by David Klemt

How About Some Cheese with that Scotch?

by David Klemt

Cheese plate with Brie, Parmesan, Pepperjack and white Cheddar cheeses

On Tuesday, July 27, America celebrates National Scotch Day.

Of course, we could round up an array of tempting bottles. However, we’re going in a different direction for this spirited holiday.

Instead of a roundup, we’re sharing cheese and Scotch pairings sure to pique the interest of your guests.

As our Bar Hacks Podcast listeners we know, we love a bonus. So, you’ll also find wine pairings below. You can use those on Sunday, July 25, National Wine & Cheese Day.

So, please share two of our favorite things, interesting food and beverage pairings and bonuses. Cheers!

Lighter Expressions

Scotches with lighter, mellower profiles and sweet, fruit or citrus flavors require pairings that won’t overpower them. Of course, being lighter doesn’t make them any less complex or mean they lack in sophistication.

Comté (French, cow’s milk)

Versions of Comté that have some age on them (18 or 24 months) are known for salty, earthy and creamy notes. Generally speaking, quality Comté is also known for hazelnut and buttery aromas and flavors. These pair well with Scotches with fruit and vanilla on the palate, like those aged in ex-bourbon barrels. (Wine pairings: Bordeaux, Champagne, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir)

Gruyère (Swiss, cow’s milk)

So, you want to pair a Scotch that was aged in ex-Sherry casks with the perfect cheese. You want to offer a Gruyère here, as the nutty, garlicky and oniony notes of some versions will enhance—not overpower—the fruity, mellow notes and smoothness of the Scotch. Interestingly, some Gruyères resemble Comté. (Wine pairings: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti, Malbec, Syrah)

Manchego (Spanish, sheep’s milk)

The richness of Manchego stands up to Scotches with citrus, vanilla, spice, and honey notes. Look for curado (aged three to six months) and viejo (aged 12 to 24 months) for the best aromas and flavors. (Wine pairings: Cava, Merlot, Rioja, Tempranillo)

Brie (French, cow’s milk)

This variety of cheese tends toward the subtle, with nutty notes. Brie plays well with Scotches that have fruity and sweet notes. (Wine pairings: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc)

Parmesan (Italian, cow’s milk)

Speaking of nutty flavors, Parmesan pairs well with lighter Scotches that have bright citrus notes or earthier profiles. (Wine pairings: Lambrusco, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Grigio, Prosecco)

Camembert (French, cow’s milk)

Another great selection for lighter Scotches. Camembert features sweet, floral notes that don’t overpower Scotches that also have sweet flavors. (Wine pairings: Champagne, Chenin Blanc, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc)

Feta (Greek, French, sheep’s milk, goat’s milk)

Interestingly, Feta has seen quite a rise in popularity with home chefs during the pandemic. So, give guests what they want and may have been cooking with themselves. Feta’s tanginess enhances the sweetness and fruitiness of lighter Scotches. (Wine pairings: Albariño, Champagne, Lambrusco, Riesling)

Heavier Expressions

Big, bold, full-bodied. Smoky and peaty. More intense Scotches need rich, sharp, and, oftentimes, creamy cheeses that can stand up to them.

Roquefort (French, sheep’s milk)

A blue cheese like Roquefort is sharp, rich and creamy, so it provides balance to smoky Scotches. (Wine pairings: Ice wine, Riesling, Sauterne, Sherry)

Stilton (English, Irish, cow’s milk)

Stilton, another blue cheese, is not as sharp as Roquefort and some others. However, it has a full body and its finish can be intense. That means it works well with rich, peaty Scotches. (Wine pairings: Gewürztraminer, Port, Riesling, Sherry)

Gouda (Dutch, cow’s milk)

Gouda, with a smoky profile itself, pairs with peaty, smoky Scotches. (Wine pairings: Barbera, Grüner Veltliner, Lambrusco, Zinfandel)

Cheddar (English, cow’s milk)

Have a Scotch that’s heavier on woody, oaky notes than smoke? Cheddar—and there are many options to choose from—plays well with such Scotches. (Wine pairings: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cava, Champagne, Chardonnay)

Remember that executing a pairing at its highest level means including the staff. This will help them sell pairings, upsell pairings, and identify pairings in the first place.

Dietary note: Make sure to read the labels of the cheeses you put on your menu. If any cheese has animal rennet, they’re not fit for vegetarians or vegans to consume.

Image: Jennifer Murray from Pexels