Cheese and wine is a much-loved combination, but is cheese and whiskey? Yes, according to cheesemonger Ned Palmer, who recently teamed up with Bushmills to highlight the art of pairing these two great Irish products.
We caught up with him to get his advice on all things fromage.
What should consumers look for when buying cheese?
A great cheesemonger! If you’re lucky enough to have a local cheese specialist, do make use of them. It’s the best way to discover and support local cheesemakers, as well as sampling the best cheeses from around the world with people who really know their stuff. Try something new when you can.
Some supermarkets do offer a good cheese range too though - again, look for local producers, and try and go for smaller amounts of more expensive cheese, rather than big blocks of generically-named cheese. You’ll end up with more flavour for your money that way.
Which cheeses pair well with whiskey?
A good whiskey can enhance the flavours of most good cheeses, from young and fresh goat cheese to venerable cheddar. I find the pungent washed rind cheeses work brilliantly with an older Irish whiskey like the Bushmills 10-Year-Old Single Malt, and a rich hard cheese like Coolea can bring out the dark fruity notes of something like Bushmills Black Bush.
READ MORE: How to create a cracking cheeseboard
Can you give us some tips on creating the perfect cheeseboard?
Start with the classics and give your board some variety by thinking about the different families of cheeses. You want a hard full-flavoured cheese with a tang, like St Gall, then something soft and subtle with a lemony tang to it, such as a young St Tola, and something more pungent and richer like the fabulous Milleens.
I always have at least one blue cheese on my cheeseboard - a good Stilton or the rambunctious and fittingly-named Young Buck. Then I’d recommend a wild card, something local if you can, or one of the new cheeses available which mix local and continental traditions such as Renegade Monk, or a hard sheep’s milk cheese such as Spenwood. Go for a variety of textures, ages and kinds of milk so all your guests can discover a new favourite.
READ MORE: The journey of cheese from farm to cheesemaker
Other than whiskey, what do you like to pair cheese with?
Nothing beats a slice of cheddar and a crunchy apple. Of course, classic chutneys like Old Yorkshire or red onion marmalade can add a zing of vinegar and sweetness to any cheese. But be bold - honey and goats curd make for a sweet, tangy luxurious treat, and mango chutney makes a very happy marriage with Milleens - it’s like a shaft of sunlight through the barn door.
I would also recommend a really good quality dark chocolate with blue cheeses. It’s a sort of instant chocolate cheesecake on your plate, especially with a sweet biscuit on the side.
The biscuits you can buy these days, with rosemary or olives baked into them with a scraping of mascarpone or fresh goat curd, can also transport you from your kitchen table to the south of France, listening to the goats come in for the evening with their bells clanking and breathing in the hot herby scents of summer!