Water of Life Society (WoLS) meeting 27/02/2014 – Whisky and Cheese Pairing

Water of Life Society (WoLS) meeting 27/02/2014

Whisky and Cheese Pairing

Cheese week! Specifically Cheese and Whisky and their pairing. This week the committee organised a complimentary tasting session of 5 spectacular drams of whisky paired with 5 individual cheeses. The idea being that the flavours in the cheese and whisky worked with each other to create a whole new taste sensation, or at the least aided the appreciation of the differing flavours. On arrival we were presented with our first dram and a numbered selection of 5 cheeses. Below I have given the official whisky tasting notes / with my comments afterwards.

Combination 1: Cragganmore 12 Year Old and Brie


Nestling on the banks of the legendary salmon river, Cragganmore is, for many, the home of the definitive Speyside malt. Hugely complex, rich with layers of flavour and a whiff of smoke in the finish.

STRENGTH: 40% ABV; APPEARANCE: Gold / Light Gold

NOSE: A combination of sweet floral fragrances, riverside herbs and flowers with some honey and vanilla. “The most complex nose of any malt whisky.” Michael Jackson, Whisky Writer / Sweet and floral

PALATE: A strong malty taste with hints of sweet wood smoke and sandalwood / Cereal barley, woody and delicate – mild and smooth

FINISH: A long, malt-driven finish with light smoke and hints of sweetness. / Short and delicate

Score: 84/100

a long time favourite of ours

Brie is a soft cow’s milk cheese named after Brie, the French region from which it originated, / mild in flavour and slightly salty this is the perfect companion for delicately flavoured whisky such as Cragganmore.

Combination 2: Glengoyne 10 Year Old and Dutch Prima Donna

Glengoyne_10YO Prima_DonnaFresh green apples, toffee and a hint of nuttiness. This is the taste of distilling slower than anyone else in Scotland, of barley we dry by air – never peat – and of oak casks we select by hand. Just as we’ve always done.

STRENGTH: 40% ABV; APPEARANCE: Golden yellow. Clear and bright / Ruby gold

NOSE: Sweet, with toffee and popcorn aromas. Slightly nutty, with fresh green apples coming through  / Sherry, fruity, red berry fruits

PALATE: Clean. Green apples and grass with a hint of sweet liquorice / Cereal malt, toffee apple, nutty and sherry ‘fizz’ leather and wood. After water, Sweeter. Linseed oil and almonds.

FINISH: Sweet and malty / Medium, initially drying then mouth-watering fruit and leather tannins

Score: 83/100

Distinctly more sherried in colour, nose and palate than official tasting notes suggest – perhaps as a result of the cheese pairing?

Prima Donna is a Dutch cheese brand of Vandersterre Groep. It competes with Parrano, a trademarked brand of Vandersterre’s competitor Uniekaas Groep.Like Parrano it combines the flavour of aged Italian parmesan with the pliant texture of Dutch Gouda cheese. / Prima Donna has a slight nuttiness that was complimenting the nutty sherry influence of the Glengoyne 10.

Combination 3: Cadenhead’s Rum Cask Glen Elgin-Glenlivet 22 Year old, 1991 and Manchego

GlenElgin RC


William Cadenhead’s are Scotland’s oldest independent bottlers of whisky established in 1842. Distilled in 1991 and bottled at cask strength in 2013. Only 498 botlles produced. Dried citrus fruits along with darker fruits. Salted caramel and prosciutto. Long lasting chewy Christmas cake finish.


NOSE: Toffee, molasses and Demerara sugar sweetness with hints of nail polish acetone

PALATE: Cereals, malted barley, toffee, brown sugar, oaky wood, syrupy rum flavour

FINISH: Bitter-sweet treacle toffee of medium length

Score: 88/100

Manchego (officially Queso Manchego) is a cheese made in the La Mancha region of Spain from the milk of sheep of the Manchega breed. Official Manchego cheese is to be aged for between 60 days and two years. Manchego has a firm and compact consistency and a buttery texture, and often contains small, unevenly-distributed air pockets. The colour of the cheese varies from white to ivory-yellow, and the inedible rind from yellow to brownish beige. The cheese has a distinctive flavour, well developed but not too strong, creamy with a slight piquancy, and leaves an aftertaste that is characteristic of sheep’s milk. / Sweet and nutty Manchego paired beautifully with this sweet and spicy rum cask finished Glen Elgin a divine combination.

Combination 4: Bowmore 15 Year Old Darkest and Oak Smoked Cheddar

Bowmore 15 years old darkest


Matured in an inspired combination of both bourbon and sherry casks, it’s the final three years spent in Oloroso sherry casks that gives Bowmore 15 Years Old ‘Darkest’, one of the most beautifully balanced Bowmores, the rich, deep colour reflected in its name, and its warming finish.

STRENGTH: 43% ABV, ~25PPM; APPEARANCE: treacle dark amber. / Dark, sherried ruby amber gold

NOSE: delicious dark chocolate, sun-dried fruits and a tell-tale wisp of Islay smoke. / Earthy peat, sherry leather chocolate and toffee

PALATE: wonderful cedar wood and rich treacle toffee. / Earten and only slightly smoky peat, brown sugars, leather tannins, prunes and a liberal sprinkling of salt

FINISH: the robust and complex finish with a hint of sherry tannin. / Long with rich juicy fruits and drying leather tannins

Score: 85/100

Cheddar cheese is a relatively hard, pale-yellow-to-off-white (unless artificially coloured), sometimes “sharp” (i.e., acidic)-tasting, natural cheese. Originating in the English village of Cheddar in Somerset. Smoke-curing is typically done in one of two ways: cold-smoking and hot-smoking. The cold-smoking method (which can take up to a month, depending on the food) smokes the food at between 20° to 30° C. Hot-smoking partially or completely cooks the food by treating it at temperatures ranging from 40° to 90° C. Another method of “curing” used in less expensive cheeses is to use artificial smoke flavoring to give the cheese a smoky flavoring and food coloring to give the outside the appearance of having been smoked in the more traditional manner.

In this combination Richard had specifically picked out a peated Islay whisky and a smoky oak smoked cheddar cheese to illustrate beautifully how whisky can be very peaty but without being smoky. Due to its climate Islay peat is unusually high in phenolic compounds and is produced from a mixture of the local fauna plus a liberal dash of seaweed and salt spray compacted over 1,000s of years. Usually the peat burns with an oily smoke which it imparts into the barley when used for drying the malt. Peaty influences however can range from earthy (as here) through smouldering  heather & bracken to outright smoke. The cheddar cheese has been cured using oak chip smoking and develops a very smoky flavour which is in stark contrast but still complimentary to the earthy peat flavour in the whisky.

Combination 5: Benromach Peat Smoke Batch #1 and Roquefort



At Benromach small batches of whisky have been produced using the finest malted barley, dried using high levels of peat smoke. Distilled from malted barley with a phenol level of 53ppm this batch of Benromach Peat Smoke has been matured in 1st Fill Bourbon Barrels for many years. The resultant Single Malt is seriously smoky yet it retains the elegance and fruitiness of Benromach.

STRENGTH: 46% ABV, 53PPM; APPEARANCE: Pale Gold. / Light gold

NOSE: Cured meats with toasted malt and sweet vanilla. Fruity elements develop hints of pear, dried apricot and citrus zest. With water, Delicate smoke with orange and pear. Traces of nutmeg and vanilla. / peat smoke and malt, lemon cleaner (jif/cif) and linseed oil

PALATE: Bonfire embers initially with liquorice, cinnamon and vanilla. Creamy milk chocolate with a touch of orange peel. With water, Peppery at first with roasted pine nuts and liquorice. Fresh grapefruit with lavender and a more subtle smokiness. / prickly ginger beer, malted barley cereal and then smokey peat, very sweet throughout

FINISH: Long, creamy and smoky. / for ever (almost)

Score: 88/100

Roquefort is a sheep milk blue cheese from the south of France, the cheese is white, tangy, crumbly and slightly moist, with distinctive veins of green mold. It has characteristic odor and flavor with a notable taste of butyric acid; the green veins provide a sharp tang. The overall flavor sensation begins slightly mild, then waxes sweet, then smoky, and fades to a salty finish. It has no rind; the exterior is edible and slightly salty.

Another fantastic combination of sweet malted cereal and smoke from the Benromach then that tangy and salty roquefort cleansing the palate each making you go back for more of the other, another match made in whisky heaven!

And so ends another excellent line-up and some very interesting cheese-pairings put together by the wonderful WoLS Committee, a big thanks to them all who had to work twice as hard this week, with much cheese-research in evidence! On Whisky scores alone this is probably the best tasting held so far!

Categories: Event

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