My husband and I are devout foodies. Part of every trip usually involves a sampling of local cuisine and a food related experience. A few years ago on a trip to Napa Valley, we chose a wine and food pairing class at the Culinary Institute of America. In this one class, we paired an assortment of food with different wines. The instructor highlighted how certain elements in the food will bring out different flavors in the wine. Part of the class included pairing wine and cheese. We sampled 2 different types of cheeses with both a white and red. While I do not remember the exact cheese, I do remember being blown away with how different each wine tasted and how both the wine and cheese changed as we sampled them together. After that I was hooked.
For wine drinkers out there, I have always tried to explain my love of bourbon with a simple comparison to red wine. Just like there are varietals of red wine (Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet etc.) there are different varietals of bourbon (traditional, wheat, rye) and with each distiller developing their own unique way of mastering their flavor profile. There are so many complexities that come out when you sample different varietals, blends, and finishes of bourbon. And just like wine, bourbon pairs beautifully with cheese.
While it can be found in all different parts of the country, Kentucky is the place you want to go to learn about bourbon. So what better place to learn about cheese than to France. Since a trip to Paris was not in my immediate plans, I figured the next best thing was visiting the French Cheese Board, France’s ambassador for all things dairy, in New York City.
Located in Soho at the corner of Spring and Mulberry, the French Cheese Board is unlike your typical cheese shop, the space features custom-made cheese eating accessories, a cheese art gallery, a kitchen and education space as well. It was the perfect place to host a tasting featuring Bourbon and Fromage (French for cheese) and that is just what we did.
It started with me creating a selection of bourbons and providing the shop with flavor profiles. Based upon what we provided, specific cheeses were selected. Without ever tasting the bourbons, the cheese chosen for each bourbon were Magnifique! Versus a traditional tasting where bourbons are ordered by proof, the recommendation was to create a lineup based upon the flavors of the cheese. Here is what they came up with.
Pairing # 1 Four Roses Small Batch and Saint Angel
Four Roses Small Batch
NOSE: Gentle spice, stone fruits and vanilla
TASTE: Creamy with sweet berries and caramel
FINISH: Soft smooth finish with hints of vanilla
Saint Angel is Triple cream cow’s milk cheese from the Loire, delicate creamy and buttery taste with a soft bloomy rind. Melts on the tongue.
Pairing #2 Old Grand Dad Bottled in Bond with Abondance
Old Grand Dad Bottled in Bond
NOSE Caramel and butterscotch followed by vanilla, caramelized fruit, spice, oak and raw grain. PALATE Caramel, oak, spice and vanilla with light notes of white pepper and leather
FINISH Long finish of caramel, oak, spice, vanilla and a light bit of grain.
Abondance is an Alpine cow’s milk cheese from the Haute Savoie region, aged for 3 months. smooth and rich texture with floral flavors and hazelnut undertones. lingering flavor.
Pairing #3 Basil Hayden’s Small Batch with Livarot
Basil Hayden Small Batch
NOSE: Spice, tea, hint of peppermint
TASTE: Spicy, peppery, honey, light-bodied, gentle bite.
FINISH: Dry, clean, brief on
Livarot is a washed rind cow’s milk cheese from Normandy. Pungent in smell, with a salty and tangy taste. Full flavored and slightly spicy.
We started by tasting the bourbon on its own, noting the nose, taste and finish. We then took a bite of the cheese, noting the same. We then took another taste of the bourbon. Each combination created a symphony for the taste buds. The fattiness of the cheese along with the flavors brought out elements of each bourbon you don’t normally experience.
So the next time you are in NYC, take a side trip to France with a stop at the French Cheese Board. There is usually something delicious to sample and the team on hand to guide you through the selection of cheeses, butter and other fine dairy products. If you have a favorite bourbon you want to pair, provide the tasting notes and see what the team can come up with. You won’t be disappointed.
Special thanks to the Women Who Whiskey group who came out and enjoyed an evening of Bourbon and cheese with the Whisky Chicks. It was so much fun having two whisky groups coming together for a joint event.