The Pick n Pay on William Nicol Johannesburg has an amazing variety of cheese. For us, it is a bit of a drive to get there, but when we do take the trouble, we usually come away with something interesting. A while ago, we found a Brebirousse d’Argental Cheese. We were not sure if this soft cheese would pair with whisky, but we had to try.
This beautiful annatto-tinged rind cheese is made from pasteurized sheep milk and aged for maximum a month. The Lyon-based sheep’s milk cheese is similar to a Brie but with the more woolly sheep aroma and flavour coming through. The smell made me think of a soft lambskin. The flavour of the Brebirousse d’Argental is clean smooth and buttery and tastes of salt, grass, and that lovely quality of fattiness that only sheep’s milk can afford. The delicate sweetness balances the buttery intensity. It is earthier, richer and creamier than cow’s milk.
Research on pairings showed that it pairs well with ciders (apples) and Pinot Noir. We had quite a battle to pair this cheese with whisky and tried about 8 different whiskies before we found, much to our surprise, a great pairing.
What a great pairing! Our favourite pairing was with the Scottish Leader Signature Blended whisky. Our tasting notes for this whisky included sherry sweetness with fruitcake, oak, raisins and cloves. Bits of citrus peel floating in the background. A great combination of sweetness, smoke and spice. The cheese brought out the fruitiness and smoke of the whisky while the whisky enriched and softened the woolly sheep quality of the cheese. We give the Scottish Leader Signature whisky and Brebirousse d’Argental cheese pairing a Rating 4/5.
Another great pairing we tried was with an older Glenfiddich. Our Glenfiddich 18 yo tasting notes include oak and fresh apple notes intertwined with barley, dried fruits and hints of cinnamon. It is an extraordinary smooth whisky. The pairing worked reasonable well. The Glenfiddich 18 yo cuts through some of the buttery quality of the cheese and the cheese enhanced the finish of the Glenfiddich. We give the Glenfiddich 18 yo whisky and Brebirousse d’Argental cheese pairing a Rating: 3/5.
We also tried the pairing with this Speyside legend. The Balvenie Roasted Malt tasting notes reflected notes of rich notes of cocoa, honey, vanilla and toasted oak. This Balvenie Roasted Malt is a very gentle dram with hints of caramel and roasted nuts intermingling with vanilla. Again this was a passable pairing with the roasted notes of the Balvenie whisky bringing out the earthiness of the cheese. We gave the Balvenie Roasted Malt and Brebirousse d’Argental cheese pairing a Rating: 2.5/5.
In our search for great pairings we also tried some less than perfect pairings. Our Springbank 18 yo tasting notes to include fruity notes, spice and barley with some aniseed. There were hints of dried fruits and traces of smoke in this 18 yo whisky. This was our least favourite whisky cheese pairing. The cheese enhanced the smokiness of the Springbank 18 yo but the rest of the elements did not really mix. We give the Springbank 18 yo and Brebirousse d’Argental cheese pairing a Rating: 2/5.
This soft earthy sheep milk cheese was certainly not easy to pair with cheese. We tried many different combinations before we got to anything that worked. Some of the pairings we tried included the Woodford Reserve Bourbon as well as Three Ships Bourbon Cask. These we gave a Rating 1/5. All in all, we had a festive afternoon and lots of fun trying.
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