Whisky pairing is becoming more popular with food connoisseurs taking this to the next level by combining flavours that complement yet are contrasting at the same time. While pairing whisky with fine dining is already a common thing, gourmands are now looking at new ways to enjoy whisky — to discover the many layers and depths of the spirit through multi-sensorial measures.
One simple idea is to have whisky with cheese. The newly appointed Regional Brand Ambassador for The Balvenie in Southeast Asia, James Cordiner concurs as he walks us through the different aged whiskies in The Balvenie range and pairing it local-made artisanal cheese by Milky Whey Cheese.
While cognac is known to complement the saltiness of aged parmesan, the familiar notes of stone fruits, spices, vanilla and toffee help elevate the savoury and creamy flavours of cheese. It is hard to go wrong with sweet and salty tastes — just like popcorn or vanilla ice cream with crispy bacon.
For The Balvenie Doublewood – Aged 12 Years, Cordiner pairs it with Smoked Melaka Cheese. “For this pairing, I went for contrasting flavours of sweet vanilla, honey and toffee notes with subtle spices of cinnamon and ginger in the whisky with the gentle smoky and meaty aromas in the cheese,” he explains.
He also shares that when contrasting flavours are paired together, the nuances bounce against each other to enhance the expressions of each component. High alcohol content of whisky will cut through the creamy and fatty textures of the cheese, and help release even more flavours from the cheese.
When it comes to The Balvenie Caribbean Cask – Aged 14 Years, Cordiner decides on something more aged — 12-month-old RIK Cheese. This bottle carries sweet scents but with more tropical and fruity notes. On the nose, you get a melange of sweet aromas followed by a harmonious blend of pineapple, stone fruits, lemon grass and black pepper — saccharine but citrusy. Cordiner opines that the nuttiness and unusual tang of the cheese complement the slightly sharper finish from the whisky.
He proves it with the Jade Blue Cheese, a semi-soft and creamy blue cheese that goes hand in hand with The Balvenie Doublewood – Aged 17 Years. The intense flavours with underlining sweetness cut through the complexity of the cheese — creating a beautifully balanced mouthfeel that leaves you wanting for more.
When it comes to The Balvenie Portwood – Aged 21 Years, Cordiner shares that most older whiskies have a more delicate finish, saying: “By now, most of its harshness and tannins have evaporated, leaving a smooth and creamy texture with touches of honey, fruits, dates, prunes and smoke.”
For a more sophisticated spirit, he suggests a simple brie cheese that not only melts in the mouth but goes beautifully with the whisky — leaving a bouquet of lingering luxurious flavours. This also allows you to appreciate the whisky better, as you take smaller sips of the golden liquid (neat). The creamy cheese helps to bring out the darker notes that evolve into something more floral and fruity in the end.
But if you’re unfamiliar to the whole idea of pairing cheese and whisky — or entirely new to The Balvenie, it is always a safer choice to start with something that’s balanced and honeyed — our favourite choice, The Balvenie Caribbean Cask Aged 14 Years.