It's right around this time of year that Kerrygold cheese displays start taking up more prominent real estate in the dairy department. I love Kerrygold Irish butter, and whiskey is one of the most successful pairings for cheese around, so much so that I have yet to muster a cheese column on the subject, for fear that I won't do the duo justice. To me, whiskey is something that improves even the most mediocre of cheeses. (It's like a miracle worker, I swear.) It seemed a natural thing, then, to pick up a wedge of Kerrygold's newest offering — a cheddar infused with whiskey — and try it out.
Not surprisingly, this new cheddar is pretty delicious. It's sharp. And kind of unexpectedly so, but in such a pleasant way. (Have you ever bought a so-called "sharp" cheddar, only to have it leaving you wanting much, much more?)
You can taste its sharpness with an acidity that rides up the sides of your tongue and almost into your nose. The finish is long. This cheese turns into an excellent mac n' cheese and an even better cheese sauce, atop potatoes, cauliflower, or cabbage if you want to keep it in the Irish family of foods. Expect pleasant little crunchy bits throughout, too. (It's that tyrosine we all love so much in cheese.)
All Kerrygold products are made by cooperative dairies across Ireland. Cows are grassfed, and most dairies are family-run. Because Ireland provides such excellent grazing pasture for cows, dairy products made from cow milk tend to be incredibly rich in flavor, even — as is true in this case — in the products that are pasteurized.
If there ever were a cheese to infuse with whiskey, it'd be cheddar, without a doubt. And that's just what they've done. Take a look at the ingredients, and precisely two are listed: "cheese," and "whiskey." Aromatic, bold, and toothsome, with a buttery, nutty bite, cheddar is the perfect flavor profile to match with something as woodsy and heady as whiskey. When in conjunction, the cheese has a fermented, almost sour-like sweetness, like buttermilk, yet reminiscent — strangely enough — of port. It smells nearly of the barrels in a wine cellar, earthy and sweet, which seems odd, and it tastes fruity and ripe, reminiscent of grapes. Complex, indeed, for a mass- (although well-) produced cheese!
Try the cheese on its own and you'll be enamored of its dynamic structure as you hack away. It's crumbly and dense, but not dry in the least. The texture is fudge-like and chewy, and will sit on your palate. Like all cheddars, this would be great with wine and beer. (I won't mention what the obvious pairing would be. You can read that right on its label.) Pretty snackable, it most definitely is.
I tried the other new cheese in the Kerrygold line, as well. It's their Dubliner cheese with Irish Stout, and I'd have reviewed it in more detail here, too, had I found it tasty enough for a column. Disappointing. Unfortunately, only their whiskey'd cheddar made the cut. If you're given the choice between the two, it should be an easy one to make. Unless, of course, you have a glass of a certain miracle-working beverage on the side.
• Find it! Kerrygold cheeses can be found in the dairy cases at most large supermarkets and delis.
Nora Singley is an avid lover of cheese, and for some time she was a cheesemonger and the Director of Education at Murray's Cheese Shop in New York City, where she continues to teach cheese classes for the public. She is currently an assistant TV chef on The Martha Stewart Show.
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(Image: Nora Singley)