I know I know, this corny phrase is often used for couples who are head over heels in love with each other but rest assured I won’t be caught dead writing about that. There are innumerable such combinations from different parts of the world but I would like to share some of my favourite food and drink ‘couples’ who in my humble opinion are ‘made for each other’.
Laphroaig 10 y.o. with Danablu
At the onset let me be clear, the combination of blue cheese and a smoky whisky is quite a popular one and the choice of whisky does not matter to a very large extent but this particular one is my personal favourite and one that I have indulged in most often.
Laphroaig is a single malt whisky hailing from Islay, a Scottish isle and its distillery is right by the coast. The distinction of Laphroaig is that the germination of the barley malt is halted by burning peat, available in abundance on the island, on the level below. The controlled heat from the rising smoke lends the smoky note to the whisky. After the usual processes of mashing and double distillation the spirit is usually aged in American oak barrels and left to age in their cellars for up to 10 years in this case. By the end of its maturation process the smoky spirit has imbibed flavours not only from the oak but from its natural coastal environment as well, giving it a beautiful golden colour and its distinct smokiness, salty-seaweed like taste with a lingering sweetness on the palate.
Coming to the cheese, blue cheese is just a general term for cheese that has cultures of the mold Penicillium added to it, thanks to which, appear the bluish gray veins throughout the cheese. It is usually identified by the bluish veins and its distinct sharp and salty taste with a semi soft texture. Now, I have tasted the Roquefort from France, Gorgonzola from Italy and the Danablu from Denmark and since the latter is the one that is most easily obtainable in gourmet stores in Calcutta it is the one that I have indulged in the most. Here, the Danablu or Danish Blue, is available in well packaged wedges. It is milder than the other blue cheeses and has a whitish edible rind but despite that the distinct sharp and salty taste maybe overwhelming for some. Usually it is served as dessert cheese or as salad dressing.
I had read a lot about pairing good chocolate with good whisky and good wine with good cheese but one day I just happened to chance upon this particular pairing, of course, later I looked up the internet only to discover that I hadn’t quite discovered a revolutionary breakthrough in gastronomy. I was sipping on some Laphroaig and in the same room my father was nibbling on some apricots and Danablu. In between a sip I just took a bit of cheese on a thin cracker and sipped the whisky again and then what happened on my palate was something that I will never be able to forget.
The sharp and salty cheese completely changed the whisky. The smoke became mellower and the whisky went down more smoothly with a much sweeter aftertaste with notes of dried fruits. After the whisky, now the soft crumbly cheese began to feel velvety smooth in my mouth. So, I kept repeating this for the next couple of hours savouring and soaking in the magic that was unfolding on my tongue.
Since that memorable evening, I have returned to enjoy this magical pairing innumerable times because I had begun to believe some things are indeed ‘made for each other’.