Mention cheese and the words “and wine” almost automatically fall off the tongue next. But put the cork back in that bottle. Whiskey and cheese, it turns out, pair incredibly well, maybe even better than wine and cheese. Who knew? Well, the folks at the French Cheese Board in downtown Manhattan did. Charles Duque, the managing director of the French Dairy Board in the Americas, says, “Pairing spirits and cheese has been going on for at least the last 20 years and has gotten more popular in the last 10.” There are some compelling reasons for high-proof spirits to team up with cheese: “The fat of the cheese protects the palate from the burn of alcohol,” Duque says. “Also the pairing works because the aromatic profile is much easier to match than any terroir consideration [as with wine].”
In most cases, we enlisted the help of two fromage gurus from the French Cheese Board, Raymart Dinglass and Baptiste Elhorry, in pairing cheeses with whiskies from Scotland and the US, ranging from sweet bourbons to a peaty Islay single malt, and trying to hit a wide range of flavor notes between the two.