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How to pair cheese with Ballantine’s whisky

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We’re all about disrupting the norm and creating unique flavour pairings at Ballantine’s, and cheese and whisky is a match we can really get behind.

A cheeseboard might normally have you reaching for a bottle of wine, but we think whisky makes an even better counterpart.

Not sure? Think about it for a sec – cheese can be salty, creamy, sharp, tangy, fruity. It has a broad flavour profile all underpinned by a certain richness. Similarly, whisky can span several flavour profiles. Scotch is often described as deep, malty, spicy – even smoky – and it’s definitely always underpinned by a moreish richness.

What makes a tasty flavour pairing?

A successful flavour pairing is usually made up of two flavours that either complement or contrast. We’re thinking along the lines of lemon and lime, garlic and herbs, salted caramel, and sweet and sour. 

Although we’re not usually ones to play by the rules, this is an area where we do conform. So we’ve put together four delicious complementary or contrasting cheese and whisky pairing ideas for culinary creatives to try for themselves.

Add smoke to the fire with peaty Scotch and rich smoked cheese

Let’s kick things off with a complementary Scotch and cheese flavour match.

Smoked cheese is one of our favourites. It’s super savoury and uniquely earthy – once the cheese knives are out and the first slice has been made, it’s hard to stop.

Whether you prefer a mature smoked cheddar, a German smoked variety or a tasty smoky Gouda, we like to pair our smoked cheese of choice with Ballantine’s Barrel Smooth Scotch.

This whisky is finished in caramelised oak barrels to give it extra flavour and even more smoothness. It has a sweet yet gently smoky, peaty taste, making it a great partner to your favourite smoked cheeses. Plus, its golden bonfire ember colour only adds to the fiery experience.

Try it on the rocks, or make an alternative whisky cocktail to sip alongside your cheeseboard.

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Nod to festive traditions with delicate Wensleydale and Ballantines Finest Scotch whisky

It’s traditional to enjoy a slice of Christmas cake alongside a slice of cheese in Yorkshire, and the most traditional cheese of all would be Wensleydale. 

This may sound like a pretty weird combo, but not to us. Christmas cake is usually infused with alcohol, often rum, brandy, or whisky (with whisky making the most superior cakes, of course). But this got us thinking that Wensleydale and whisky make a delicious Scotch and cheese flavour combination.

Wensleydale cheese is mild, creamy and nutty, and Ballantine’s Finest blended Scotch whisky is soft and subtly sweet, with hints of smooth chocolate and rich vanilla. Enjoy them together for a mouthwatering cheese and whisky union that is unexpected yet makes complete sense. 

Why not go the whole hog and add in a slice of Christmas cake? It’s the ideal flavour pairing for the festive season.

Add some zest

If you prefer a fruity Wensleydale, such as with cranberries or apricots, we recommend using your Ballantine’s Finest to make a vibrant whisky cocktail such as the Cranberry Orange Whisky Sour. Or try it with one of our fruity spirit drinks such as our cherry flavoured whisky for an even sweeter experience.

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Cut through sharp cheeses with fruity whisky

Now for another deliciously zingy flavour contrast: sharp cheese with tangy whisky.

The fruit and cheese combination is nothing new – apple with cheddar, figs with blue cheese, grapes on a cheeseboard, the list goes on.

But have you tried a strong parmesan with Ballantine’s 7 American Barrel yet? Parmesan isn’t only for sprinkling over your favourite pasta dishes, a good quality Parmigiano Reggiano can be enjoyed “neat” or as a component on a cheeseboard, too.

The tangy, sharp flavour and slightly gritty texture of the cheese contrasts perfectly with smooth sweet Ballantine’s 7 American Barrel blended Scotch whisky. Its fruity flavours of toffee apples and ripe pear cut through the savoury sharpness and add new dimensions to the flavour profiles of both the cheese and the Scotch.

Sip the whisky alongside your cheese, or mix it into a classic Old Fashioned for even more flavour. 

This flavour pairing would work with any sharp hard cheese and any fruity whisky drink, so get creative and find your fav. 

If you want to be even more sophisticated, get your hands on a bottle of Glenburgie 18 Year Old. This single malt whisky is packed full of fruity orange and blackcurrant flavours, excellent for contrasting with strong cheese.

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Old Fashioned

Our favourite way to enjoy an Old Fashioned is with Ballantine’s 7 Bourbon Barrel Finish, with a couple of dashes of orange bitters to complement the sweet notes of the whisky.

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Quell the burn with creamy cheese and velvety whisky

We’ve picked Brie for our last whisky and cheese flavour pairing, but any mild creamy cheese would work here.

This is a flavour combo that both complements and contrasts. Ballantine’s 12 Year Old whisky has a creamy sweetness with hints of oak, which unites well with the creaminess of soft cheeses, like a good brie.

But even when whisky has a creamy quality, there’s always that satisfying finish, or burn, at the end of each sip. The richness and mellowness of creamy cheese can really help to soften the burn and extinguish the fire. 

We actually love the “burn”, so we wouldn’t want to quell it completely. But Brie is the perfect counterpart to cool down the heat a little and change up your whisky drinking experience.

And seeing as cheese is technically mould, the Penicillin whisky cocktail is a great drink to enjoy alongside your creamy cheeses. This fiery whisky drink will provide a challenge for your preferred soft cheese: will it be able to soften the burn? Sounds like a good party game to us.

Innovative whisky flavour pairings

Now you know the hows and whys of pairing whisky with cheese. Like most worthwhile things in life, the best flavour pairings take some thinking outside of the box – something that we’re pretty great at here at Ballantine’s. 

Discover more ways to match your drink with different flavours such as the best snacks to serve with whisky or our guide to whisky food pairings.

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