Whiskey is a sipping drink, a sitting with friends or a fireplace or a sunset off the porch drink. But is it also a pairing-with-cheese drink? Wine-and-cheese tastings are old news, but just like a good wine, whiskey has the complexity of flavor and range of varieties to make it a compelling and inspiring complement.
You can choose from a variety of approaches — several whiskeys with one cheese, one bottle and several cheeses, a sequence of whiskey/cheese matches, or a single (well-thought-out) pair.
Trying a variety of sips or cheeses against a single foil gives you a chance to see how different whiskeys change the way you taste a cheese, or vice versa. This suits itself best to a tasting party. Jon Allen describes a thorough tasting procedure on Square Meal:
Take a sip of your dram and let it coat your tastebuds and inside of your mouth. Swallow and savour the finish. Then pop in a mouthful of cheese, chew and taste. Your perceived flavour of the cheese will be affected by what the spirit has done to your sense of taste. Then take another sip of the malt. It’s at this stage that you’ll discover whether you have a magical combination. If you have, a whole new taste will have been created. Discuss among yourselves whether it worked, or didn’t, and why.
You can also thoughtfully pair a single whiskey with a single cheese, and serve one pairing or a sequence as the main event at a cocktail party or for an elegant — and surprising — dinner party's last course. In this case, rather than discovering the intricacies of pairings as you taste them, you want to plan them out in advance. Try a smokier liquor with with a similarly strong cheese like Stilton, or an amber whiskey with a crumbly bleu. Ripe Brie pairs well with the oakiness of aged Glenlivet, and the sweetness of bourbon can be accentuated by cheddar or contrasted with a fresh goat cheese.
Whatever path you choose, and whether for party guests or a romantic evening for two, pairing whiskey and cheese makes for a surprising and savory combination.