Even typing that feels weird, as if "scotch and cheese" needs a sound effect along the lines of YEEESH! But it doesn’t, mainly because there is a logic — 40-proof single malts, with their high alcohol content and flavor hints of this, that and the other (apple, pear, caramel, et. al.) make a kind of sense with high-fat, high-end cheeses that have their own elaborate flavor profiles. (Ever had the Hook’s double cream Blue Paradise? Good. God. Between that and Rogue Creamery’s Smokey Blue, I must officially retire my position as secretary of the No, Really, I Don’t Like Blue Cheese And It Looks Like Bread Mold, Anyway Society.)
So Barrie Lynn "Cheese Impresario" Kirch worked with Glenfiddich rep Ray Pearson (drinking scotch + wearing a kilt = HIS JOB) to pair five cheeses with single malts of various ages (12-30 years). And they stood at the front of a Beverly Hills Hotel ballroom to guide about 50 people through the tasting. Scotch and cheese may be the new Pinkberry for all I know; the event was hosted through Ian Blackburn’s Learn About Wine and it was oversold.
The upshot? Very nice cheese. Nice scotch, probably better than my single-malt palate deserves. I now know how to say "Glenfiddich" (it’s glen-FID-ick) and how many drops of water it needs for the flavor to bloom, which may earn me all kinds of sideways glances should I order it in a bar. But that is unlikely (though not impossible), since I still like wine a lot better and, honestly, was struggling to navigate the differences between the single malts. Not that they weren’t there, but the gradations were subtle.
Similarly, I could also make sense of the cheese-scotch pairings (peaty scotch goes nicely with smokey blue cheese), but the combination was unusual enough to require some fierce attention and after a while either that or the scotch made my head start to hurt. And I sure don’t envy Barrie Lynn her event homework, which at one point apparently meant tasting scotch at 10 am.
Something else to consider: scotch and cheese isn’t far removed from scotch milk punch, a cocktail apparently invented for those who don’t want to choose between tending their ulcers or their dipsomania. That said, I trust that a bite of Hook’s cheddar followed by a sip of 18-year-old Glen-FID-ick would be a far superior experience.