Thursday, 18 February 2010

Quel fromage!

Well actually quel whisky?

I'm sitting here in the clubhouse with a piece of Strathdon Blue, a delightfully creamy blue cheese with a hint of saltiness, from Ross-shire. In front of me are six bottles of whisky and six glasses, each with a small measure. I didn't think it would take six bottles to make a decision but its proved to be harder to decide than I thought.

What am I trying to decide? I have to do a pairing for a course at a dinner this weekend. Everyone else is doing wine pairing but when I was given the cheese course I thought I'd show off and do whisky.

The problem I'm having is not that the whiskies don't go but, rather, that more of them marry well with the cheese than I expected. My instinct was that a nice smokey Islay would be the ideal companion. It worked too. A Caol Ila cask strength went well in the sense that it didn't clash and neither the cheese nor the whisky won the battle.

Laphroaig Quarter Cask didn't work quite as well as I'd hoped but an SMWS limited edition Ardbeg really nailed it. The flavour of both was enhanced and remained distinct and complimentary, the whisky lost none of its articulacy.

But then I thought, actually, if you don't like phenol whisky, and I should point out some of the other guests aren't regular whisky drinkers, it might not be what you want to taste, even to educate yourself.

So I thought maybe I should try something easier. Aberlour A'bunadh worked surprisingly well, straight up at cask strength, the cheese exposed a quality that reminded me of port.

Then I tried a Yamazaki 12 year old, not because I thought it would work but because I'm feeling experimental by now. And do you know? It was interesting, the vanilla notes really danced around the cheese.

By now I am feeling less certain than ever and reach for a bottle of Glenfiddich 18 year old. As soon as I smell the spicy orchard coming from the glass I now its going to work. Like a piece of apple with a slice of blue cheese, its going to be a classic flavour combination. And on the palate it really worked, the combination bringing out a nutiness in both the cheese and the whisky. Sensational.

But the Ardbeg is a winner too. And anyone who enjoys port and stilton at Christmas is going to love the A'bunadh.

What to do, what to do?

All the time I've been listening to "$87 and a Guilty Conscience That Gets Worse the Longer I Go" by Richmond Fontaine, the whole mini album. Which is beautiful. Maybe even as good as "The Fitzgerald".


  1. yes, Ardbeg and the Abunadh will go very well with those cheeses.

    u should try Ardbeg with some Parmagianno Regiano cheese. what a combo!

  2. Ardbeg and parmagianno, I've heard about this combo. Its supposed to be amazing.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Thank you so much for working with our cheese. Frankly I'd rather drink the whisky and merely use the Strathdon to line the stomach so that I can get more in! Tain is better known for its export of Glenmorangie, they also own Ardbeg and they suggested that the saltiness of the cheese went well with the Islay malt, so you are spot on. I am on a months drying out as firstly February is the shortest and secondly I was rattling a bit after St Andrews/Christmas/New Year (Hogmanay)/Burn's Night so roll on Monday 1st March as I have a thirst on. Regards. Rory Stone

  4. Hey Ruaraidh, are you associated to Strathdon Blue then?

    I went for the Ardbeg in the end. It worked really well for the whisky drinkers but was a bit too much for those who weren't.

    Lesson learned though. I think the Ardbeg was too smoky whereas had I given them something more sherried and accessible I might have won a few hearts and minds.

    They all loved the cheese though!

  5. Yes, I am to blame. Our little company has been attempting to make blue cheese since the late 90's, sometimes it's almost an average cheese.

    I struggle with the Islay malts, Bunnahabhain and Bruichladdich being unpronouncable but at least palatable. Then again I do tend to drink blends with ice and soda so what does that say!

    6 inches of snow here in 4 hours.

    Keep up the excellent work. Ruaraidh

  6. You too, I'm a big fan of your blue. Do you make many other cheeses? I seem to remember reading about a cheddar.

  7. I am not exactly sure what Strathdon Blue is like, but for pairing with Roquefort, my favorite is Lagavulin 1991 Distiller's Edition.