5 Unexpected Cheese and Whiskey Pairings

Wine and cheese pairings get all the love—it's time to switch it up.

Whiskey and cheese
Photo: Courtesy of The Macallan

Whiskey and cheese, while wonderful on their own, don't often come to mind as a go-to pairing. That space has been occupied by wine for a long time—but The Macallan and Murray's Cheese want to change that. The two brands collaborated on a guide that highlights the glories of the cheese and whiskey pairing (you can find it on the Murray's site), offering the perfect single malt scotch match for cheeses ranging from manchego to comté.

So why whiskey and cheese? For one, the rich, robust flavor profile of whiskey helps enhance cheese's flavor. The Macallan national brand ambassador Raquel Raies recently walked me through some of the pairings with two of the brand's single malt scotches—Double Cask 12 Years Old, and Triple Cask Matured 15 Years Old. Some flavor combinations were based on complementary, synergistic pairings (the tastes amplify each other); others, an opposites-attracts kind of vibe.

Manchego and Ossau Iraty x Double Cask

Up first was the Double Cask, which is drier and has hints of vanilla, citrus, and honey, according to Raies. We tried it with Murray's 1 Year Aged Manchego, which was creamier and mild, as well as a brand-new pairing with Ossau Iraty, which has a savory, nutty flavor. The tasting process was purposefully structured; first, we smelled the scotch, then smelled and tasted the cheese to note how the flavors interacted, before tasting them together. This pairing made the whisky (Scottish whisky is spelled without the "e", fyi) smell and taste sweeter, and also gave it a brighter, creamier finish.

Blue cheese and triple-crème x Triple Cask

After we'd had our fill of Ossau Iraty, we pivoted to the Triple Cask, which is lighter (due to combinations of casks it was aged in). Raies named sweet vanilla, toasted coconut, and cacao as some of the smells you might pick up. As for the cheese? We went with Fromager D'affinois—a triple-crème, and another new pairing from the partnership—and Point Reyes Bay Blue cheese. The soft triple-crème, predictably, brought out a smoother note in the whisky, while the salty blue cheese gave a nice sweet and savory juxtaposition.

Camembert x Rare Cask

You can also find a full list of Murray's x The Macallan pairings on the Murray's Blog, which includes the aforementioned whiskies, in addition to Triple Cask Matured 12 Years Old, Sherry Oak 12 Years Old, and Rare Cask—each pairing details the scent of the whisky, the taste, the "perfect pairing," the reasoning behind said pairing, and additional flavor combinations. For example, the Rare Cask's nutty taste goes well with a rich Camembert, as "the funky, bloomy-rinded cheese has sweet, floral notes that bring out the Rare Cask's qualities of maple syrup and candied nuts."

If you want to strike out on your own, Raies says experimenting and trial and error is the best way to figure out what pairs well together—try different whiskeys with your favorite dish, and see how it pans out. She did, however, note to avoid spicy food as a general rule, which makes sense, given how sharp whiskey can be. So at your next dinner party, skip the red wine and pair scotch with your menu—you might be in for a pleasant surprise.

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