Murray’s Teaches: Whiskey and Cheese Class

In technical terms, Christine Clark is a Certified Cheese Professional. In her own words, she is a “really passionate geek.” This makes her well-qualified to teach classes about cheese, and as the Assistant Manager of Education at Murray’s, that’s exactly what she does.

Every day at our shop on Bleecker Street, Christine and her team lead cheese-centric classes. Examples include Cheese 101, Burrata Making, and Spanish Wine & Cheese. What happens in a class like this? For one, there’s a lot of cheese eating involved. This includes no less than six varieties, often featuring reserve products that are exclusive to Murray’s. And if you’re doing a pairing class, there’s always a beverage to go with each one. That was the case last week, when we teamed up with Bruichladdich Distillery for a special installment of our Whiskey and Cheese series.

whiskey whisky scotch cheese class classes education murray's bruichladdich islay

whiskey whisky scotch cheese class classes education murray's bruichladdich islay

Though we tend to think that the natural pairing partner for cheese comes from grapes, it is just as sensible for your pairing to come from grain. Scotland is the undisputed whiskey capital of the world, and within Scotland, the most legendary region of production is a small island off the west coast called Islay. There are only eight distilleries on Islay, and Bruichladdich is one of them. We were fortunate enough to have one of Bruichladdich’s ambassadors, Jason Cousins, present to co-teach the class with Christine.

As Jason noted up front, the most difficult thing to learn about Scotch is pronunciation. For example, how would you think to say “Bruichladdich” out loud? Broo-ich LAW Ditch? BROKE Ladike? The proper pronunciation is actually rather simple: Brook LADDIE. For a mnemonic device, just remember that a brook is a small river and a laddie is a small boy. And Islay is not pronounced IZ-lay or ICE-law. Rather, it’s AISLE-uh. “After that,” as Jason said, “everything is easy.”

whiskey whisky scotch cheese class classes education murray's bruichladdich islay

Indeed, he was right. Jason gave an overview of whiskey in general and Scotch in particular, and though it was as nuanced as the Scotch itself, it was also just as smooth. He and Christine had met the week beforehand to taste through Bruichladdich’s whiskies and test out pairings for each one. According to Christine, the general rule of thumb when devising pairings is: “One plus one should equal three.” This is not to say she is bad at math, but rather that, when combining the experience of one product with the experience of another, they should create a sensation that is greater than the sum of its parts.

That was certainly the case with the pairings we tasted. We began with the Classic Laddie, Bruichladdich’s flagship expression. It is unpeated and imminently drinkable, and its flavors of apple, melon, and vanilla brought a whole new dimension to Sweet Grass Dairy’s Green Hill, a bloomy rind cheese with a deeply buttery quality.

On the other end of the peat spectrum is Bruichladdich’s Octomore 7.1, which has the distinction of being the peatiest whiskey in the world. What can stand up to such a formidably smoky Scotch? That would be Up in Smoke, an Oregon goat’s milk cheese that is smoked over maple wood and then wrapped in smoked maple leaves. You may think that this would lead to smoky, peaty overkill, but both products are so expertly made, so impressively controlled, that they each brought out new characteristics in the other.

Octomore typically goes for around $170 a bottle, which is one of the reasons we love doing tasting classes—you get to experience products you might not otherwise consider. This is especially true with one of the class’s favorite pairings of the evening: Roomano Extra Aged Gouda and Bruichladdich’s Black Art 5. The Black Art series is Bruichladdich’s most exclusive expression, and the version we tasted had been aged for 24 years. It’s a spirit that is certainly worthy of its $400 price tag. Rich and desserty, it complemented the most aged cheese on the night’s slate, creating what one attendee referred to as the ultimate after-dinner bite.

By the end of class—as is so often the case—most everyone found themselves with a fuller stomach and a brighter brain. There was also a consensus that the ability to notice and enjoy flavor grew as the class progressed, in spite of any well-documented effects that alcohol may have on the palate. This is because our capacity to appreciate something increases the more we know about it. Cheese class makes cheese taste better, plain and simple. It also happens to be a great time—regardless of what you are imbibing.

So, we’d love to have you in our classroom. With nine classes every week, there’s certainly something that’s right up your alley. You can take a look at our schedule to see for yourself. We hope to see you soon!

whiskey whisky scotch cheese class classes education murray's bruichladdich islay

Spring is in Full Bloom – and so are Our Cheeses!

It’s official: Spring has finally sprung. Sure, we might still be a little chilly, but we know that flowers are getting ready to bloom and little baby cows, goats, and sheep will soon be joining the world. Then suddenly, there will be bloomy cheese everywhere! We’re definitely not complaining – we love these young, soft cheeses made from milk that comes fresh from the pastures and goes straight into becoming cheese. They’re only aged for a month or so, allowing them to keep the grassy, fresh milkiness that we know and love them for. To celebrate spring, here’s a few of our favorite bloomy rinded, warm(ish) weather cheeses! 

Kunik

Out of the South Adirondacks, comes this triple threat. First, a layer of lemony goat’s milk is enriched with fatty Jersey cow cream, to create a mushroomy, intensely buttery flavor and the utmost decadent paste. Murray’s buys these cheeses as soon as they’re made, then let them spend a little time ripening in our Long Island City caves. The hints of minerals from the fresh pastures at the foot of the South Adirondacks are coaxed out during this time, and it makes it the best cheese to have with a sparkling, fruity rose.

Hudson Flower

Speaking of flowers blooming, our Hudson Flower is ready to grace your cheese plate. Young wheels of decadent sheep’s milk from the nearby Old Chatham Cheese Company are sent to our caves, where they then receive a fresh coat of rosemary, lemon thyme, marjoram, elderberries, and hop flowers, a flavorful blend based on the sheep’s springtime diet. These bright herbs impart a certain woodsy, floral aroma that always get us in a  springtime sort of mood and make an unforgettable flavor.

Up in Smoke

Every time we carefully pull back the edges of the maple leaves that wrap up this rindless chevre like a gift, we feel like we’re welcoming spring itself. The incredible balance of deep, smoky richness and clean minerality comes from the diet of the goats, who are set to pasture year round. But we love it best in the spring time, where the lemony, grassy goat’s milk is at its best. The little round is then smoked over alder and maplewood, then wrapped in leaves and misted with bourbon. These citrusy nuggets are the epitome of bright, crisp spring cheeses.

St. Stephen

These small, bloomy wheels come from the Hudson Valley creamery, Four Fat Fowl. A triple creme made with the cream from Jersey cows (arguably the best, creamiest milk there is), these little wheels are delicately buttery, with hints of sun-dried wheat, newly emerged grass, and sweet cream beneath the pillowy rind. If we’re talking about local terroir (that taste of place we love), you know we’re talking about St. Stephen. If you’re looking for even more of that fresh spring flavor, drizzle it with local wildflower honey, and find something bubbly to drink.

Coupole

The brainchild of one of America’s most innovative and groundbreaking cheese makers, Allison Hooper of Vermont Creamery, this beauty is made with fresh pasteurized goat’s milk that comes from family farms. Once those farms are teeming with baby goats is when this cheese really starts to shine. The fresh, grassy notes are brightened with the velvety paste and unctuous creamline. We want to celebrate this perfection (and the blooming of springtime) with a glass of something sparkling. Go classic with a French champagne or an American cider.

 

Chocolate & Cheese: The Perfect Pair for V-Day

Valentine’s Day is soon (read: two weeks!), so now’s as good a time as any to start thinking about your V-Day plans. Maybe you’ve got romantic plans out, or maybe you’re having a sweet night in, but we know there should be one thing involved: chocolate. Being cheesy experts ourselves, we think cheese goes with everything, and chocolate is no exception. While you might not think these sweet and savory delights go together, we’re here to prove you wrong. 

Roomano & Raaka Bourbon Cask Bar

Something about this decadent, aged Gouda just begs for something sweet. Its notes of caramel and sweet-salty butterscotch usually are paired with a nice glass of scotch and whiskey, but if you’re looking to add a little sweetness, the Raaka Bourbon Cask bar is the way to go. The dark virgin chocolate is enhanced with the flavors of aged bourbon, with bright notes of spicy rye, vanilla, and caramel. Since we know like goes with like, these two were just meant to be.

Persille de Rambouillet & Murray’s Munchies Milk Chocolate Grahams

Blue cheeses and chocolate always go together – they’re like a couple of high school sweethearts! But Persille de Rambouillet is like the head cheerleader – popular, smooth, and sweet. The Alpine goats milk that goes into this blue creates clean lactic notes, with hints of white pepper and sweet cream. It’s that sweet cream and gentle piquancy that makes the chocolatey crunch of Murray’s milk chocolate covered graham crackers all the more delightful. (Hint: you might even want to spread the cheese directly onto the chocolate chunks. It’ll blow your mind!)

Pleasant Ridge Reserve & Pralus Dark Chocolate Infernal Bar

Summer pasture fed cow’s milk, with hints of floral, fruity flavors, Pleasant Ridge Reserve has those bites of sweetness we love. Like the Alpine cheeses it is inspired by, it goes great with a dark chocolate. We love it with the dark chocolate Infernal bar from Pralus Chocolatier, where the chocolate is fruity and deep and filled with toasty hazelnuts. We’re talking a match made in heaven, if we’re being honest – and it sure is heavenly.

Up in Smoke & Mast Brothers Chocolate Stumptown Coffee Bar

Sultry smokiness paired with roasty coffee – honestly, what can be better? With a ball of fresh goat’s milk cheese wrapped in maple leaves and then smoked, there’s a deep, campfire-y richness and clean minerality that reminds us of smelling cooking bacon in the morning, but sweet. Add your cup of coffee or make it a mocha with the chocolate bar from Mast blended with freshly roasted coffee beans, and this is exactly what you’ve been looking for. Our taste buds have heart eyes.