Whisky plus Cheese equals….
There are many things in this world that bemuse me, and one of them is why the food and drink pairing ‘thing’ is so centred around wine. I should confess I suppose at this stage to not being the worlds biggest wine fan, indeed I have been known to refer to it as ‘evil’ on occasion. I have tried, in fact I have tried very, very hard on occasion to fall in love with it, but I just can’t. I can however, appreciate that it makes for a decent accompaniment to food and is enjoyed by millions around the world. What I can’t believe, is that it can beat spirits and cocktails to the crown of ‘best libations to pair with food’.
My issue with food and wine pairing is simply this; whilst food in all its glorious forms enjoys an infinite combination of flavours, textures , temperatures and so on, wine is by contrast inherently limited in its range, simply as a result of having been produced from a single base ingredient. Of course there are a huge range of flavours in wine, but not as huge as the range in alcoholic beverages as an entire category. With this in mind I am always on the look out for delicious food and beverage pairing combinations, and so when a last minute ticket to a ‘Seance’ (i.e. ‘talking to spirits!) at Zilouf’s came up for grabs promising just that, I was there like a shot.
The evening was hosted by the genius that is Colin Dunn from Diageo. I say genius but I really have no idea how clever he is. What I do know is that he is extremely knowledgeable about all things whisky, and is one of the most entertaining and engaging speakers I have come across. It turns out Ziloufs is worth a visit too; our welcome hot whisky toddy was exceptional, and a follow up Bobby Burns was sublime.
The whisky and food pairing commenced with a round of oysters served with a miniature spray bottle filled with Talisker 10. A spritz or two of the whisky over the oyster was like a Scottish holiday in a mouthful and an absolute revelation to me; certainly I will be repeating in the future. The main focus of the evening however was a whisky and cheese pairing. Being a big fan of both I was pretty certain I was in for an enjoyable night. There is however, a big difference between enjoying the taste of two things, and those two things genuinely complementing each other and heightening the overall experience.
First up was a soft and gooey, sweet, salty and creamy Soumaintrain cheese paired with the light and fruity Dalwhinnie 15yr. This was the sort of combo that could easily result in a whole cheese and half a bottle of whisky disappearing without too much thought at all. The rich but smooth Lincolnshire poacher teamed up with the floral Glenkinchie 12yr in round two, and to equally delicious effect. The penultimate combination was a smooth but almost fudge-like Bosworth log and the fruity Monkey Shoulder. Finally it was the turn of some buttery blue-veined Stichelton and some more of the dry, peaty Talisker 10. Full-tasting notes would be far too tiresome to read but suffice to say these were some inspired and delicious combinations.
The evening concluded with dram or two of three special malts. Lagavulin 16yr has long been a favourite of mine and combined wondrously with some homemade chocolates. The rich and spicy Glen Ord 30yr has definitely been added to my ‘wish list’ and was the star of the evening for me. Finishing up with some rare Lenlithgow 30 was certainly a treat I was not expecting, even if it was not quite my cup of tea.
All in all this was a thoroughly enjoyable night and my thanks must go to Amanda from London Bar Scene for fixing me up with a ticket. Certainly I know whether I’ll be heading to the wine cellar or the spirit cabinet next time I’m looking for something to wash down my cheese.