_ Whisky and homemade macaroni and cheese could be on my list for last suppers if I was going to be executed. So an evening of whiskey and cheese pairing at Char No. 4 on Smith Street sounded perfect – no dying involved.
A whiskey and cheese tasting is exactly what it sounds like – 5 whiskeys lined up in a flight next to a plate of six cheeses. We got treated to one of the whiskeys twice. They were already paired, which Patrick from Stinky Brklyn (delightful cheese shop on Smith Street), assured us was a torturous afternoon of tasting whiskey and cheese. Sounds just awful – how do I sign up?
The whiskey (or whisky since it was actually Scotch) was provided by Compass Box Whisky Co., which was apparently started by an American who wanted to get into winemaking, but got sidetracked by the deliciousness of whisky. Understandable.
_ What’s interesting about cheese and whisky is they do really change the flavor of each other – sometimes it’s a complement, sometimes one subdues the other, sometimes what tasted sweet becomes salty or spicy. My one criticism is not having enough of each – especially the whisky – to really go back and forth. Just when I thought I was putting together what I felt about the pairing, the glass would run dry.
The enthusiasm Patrick had for his cheese and Robin from Compass Box Whisky Co. had for the whisky did make me hold off from inhaling it all. I really wanted to taste their adjectives – elegant, spicy, nutty, tangy, sexy.
The first pairing was Great King Street, a blended Scotch whisky with 50 percent grain whisky and 50 percent malt whisky. This slightly spicy whiskey that Robin described as “elegant” sweetened up when paired with a sheep’s milk pecorino from Northern Italy.
After we tasted every morsel of the cheese and every drop from our glass, Patrick suggested we save a little of each, so we can do our own whisky/cheese pairings later and see the difference. “Woops,” said someone at the next table, summing up our collective gorging on our first course. I eyed my little glasses of whisky with suspicion that I would be able to save much of any of them.
_ Which brings me to the next whisky – Hedonism, a 100 percent Scotch grain whiskey with no malted barley and 25 years as the average age of the blended whiskies. Robin described its qualities of vanilla, creaminess, coconut, crème brulee – a Scotch whiskey for bourbon friends. It did have the bourbon kick, which was softened a bit by the goat’s milk Midnight Moon Holland cheese. This cheese is fantastic. I am a better person for having had that cheese, and will continue to better myself by eating more of it. The whisky was good, too, although I think my favorite was next – Spice Tree.
Spice Tree involves a story of rebellion – how the whisky maker got around the Scottish Whisky Association and their laws on not getting creative with barrels by putting some seriously charred French Oak in the top of the typical American oak barrel. It’s a blend of three single malt whiskeys that are 10 or 12 years old, then blended and matured for 2 more years in the barrel. Robin called it a beautiful rainy night whisky. I’d drink it on a rainy night. I would also drink it on a sunny afternoon, or even late on a Sunday morning. And it just melted together with the cheese, a cow’s milk Appenzell from Switzerland.
Which brings me to Peat Monster. He got a blue cheese and cheddar as companions. He lives up to his name – the peat hits you about halfway to even getting your nose in the glass. It’s a blend of three single malts, each a peated Scotch whiskey. The Lincolnshire Poacher (cow’s milk, England) cheddar and monster didn’t quite melt together – Patrick described it as more of a conversation, like a little argument when someone storms out of the room, but then they come together at the finish and it was an argument worth having. I thought his was better idea of the argument going on in my mouth than the one I had envisioned with my tongue alternating between, give me cheese, now give me whisky, now give me cheese, now give me whisky. The whisky didn’t argue as much with the blue cheese, but admittedly, it was a really good blue cheese – Roaring Forties Blue, cow’s milk, from Tazmania – and it disappeared really fast from my plate.
But my favorite cheese was the triple crème Delice de Bourgogne. It was so amazingly buttery and rich without having an overpowering flavor. It is normally paired with a chardonnay or pinot noir, so Patrick said it was difficult trying to pair it with a whisky. I think the whisky it was paired with – Orangerie – was a decent pairing, but it wasn’t my favorite whisky. It has an orange flavor to it someone at my table described as “dessert whisky.” I kind of just like regular whisky for dessert. But the story behind it does involve little old ladies in Bath zesting mounds of oranges, which is kind of cute.
They came around with more whisky, so I got another taste of my Spice Tree, which went really well with the cheddar. And then, sadly, the tasting was over and we dawdled on our way out. It was nice that the conversation wasn’t just between the whisky and the cheese – the pairing opened up a discussion around the room about the different flavors and the idea of what else could be paired. Luckily, I am around the corner from Stinky Brklyn, Char No. 4, and Smith and Vine (favorite wine and whiskey shop), so I can indulge in more tastings. And I will be pouring larger portions of the whiskey!
Great King Street Artist’s Blend + Pecorino Ginepro (sheep’s milk, Emilia-Romagna, Italy)
Hedonism + Midnight Moon (goat’s milk, Holland)
Spice Tree + Appenzeller (cow’s milk, Appenzell, Switzerland)
The Peat Monster + Lincolnshire Poacher (cow’s milk, Lincolnshire, Great Britain)
The Peat Monster + Roaring Forties Blue (cow’s milk, King Island, Tasmania)
Orangerie + Delice de Bourgogne
Where to indulge in Brooklyn:
Char No. 4 – 196 Smith Street, Awesome restaurant with whiskey and my favorite brunch
Stinky Brklyn – 215 Smith St., Comprehensive cheese selection, along with meats, chocolate, bread…
Compass Box Whisky Co.
· Products available at Smith and Vine, 268 Smith St., and Brooklyn Wine Exchange, 138 Court St.