More delicate than Scotch, Japanese whisky coaxed honey, caramel and even apricots from the cheeses at the Cheese and Whiskey Perfect Match event I attended at Milk the Cow in St Kilda, Melbourne recently.
Four cheeses, about 20 Melbournians, plus a sneaky couple of Kiwis sipped and swirled three Japanese and one Scotch Whisky in a guided tasting. Subtle, refined and complex, the Japanese have been making single malts for almost 100 years.
Whisky and cheese is an interesting combination. I love it when the hot of whisky meets the smooth of cheese, fire playing a dance with the soft roundness or hard nuttiness of cheese’s myriad incarnations.
They tease complex notes from each other in a dance that by its nature is controlled, careful even furtive. Take too much of a swig and the delicate notes so carefully developed by whiskey distiller and cheese maker are lost to the blunt heat of this fire water.
Unlike wine’s sensuous, full-body free flow with cheese, and beer’s raucous romp, whisky tasting is a careful, affair, more like a tango where the heat of passion threatens to boil over and disrupt the refined and choreographed affair.
First up, (left on the tasting flight above), Brillat Savarin, a French triple cream bloomy rind was paired with the Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve. The mild and fruity whisky brought out creamy cheesecake and biscuity honey making for an easy start to the tasting.
Next up, adding a little zing, the fresh citrus of Hakushu Distillers Reserve paired with the bright cleanness of Australia’s Meredith Farm Chevre, sea breeze over pine needles, leaving an almost bitter chocolate after thought.
Turning up the heat, the salty butterscotch tones of the Bowmore Small Batch brought out mouth-filling umami with an aged Gouda-style Reypenaer from the Netherlands. Salty and sweet, with the crunch of tyrosine crystals, this was the perfect melted cheese on toast.
Last up the stand out pairing of the day, Hibiki 12 year old with BellaVitano Raspberry from Wisconson, US.
Washed in raspberry ale, the cheese’s sweetness joined hands with the fruity notes of the whisky in an exuberant cherry blossom of a tasting, honied berries and stone-fruits burst forth, reminding us that spring is on its way.
I want to thank Laura the Cheesemonger, and the crew at Milk the Cow, we had an awesome night, and have already hunted down a Japanese whisky on our return to Wellington.