Reading: Put the wine away

Put the wine away

It’s time to pair your cheese with scotch.

Looking to step out of the box (of wine) while hosting this season? It’s time to couple two of life’s greatest pleasures. Both Scotch and cheese-making are sophisticated arts defined by time-honoured traditions and a lot of patience, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that these party (and life) staples can be a delicious combination. If knowledge were gained by consumption alone, we’d all be experts, but since that’s not the case, a little guidance can go a long way towards curating the perfect pairing.

Don’t worry, I got this.

Listen. We’re not talking about slicing up an old brick of cheddar and throwing it unapologetically on a pile of Triscuits. As with any artisanal product, there is more to cheese pairings than simply buying and eating cheese (stop groaning, you WILL get to eat the cheese). That includes being prepared for the best ways to serve, slice, store and pair cheese with Scotch.

Make it rain jalepeño cheddar.

Slow down there, turbo. While variety might be the spice of life, overwhelming your palate with too many cheeses won’t do your Scotch or your guests any favours. A typical rule of thumb is 3-5 cheeses with each guest receiving around 1 oz. of each cheese type. Keep the taste, texture, colour and aroma of your Scotch in mind while making your cheese selection. Flavour compatibility (or contradiction) is key. A rich, mellow, sheep’s milk cheese (like a young Manchego) cuts through the spice and citrus notes of The Macallan Double Cask 12 Years Old Single Malt Scotch, while enhancing the notes of honey and vanilla custard. Still stuck? Bring a bottle to your local cheesemonger and let them help you navigate the wide world of fromage.

Got the cheese, I’m done.

With all the favourful combinations available, include additional elements like bread, apple slices or pickles to help cleanse the palate between bites.

I’ll just keep this in the fridge.

Food safety is, of course, important, but cheese is best served at room temperature. A cold cheese won’t display its full flavour profile to eager guests so it’s best to prepare your cheese plate at least one hour before serving. A hard, stiff brie is a crime against cheese.

Store cheese on the lowest shelf in the refrigerator; never freeze it, it will affect the flavour and texture. Hard, aged cheese is best stored in a cool, dark cupboard. For longer-lasting cheese, wrap each piece in wax or parchment paper, then in plastic wrap. Each time it is opened, rewrap with fresh paper and plastic wrap. Be careful of exposed edges! We’ve all lost a good cheese or two to a lackadaisical guest, whose idea of helping clean up after the party is throw the leftovers in the fridge unwrapped. It will also prevent the cheese from taking on external flavours from your fridge.

Free for all.

Scotch and cheese share so much in common. They both age well, are the life of the party and in order to enjoy them to the fullest, should be consumed in order from light and fruity to strong and robust. You wouldn’t want to start your night off with a blue cheese or Roquefort and then taint your palate for the deliciousness that is yet to come.

Stick a knife in it.

If you’re really doing it right, it’s common practice to cut a few initial slices for guests to follow suit. For firm wedges of cheese, slice the rind to the side, then continue slicing to create easy-to-eat triangular portions. For blue and aged cheeses, chunk along the natural breaks by positioning a knife perpendicular to the cutting board. A soft wedge of cheese with a bloomy rind should be sliced from the side and then portioned into smaller pieces. A slab of hard cheese is easy to portion: cut straight across the width of the slab and then in half again.
Now that the cheese course has been decided, you
deserve a drink. May we suggest a Scotch?

Red solo cup, oh I fill you up.

Not this time, captain. The shape of your glassware can improve your Scotch tasting experience. A rocks glass has a wide base that allows the Scotch to breathe; If you don’t have a rocks glass you can use a stemless wine glass.

Establish order.

Acquaint your guests with how you will be approaching The Mac(allan) & Cheese pairings before you start. It is important to taste both elements separately first so that your guests can better understand the magic a pairing creates for your palate. First you should taste the Scotch, then the cheese and then taste both together. You can encourage “playing” around with alternate pairings after experiencing the full tasting. Then sit back and wait for the compliments roll in.