by Liz Thorpe Gourmet cheese, bourbon and perfect pairings for the holidays.

Pairing bourbon (or any spirit) with cheese is tricky. The high alcohol content of liquor can overpower many cheeses; that burn demands a texture that can withstand the hit. This is the first reason I reach for aged cheeses nine out of 10 times when I’m pairing them with bourbon. Aged cheeses are firm and dry in texture. They have much less water than creamy cheeses like Brie. As a result, each crumble is all fat and protein, which helps absorbs the sting of the spirit. There are other reasons to go aged. With time, cheeses like Cheddar, Swiss and Parmesan develop toasty, nutty, woody and caramel-y notes, all of which complement the basic flavor profile of bourbon.

If I had to pick a single cheese to pair with any bourbon it would be Aged Gouda. The cheese has a waxy, almost crayon-like texture, and the signature tasting notes read like a bourbon placard: vanilla, toast and butterscotch with a delicate, spicy finish.

I’m not saying you can’t pair bourbon with a Blue or fresh Goat cheese, but it’s harder to get a great pairing. Just as bourbons have a wide range of nuance within a single style of liquor, aged cheeses give you an incredible range of flavor possibilities. They won’t seem boring or repetitive — they’ll be reliably delicious.


MAKER’S MARK + “SWEETER CHEDDAR” TRULY GRASS FED OR SARTORI MONTAMORÉ) When I say “sweeter cheddar” I mean a new class of Cheddars whose flavor isn’t about being sharp. Instead, these Cheddars are crafted to have flavors of stone fruit, buttered toast and butterscotch as opposed to an old-fashioned hit of lemony acidity. That said, they’re still Cheddars and they have a backbone of acidity that balances the big blast of sweetness you get from this wheated bourbon. ELIJAH CRAIG + SMOKED CHEESES (SMOKED GOUDA OR SMOKED CHEDDAR) Just as a few drops of water in Elijah Craig will open up its smoky notes, a piece of Smoked cheese pushes them to the fore as well. Smoked cheeses are more straightforward in flavor and do better with a bourbon that isn’t about wildly complex flavor layers. KNOB CREEK + MELLOW BLUE (SAINT AGUR, STILTON OR POINT REYES BAY BLUE) While I often reach for Aged cheeses it’s possible to have a brilliant Blue/ bourbon combo. The trick is a rich bourbon with lots of brown sugar and caramel, and a Blue that’s creamy and mellow rather than crumbly and spicy. It’s my upgrade on the traditional Blue cheese and dessert wine pairing.

WOODFORD RESERVE + AGED SHEEP CHEESE (MANCHEGO) Citrus notes and an ethanol hit on the nose make Woodford feel like a knife primed to cut the super fat of Sheep milk cheeses. Macademia nut, coconut and caramel undertones cushion this bourbon that drinks lighter than its 90 proof. Merry Cheesemas! At Rouses Markets, we think food makes the best gift. From seasonal cheeses to big Blues — and the bourbons that go with them, we

Truly, this cheese would work with any bourbon. I like Eagle Rare because its honey and sweet palate actually drive forward flavors in the cheese beyond butterscotch. The bourbon forces you to acknowledge the complexity of Aged Gouda beyond being just “cheese candy.”


The spicy bite and woody notes of Bulleit make it the perfect bedfellow for Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano. Real, imported Parm-Reg is surprisingly acidic, with fermented fruit flavors in addition to more predictable toasted nut notes. Here, the spice of the bourbon and the acid of the cheese meet and recede, so you get more vanilla and leather from the bourbon. BUFFALO TRACE + ALPINE CHEESES (GRUYERE, GRAND CRU OR COMTE) If Bulleit and Parmigiano-Reggiano are about putting spicier notes together so they recede, Buffalo Trace and Gruyere are about putting sweeter notes together so they deepen and linger. The palate on this bourbon may be too sweet for some but for most it’s what makes Buffalo Trace so drinkable. The sweet (low acid/lower salt) flavor profile of Alpine cheeses, coupled with roasted nuts and chocolate notes, is what makes them so easy to love. Together you get the s’mores of bourbon and cheese.

have the perfect present for every foodie on your list. Look for our 12 days of Cheesemas this December. We have a different selection on sale each day.


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