I have not done a whisky and cheese pairing for ages. I have been savoring all the old favourites, so it is high time I try something again. The Wyke cheese selection at Checkers is amazing. The mature cheddar is a firm favorite in our house and regularly paired with the peatier drams. A couple of weeks ago I found a Wyke Bonfire cheese which is a smoked mature cheddar with paprika. It sounded rather delicious, so I decided, this is the perfect cheese to experiment with.
A mature cheddar needs a big bold dram to balance it out. Add the smoky flavor to the mix and you are looking at a limited variety of whiskies that can stand up to the cheese. Then there was the hints of paprika. Paprika is the ground spice made from the red air dried fruit of the bell pepper or sweet pepper. It originated in Mexico, but was brought to Spain during the 16th century and widely traded around the world.
The Wyke Bonfire cheese is buttery and creamy but not overpoweringly smoky. The smoke is bold enough to be enjoyable, but soft enough not to overwhelm. The paprika adds flavor and the faintest bit of a bite, but again, it is creamy and well balanced and really delicious. This Wyke Bonfire mature cheddar is smooth and rich.
All of these flavors however rather limited the selection of whisky. I tried all kinds of pairings to see the results, but in the end, it was the more peaty smoky drams that stood up best. I wanted to move away from the traditional Islay smoke and peat and look at something from the Highlands or Speyside. In the end, there were many drams that did not work with the Bonfire cheddar at all and only very few that did. But the ones that did work, was absolutely delicious.
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Wyke Bonfire Cheese and Whisky pairing
Wyke Bonfire Cheese and Old Pulteney 21 yo
A whisky that did not really impress me, was the Old Pulteney 21 yo. Jim Murray made a huge fuss about it when he rated it as one of the best in the world during 2012. I tried it and thought it was ok. Not sure if it was worth all the drama. My tasting notes included sherry with cereals. Notes of oak, florals, fresh fruit and cereals with hints of butterscotch. However, with the Bonfire Cheese it created a creamy and rich combination. It softened the Old Pulteney and made the whisky more fruity. I give this pairing a RATING: 4 / 5
Wyke Bonfire Cheese and BenRiach Curiositas
This peaty dram from Speyside is full of flavor. There are notes of earthy peat, heady smoke, plump fruit, honey sweetness mixed with vanilla, peppery spice and oak. The BenRiach Curiositas is big and bold. Rich and satisfying, the peat does not have the same medicinal, seaside notes that some of the Islay drams have. Water brings more of the well known Speyside character and softens the peat. A really great whisky. And it paired wonderfully with the Wyke Bonfire Cheese! The combination was soft and creamy and enhanced the sweetness of the cheese. The different smoky notes blended together and softened the peat and created a creamy dreamy fusion. I give this pairing a RATING: 4.5 / 5
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Wyke Bonfire Cheese and Highland Park 1997 Vintage
Another Highland whisky that I did not really like that much. The Highland Park 1997 Vintage has notes of sweetness mixed with spices, hints of citrus, cloves and cinnamon, oak, marmalade, and citrus peel. In the background there are bits of smoke and peat mixed with custard. However, this dram was transformed when I paired it with the Bonfire Cheese! It was the perfect pairing. The elements merging into a wonderful buttery, smoky deliciousness. I just could not stop eating. I give the pairing a RATING: 5 / 5
Wyke Bonfire Cheese and Oban Distillers Edition
Lastly the Oban Distillers Edition. This 1994 release impressed us earlier in the year as a rich and delicious dram. My tasting notes for it included sherry, rich dark fruit, hints of nutmeg and marzipan. Smoky hints with oak, cream and pepper spice. It is easy drinking, clean and uncomplicated. I was hoping that the spicy smoke will stand up to the cheese. The smoky flavor in the cheese overwhelmed the Oban a bit. The Oban softened the creamy mature cheddar and made the cheese more delicious. Not a bad pairing, the cheese is definitely better off than the Oban. I gave this pairing a RATING: 2.5 / 5
Wyke Bonfire cheese and whisky Pairings NOT to try.
The Tamdhu Batch Strength 001 did was not bold enough for this smoky cheese. Also, sweeter Speyside whiskies also did not work with the smoky paprika cheese either. The cheese overwhelmed the whisky and left it flat. For me, the biggest surprise was the impact the cheese had on a Johnnie Walker Double Black. I was expecting the Double Black to make for a really great pairing, but it was the worst of all. It made the Double Black taste like water.
What cheese should I try next?
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