This pairing was no easy feat because I had to start from the ground up. I am no cheese expert, so I decided to start within the realm that I am much more confident in, the spirits portion, and leave the cheese aspect up to the experts. I considered what I know about spirits that pair well with food when they are consumed on their own, consulted a couple experts on spirit pairings, and came up with my list of imbibes.
When putting together this spirited list, I have to admit I was a bit biased when it came to choosing what would be included. While, admittedly, I will drink the occasional gussied-up cocktail with several mixers that hinder the base spirit rather than help it, my true love is a drink that is very spirit forward. Therefore, I chose brands that I personally would walk into a bar and order in a drink, or would buy for my personal liquor cabinet.
I recommend this procedure for any kind of pairings or tastings that you do. Think of it as cooking with wine--would you cook with a wine that you wouldn't drink by the glass?
Ole Smoky Moonshine-Unaged Corn Whiskey
I came across Ole Smoky Moonshine at a spirits expo a few months back and was completely blown away. Ole Smoky Tennessee Moonshine makes a variety of products, but for this I chose to pair with their unaged corn whiskey.
This is sweet, floral, vegetal and wheaty. Smooth going down with a slightly acidic and fruity finish. Creamy mouth feel, slightly smoky but not overly charred. No burn at all.
The Idiazabal sheep’s milk cheese was a great pairing for Ole Smoky. The cheese is slightly mild but has some sweet notes to it, making for a nice complement to the sweetness in the whiskey. It really brought out that slight smokiness as well, which is always a nice surprise in an unaged spirit.
Calvados is an exquisite apple brandy that made for an excellent part of this pairing. As this was the first time I had tasted Calvados myself, I really enjoyed tasting it and playing around with the different flavors that it offered up, and then seeing how those flavors paired with the selection of cheeses.
The Calvados is sweet and very floral, with notes of anise, red juicy plums and citrus. The taste of apple is present but not overpowering, just a sweet bite at the end. Crisp and clean.
The Epoisse was a perfect pairing with the Calvados for me because of how they contrasted in flavor profiles. While the Calvados is sweet and fruity, the Epoisse is smoky and pungent, with flavors of nuts and smoked bacon. The salty cheese and the sweet brandy make for a superb combination.
Hayman's Old Tom Gin
Hayman’s Old Tom Gin is a special gin to me. As a gin drinker myself, I like to try the different expressions that are currently out there, and it seems that more and more distillers are starting to think outside of the box when it comes to botanicals. The heavy flavors of juniper, lemon and licorice that are so familiar in a traditional London Dry are much less obvious in this spirit, and I very much enjoyed that change of pace.
The gin is sweet, light, refreshing, robust, crisp and dry. Juniper is present but not too heavy. Flowers, peaches, pears, dried apricots.
Cheese: Rivers Edge Chevre
The Rivers Edge Chevre was not only my favorite cheese of this pairing, but the most interesting. Smoked in maple leaves, this cheese was sweet while also having the salty and slightly nutty qualities of a goat cheese. It went incredibly well with the sweet fruity qualities of Old Tom Gin.
Sauza Gold Tequila
Tequila is a tricky spirit to pair with since it can be hard to appreciate the distinct set of flavors that most tequilas tend to have. People take one whiff of tequila and are reminded of less appetizing drunken situations, judging this tantalizing spirit before they even try it. I found that the Sauza Gold was incredibly tame, with a sweeter flavor profile than most tequilas.
The tequila is slightly smoky and floral on the nose. A slight char, but very smooth and fresh. Clean with hardly any burn. Nutty, notes of cashews and pistachios.
Cheese: Bayley Hazen Blue
This nutty blue cheese is a great complement to the nutty, slightly sweet Sauza. Slightly chocolatey, the blue cheese brings out the flavors of smoke and cocoa.
I hope you enjoyed part one, next week I’ll finish up this two-parter with some delicious brown spirits paired with some most excellent cheeses. Cheers, until then.