky and cheese pairing, you must be aware of the tasting notes of that whisky expression. If it is a more smoky / peated dram, go for a blue cheese, as this will balance it out. If you aim to match the flavours, our advice is to go for harder and nuttier cheeses, as the alpine-styled ones.
The next combinations are the ones we suggest:
The Macallan 12 Years Old Double Cask + Young Pecorino Romano Cheese
The Macallan is one of the world’s most exquisite Single Malt Scotch Whisky brands and, as stated before in this article, the brand collaborated with Murray’s Cheese in order to elevate the whisky and cheese tastings. In their guide they suggest to pair Macallan 12 Years Old Double Cask with a young Pecorino Romano Cheese. We couldn’t be happier with this scotch whisky and cheese pairing.
As this The Macallan expression is rich in sweet and citrus flavours such as honey, caramel, orange, and spices, a young Pecorino Romano is a salty, aromatic, and sharp sheep’s cheese.
As it happens with a sheep’s cheese, the salt will play with the spices present in The Macallan 12-Years Old Double Cask and cut the citrus flavours. Salty and sweeter notes play with each other, bringing the honey and vanilla flavour background of the whisky to light.
Being that it is a young cheese, it won’t be too hard and it will play smoothly with the whiskies density and finish.
Glen Garioch 12-Years Old and Parmigiano – Reggiano
Coming from Aberdeenshire, Glen Garioch is the most eastern distillery of the world. And, alike its location, the scotch whisky produced there is quite unique as well.
The Glen Garioch 12-Years Old is a sweet, smooth, and oaky dram. It also has fruity notes such as banana and pears. By its turn, Parmigiano-Reggiano is a hard cheese made from cow’s milk. It has the nutty flavour notes necessary to make it a flavour enhancer, no matter what it is pairing with.
The Glen Garioch 12-Years Old whisky with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is an amazing combination of opposite forces. The whisky as a creamy finish, while the cheese offers a hard density. Besides, the cheese will play as a stage for the whisky to shine bright! The Parmigiano’s nutty and sweet flavours will bring out the malted barley flavours of this single malt scotch whisky.
Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14-Year Old Single Malt + Briquette de Brebis cheese
The Balvenie is the Speyside’s most well-known scotch whisky brand and it has a reason: their drams are elegant and innovative, as it is the case of The Balvenie Caribbean Caks 14-Years Old.
This expression combines the best of The Balvenie knowledge in crafting whisky with an innovative finish in rum casks. This process leads the whisky to have gentle sweet and vanilla notes and end with a molasses and fresh fruit flavours.
Regarding the cheese, the Briquette de Brebis is a soft and creamy French cheese with nutty aromas and flavours that will serve as a platform and play with the fresh notes of the whisky.
The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14-Years Old and Briquette de Brebis cheese pairing is a smooth and sweet combination that play along together, as the nutty flavours of this sheep’s cheese bring up the fruit flavour notes present in this scotch whisky.
Ardbeg Uigeadail + Blue Stilton cheese
A whisky expression giant must be paired with a cheese that matches its greatness. Being awarded year after year, Ardbeg Uigeadail is one of the most peated drams one can find. And, Blue Stilton has the character needed to pair with this dram.
Ardbeg Uigeadail Single Malt Scotch Whisky is aged in ex-sherry casks, which give it the peated, sweet, and spicy flavours. One can also find nutty flavours, fruit (such as lemon and banana), besides the smoke and salty background.
To play and match this full-bodied whisky, only a cheese as Blue Stilton can be the perfect pair. Although it is a blue cheese, it is softer than gorgonzola, for instance. It is a mellow cheese full of character with salty and nutty flavour notes that will be the perfect introduction for the smoky notes of Ardbeg Uigeadail.
The Blue Stilton cheese also brings up the mild fruity notes of this scotch whisky expression. And, if you think this whisky and cheese pairing would be a clash of titans, you couldn’t be more wrong. They play along nicely, while bringing each other up to light.
The Ardmore Legacy + Gorgonzola
A lightly peated scotch whisky expression and a punchy cheese. That is how you play with complementary opposites!
Ardmore Legacy is a smooth but dry expression that combines light smoke, sweet and spicy notes. It has a smoky charcoal flavour notes in the background that gets balanced with cinnamon, honey, vanilla, and light citrus notes.
Gorgonzola is a punchy Italian cheese that has a grassy and earthy taste. Being a semi-firm and salty blue cheese, it will play wonderfully with the dry character of the Ardmore Legacy scotch whisky.
Besides being salty and grassy, Gorgonzola will bring up the citrus notes of the whisky, as well as provide a contrasting balance between them and the sweeter notes of this dram.
Alongside with Scotland, Ireland is one of the countries that live off its whisky heritage. Until this day, both countries reclaim the invention of this spirit, but just one thing we know for sure: is that Ireland was the home of the first whisky distillery – Bushmills!
So, what makes Irish Whiskey different from the others? The core difference lies on the distillation process in which the whiskey must go through a triple distillation copper pot stills or in a continuous column distillation process.
Another difference one can notice regarding scotch whisky, is the spelling: Irish whiskey is written with an ‘e’, contrarily to Scotch.
And, because the grains are largely unmalted or not dried with peat (as it happens in several scotch whisky distilleries), Irish Whiskey turns out to be smoother with floral, fruity, and cereal flavour notes. As it ages, this whiskey usually gains sweeter flavours such as caramel and oak.
Have this flavour notes in mind when preparing a whisky and cheese pairing, since the cheese can either contrast or complement smoothly the Irish whiskey flavours. Due to its lighter character, density and flavour notes, the best cheese to go with Irish Whiskey may be goat’s cheese, as it is salty and have bolder flavours. However, if you’re looking for a complementary whisky and cheese pairing, you might want to taste Irish Whiskey with Brie.
Tullamore DEW + Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese
A classic Irish Whiskey blend that combines single malt whiskeys, single grains and ex-sherry and ex-bourbon casks to bring all the smoothness together. Tullamore DEW is another Irish giant that had to have its place in this guide.
As a true Irish Whiskey, Tullamore DEW has the perfect combination of sweetness, fruit, and spice. While tasting this dram, one can expect to find toffee and vanilla notes, as well as sherry and some spice.
Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese, by its turn, is one of the best cheeses to go with Irish Whiskey. This is a cow’s cheese and it has a hard texture that will be a great platform for Tullamore DEW’s medium-body. Being a nutty and lightly spiced cheese, it will smoothly play with the sweeter notes of this dram.
Bushmills The Original + Killeen’s St Tola goat cheese
Bushmills is a true Irish Whiskey giant, being that The Original is one of the expressions most sold worldwide and that its distillery was the first to be constructed of all time.
Bushmills The Original is a smooth, triple distilled blend made from a single malt and a single grain Irish Whiskey. It was matured in ex-sherry and ex-bourbon casks, which give the dram sweet and fruity flavour notes.
This Irish Whiskey expressions is known for being a warm dram. It has sweet flavours with caramel, honey and vanilla warm notes and a fruity background. To play with these back flavour notes, the Killeen’s St. Tola Goat Cheese is the perfect match.
This is a fresher cheese with citric notes that will bring the fruity flavours of Bushmills The Original to light. Besides, being a goat cheese, it has sweet flavours that will dance with the sweet present on the Bushmills expression and the creamy consistency of the cheese will transfer to the whiskey’s density.
Teeling Single Grain + Matured Cheddar
There’s only a little portion of “normal” when talking about Teeling Single Grain. Although the triple distillation is there to confirm the Irish whiskey production process, this expression is made with mostly Corn in its mash.
Besides, the Teeling Single Grain is also aged in ex-Cabernet Sauvignon Red Wine Casks, which gives it red berry flavour notes. With the grain sweetness as background, this expression has a light and smooth density.
With a sharp matured cheddar, the tannic flavour notes of this Irish expression shine. This is a cheese slightly bitter and earthy, which means that the opposites flavour notes will meet and lift one another.
Being that the matured Cheddar’s texture is semi-hard, and the density of Teeling Single Grain is light, the whisky will almost slide through the cheese’s mouthfeel.
Kilbeggan Single Pot Still + Roquefort
Kilbeggan Single Pot Still is made with a completely unique mash that builds its character, alongside with the pot still double distillation.
For the mash, Kilbeggan distillery uses malted barley, raw barley, and oats, that creates the background hazelnut flavour. Besides this back flavour, the Kilbeggan Single Pot Still is an Irish Whiskey rich in floral and fruity notes, and one can also taste hints of spice. One might feel jasmine, pears and melon, as well as citrus.
Roquefort, by its turn, is a blue cheese, therefore, it is a sharp and characterful cheese. Pairing Roquefort cheese with Kilbeggan Single Pot Still is a crisp experience. That is, the sweet flavours of the cheese will play nicely with the floral notes of the whiskey. The smoky and salty notes, however, will cut the acidity of the citrus flavour notes of this dram, resulting in a even smoother experience.
We now cross the Atlantic Ocean and arrive in the United States of America, home country of Bourbon Whiskey.
Made with 51% of Corn in its mash and aged for a minimum of 2 years in charred oak barrels, Bourbon Whiskey is completely different from other whiskies such as Scotch and Irish.
Regarding its flavour profile, Bourbon has generally sweet and smoky notes, due to the use of corn in the mash and the charred oak. Besides this flavour profile, Bourbon Whiskey can also be fruity, spicy, or even salty.
To choose the best Bourbon and cheese pairing, we need to take all those flavours in consideration and pick a cheese that either will cut some of the flavour notes to make other shine or pick one that will complement the whole character of the Bourbon whiskey.
So, what cheese goes with Bourbon? We suggest a nutty, creamy, and smooth cheese like Gouda. Pair it with Jim Beam and you will have a standard, but powerful match.
Jim Beam + Gouda
As one of the most known (and a bestseller) Bourbon Whiskey, we couldn’t miss Jim Beam Bourbon Whiskey in this guide.
Aged for four years in charred oak barrels, Jim Beam has the same recipe for 225 years. The result is a sweet, oaky, and fruity bourbon with notes of vanilla, caramel, and light hints of spice.
Gouda, by its turn, it’s a nutty and smooth flavoured cheese that will just play nicely and had balance in your tastings.
Woodford Reserve + Gruyere
Labelled as Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, it is said that Woodford Reserve has more than 200 detectable flavour notes. Such an impressive Bourbon cannot pair a cheese that will overpower its flavours. Rather, it must be paired with a cheese that will enhance its body and character. That’s why we suggest Gruyere for this whiskey and cheese pairing.
Woodford Reserve is a Bourbon with a bold character and, while tasting it, one may find sweet, spice, floral and fruity notes perfectly balanced. With a silky and round body, it has sweet notes of chocolate and toffee. As spice, one may find notes of cinnamon. Besides, citrus, berries, apples and rose petals are also present on this dram profile.
The Swiss cheese Gruyere will be the perfect platform for Woodford Reserve to shine. Its creamy and nutty flavour will fit perfectly with the sweeter notes of the whiskey and its hints of salt will cut the citrus flavours and bring up some spicy hidden notes. If you choose an older Gruyere, the earthy notes will be more noticeable and play nicely with the spice of the bourbon.
Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve + Aged Cheddar
The Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve is aged in handpicked oak barrels. As a Bourbon Whiskey, this dram is rich in vanilla, caramel, and nuts flavours.
This Bourbon Whiskey expression is rich in its flavours and background notes. One can expect a backdrop of chocolate and cinnamon, coated with oak, vanilla, and caramel. The nutty finish is the logical bridge to pair the Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve with an aged cheddar cheese.
Aged Cheddar cheese is a dry cheese with a sharp character, for sure. The sweet flavour notes will pair perfectly with the vanilla and oak of the Knob Creek Bourbon and, as it is aged, its earthy and nutty flavour will play nicely with the bourbon’s chocolate and cinnamon notes. It also has a salty taste that goes along with the caramel taste of the spirit.
Four Roses Small Batch + Brie
When it comes to whiskey and cheese pairing, few are the matches as mellow as this one. Handcrafted and created with especial attention to detail, Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey is truly a favourite among bourbon lovers. Pairing this expression with a brie will just melt your heart.
Four Roses Small Batch is rich and mellow, with a smooth body. It is known for its berries, caramel, and oak flavour notes.
By its turn, Brie is a mild and creamy cow’s cheese that will soften even more the density of the bourbon. Besides, the nutty flavour of this French cheese pairs perfectly with the berry taste of this bourbon expression, while the earthy notes of the cheese dance slowly with the caramel and oak flavour of Four Roses Small Batch.
To say that whisky and cheese go well together is to diminish the stamina of this power couple! As soon as one can choose the best whisky and cheese pairing, the sooner they discover how to take their whisky tastings to another level.
As we have seen in the paragraphs above, smokier / peatier whiskies will find their best partner in the sharper cheeses, such as the blue cheeses. When a whisky has aged in sherry or bourbon casks, you might want to combine them with harder cheeses with a pinch of salt. And, when more exotic flavours are present in a dram, combining them with a nuttier and softer cheese make those flavours shine.
When pairing sweeter drams, such as Bourbon, with cheese, you might not want to have an overpowering combination. So, you might want to go for the softer, creamier, and nuttier cheeses
Most of the times, the cheese will serve as a platform to bring hidden whisky flavours to light. And, believe us, it really works!