The Macallan Whisky & Cheese Pairing Guide

Scotch whisky is every bit as diverse, intricate, and nuanced as cheese, so it helps to know which whiskies go best with which cheeses. With that in mind, we partnered up with our pals at The Macallan to put together this definitive guide for pairing their whiskies with the best possible cheesy companions. Without further ado, we present The Macallan Whisky & Cheese Pairing Guide:

Triple Cask Matured 12 Years Old

Nose: Complex with a hint of fruit and heather honey
Taste: Soft and malty, balanced with oak and fruit
The Perfect Pair: An extra aged gouda, such as Roomano
Here’s why: Triple Cask Matured 12 Years Old’s unique and complex honey sweetness enhances the caramel and toffee notes for which this cheese is so beloved.
Also pairs well with:
– A classic Comté , such as Murray’s Comté
– A creamy cheddar, such as Milton Creamery Prairie Breeze

Double Cask 12 Years Old

Nose:  Creamy butterscotch, candied orange, vanilla custard
Taste:  Honey, spices, and citrus, balanced with raisins and caramel
The Perfect Pair: A young manchego, such as Murray’s Young Manchego
Here’s why:  This sheep’s milk cheese is rich yet mellow, cutting through the citrus and spice notes within Double Cask 12 Years Old while enhancing the notes of honey and vanilla custard.
Also pairs well with:
– A French sheep’s milk cheese, such as Brebis du Haut-Bearn
– A
n earthy, truffled pecorino, such as Murray’s Pecorino Tartufello

Sherry Oak 12 Years Old

Nose:  Vanilla with a hint of ginger and dried fruits
Taste:  Smooth, rich dried fruits and sherry, balanced with wood smoke and spice
The Perfect Pair: An aged Alpine Gruyère, such as Murray’s Cave Aged Gruyère
Here’s why:  Alpine cheese typically leads with hints of caramelized onion, roasted garlic, and sweet, nutty notes. These flavors pair particularly well with the mellow wood smoke and dried fruit notes in Sherry Oak 12 Years Old.
Also pairs well with:
– An American Alpine-style cheese, such as Jasper Hill Farm Alpha Tolman
– A Swiss Alpine-style cheese, such as Annelies or Challerhocker

Triple Cask Matured 15 Years Old

Nose:  Full with hints of rose petal and cinnamon
Taste:  Intense rich chocolate, notes of orange and raisin
The Perfect Pair: A mellow blue cheese, such as Castello Traditional Danish Blue
Here’s why:  The salty, buttery flavors found in this blue cheese provide a refined contrast to the Triple Cask 15 Years Old’s floral and citrusy notes. It’s a perfect example of opposites attracting.
Also pairs well with:
– A Bavarian blue, such as Chiriboga Blue
– A buttery blue, such as Jasper Hill Farm Bayley Hazen Blue

Rare Cask

Nose:  Vanilla, raisins, and chocolate, followed by citrus fruits and spices
Taste:  Nutty spices, tempered by raisin and citrus
The Perfect Pair: A rich Camembert, such as Murray’s Camembert Fermier
Here’s why:  This funky, bloomy-rinded cheese has sweet, floral notes that bring out the Rare Cask’s qualities of maple syrup and candied nuts. The vanilla and citrus in the Rare Cask also help to cut through the cheese’s richness.
Also pairs well with:
– A woodsy, creamy bloomy rind, such as Jasper Hill Farms Harbison
– A soft-ripened triple creme, such as buttery blue, such as Delice de Bourgogne

And just like that, you’re ready for a fine dram and its perfect partner in cheesy refinement. In terms of the best way to enjoy your Scotch: you’ll get the most out of it by sipping on it at room temperature either neat or with a drop or two of water. Ice will chill the spirit, locking up both its taste and its aroma. A tiny bit of water can act to release new properties in the whisky, but a little bit goes a long way. With stuff of this quality, its best to appreciate it in its purest form.

Slàinte mhath.

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

Diamonds are a Cheese’s Best Friend

Have you ever seen a piece of Parm, waiting in your local cheese shop, like a sparkling diamond? Wait, is it actually sparkling? You’re probably wondering what those little crystals, sprinkled over the paste of your cheese are. Or maybe you’ve bitten into a super aged cheddar, only to have a bit of crispy crunch break in. Maybe you love that little crunch – asking your monger for the “crunchies” whenever you visit the shop. Those little cheese diamonds, they’re a cheese lover’s best friend. They’re also known as tyrosine crystals. But how do they get there? Are they a flaw in the cheese or a sign of cheese mastery? We’ll lay it out for you.

The word tyrosine comes from the Greek word ‘tyros’, which, of course, means cheese. These crunchy clusters only appear on well-aged cheeses – that’s because they form over time, as cheese ages and the proteins start breaking down. If you want the more scientific answer, stay with us for a sec:

Cheese is made up of fats and proteins that are trapped in a matrix of proteins (think of it as a big spider web of protein molecules). As cheese ages, the chains of proteins break down, creating these small, crunchy amino acid clusters that are left behind. This shouldn’t be confused with the salty crunch left on the outside of washed rind cheeses – that’s residual salt left over from a brine wash. These tyrosine crystals stay on the paste, adding a delightful crunch to cheeses with a normally smooth paste.

Now, we’re talking about these little gemstones like they’re good things. But are they something cheesemakers are going for or are they a mistake in the process? Well, it depends on who you ask. For a long time, especially in the United States, these little crystals were seen as a defect – because of the appearance of tyrosine crystals, big cheese factories worried that the cheese would look moldy and get tossed in the trash. But nowadays, more people are seeing these cheese diamonds as the sign of a well-aged, delicious cheese that is full-flavored and complex. Our mongers hardly go a day without having someone ask for “crunchy cheese”.

From a delightful aged Gouda like Roomano, to the King of Cheese, Parmigiano Reggiano, you’ll find crunchy crystallization of all kinds. Since Valentine’s Day is on the way, let’s forgo the diamonds and sub them out for cheese diamonds. Your cheeseloving lovers will go crazy for them.

 

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.

Holland: the Land of Tall People and Bountiful Cheese

gouda_aged_goat_gouda

Note: We’re cheese people, not doctors, but we have a deep conviction that cheese is healthy. More and more, science is backing us up. This is our first in a series on why eating cheese is good for you. (The delicious part needs no proof.) 

The Dutch are the world’s tallest nation. They are also serious cheese-eaters. Coincidence? Maybe not.

“In a typical year, the average Dutch person consumes more than 25% more milk-based products than their British, American or German counterparts,” the BBC reports. “Dutch cattle produce more than 12 million tonnes of milk each year and some 800,000 tonnes of cheese – more than twice as much as the UK.” Pretty impressive for a country with a population of about one sixth of the UK’s.

gouda

Cheese is at the heart of Holland’s culture. The Dutch have been making cheese since pre-Christian times. Hundreds of years ago, an enormous amount of resources and effort were spent digging canals and  draining bogs in order to turn Holland’s marshy, wet land into livable, workable soil. By the Middle Ages, cheesemaking flourished, especially in towns like Gouda and Edam. Lush grass, temperate conditions, and all of that blood, sweat and tears created fertile pastures ideal for grazing cows. Milk flowed. And the best way to preserve sweet milk? Make cheese!

The Dutch didn’t just make cheese, they packaged, marketed and exported their bounty. In Cheese and Culture, Paul Kindstedt calls Holland “cheese provisioner of all Europe.” The country’s cheesemakers “created new markets for their cheeses through entrepreneurial innovation.” The nation has long ranked among the top exporters of cheese in the world- The Netherlands exported $4.5 billion of cheese in 2014.

But what stays at home is beloved and feasted upon. “These days, the average Dutchman is more than 6 ft tall, and the average Dutch woman about 5 ft 7in. The Dutch have gone from being among the shortest people in Europe to being the tallest in the world,” says the BBC. Of course, non-cheese factors matter, too. Holland is a wealthy country with fantastic healthcare and great overall nutrition. But then, there’s cheese.

(P.S. Inspired by the cheesefruits of Holland? Dig into some crystallized, butterscotchy Roomano, or sweep sheep’s milk Gouda.)