Why Parmesan Is The One Cheese You Need To Include In Your Next Bourbon Tasting

Bourbon enthusiasts understand the complexity and depth of flavors that this iconic American spirit offers. However, the alcohol harshness of bourbon can sometimes overpower subtle notes and nuances, leaving aficionados yearning for an ideal palate cleanser. Enter parmesan, a cheese known for its rich, savory profile that not only complements bourbon but enhances the overall tasting experience.

"Aged parmesan cheese pairs extremely well with bourbon," Elizabeth McCall, Master Distiller at Woodford Reserve, tells Tasting Table. "The high fat covers your tongue, blocking the perception of alcohol and allowing you to taste the creamy, nutty characteristics of Woodford Reserve. This pairing has been known to convert non-bourbon drinkers into bourbon fans, so I always recommend that a parmesan be included in a bourbon and cheese pairing."

Parmesan, with its nutty undertones and granular texture, provides a delightful contrast to the sharpness of bourbon. The cheese's umami notes play a crucial role in mellowing out the alcohol's harshness, allowing the drinker to discern the subtleties within the bourbon's flavor profile. As the parmesan melts on the palate, it creates a harmonious balance, enhancing the overall tasting experience and encouraging a more nuanced exploration of the bourbon's intricate notes.

Plussing up parmesan and bourbon

While parmesan stands as an exceptional companion to bourbon, there are other foods that can elevate your bourbon-tasting journey. Parmesan's richness is what works to its advantage, and that quality can be found in many other items along with other flavor notes that accentuate and attenuate various flavor components of both bourbon and parmesan. Dark chocolate is a classic companion to bourbon due to its rich and slightly bitter profile. The sweetness of the chocolate enhances the vanilla notes present in many bourbons. The velvety texture of dark chocolate also complements the smoothness of bourbon and the savory elements of the parmesan.

While unconventional, smoked salmon provides a unique pairing. The smoky and salty characteristics of the salmon contrast the sweetness of the bourbon while enhancing the slight smokiness the drink gets from its barrel. The fatty texture of the fish also serves to guard the palate, much like parmesan. Similarly, country ham is a natural fit for bourbon tasting. The saltiness of the ham complements the caramel undertones of bourbon. This pairing is a nod to the Southern roots of bourbon, creating a genuine and satisfying connection.

By incorporating these unique food pairings alongside parmesan, you cater to a range of tastes and preferences. The interplay of sweet, salty, and savory elements with the nuanced flavors of bourbon creates a memorable tasting experience that lingers long after the last sip.