The city is replete with events that offer tastings of Japanese beverages such as sake and shochu. Lately these tastings have focused on unique pairings that dispel the common misconception that Japanese alcohol should be consumed with only Japanese cuisine.
Last year Asian Women in Business partnered with the French Cheese Board with a sake and French cheese pairing led by sake sommelier Chris Johnson, a.k.a. the Sake Ninja. On the heels of that event’s success, AWIB and the French Cheese Board joined forces once again on July 10, but this time they upped the pairing a notch with Suntory Whisky.
After starting the evening with a cocktail (recipe in box below), the sold-out event at the French Cheese Board in NoHo paired four award-winning brands of Suntory Whisky with four types of cheese produced in France. Charles Duque, who heads the French Cheese Board’s international marketing in North and South America, and Rosser Lomax, Luxury Specialist for Beam Suntory, guided us through the tasting.
Round 1: Suntory Whisky Toki + Chaource
This is excellent pairing of Chaource, a soft cow’s milk cheese that’s smooth and buttery, and Toki, which is a blend of whiskies produced in all three of Suntory’s distilleries. The creaminess of the cheese coats the mouth, while the bold and complex flavor of Toki cuts through the fattiness of the Chaource.
Round 2: Suntory Hakushu + Camembert
This pairing is one for the ages. Hakushu is a lightly smoky single malt whisky that’s aged in a barrel for a minimum of twelve years. The barrel used is made of Mizunara oak from Hokkaido, which gives Hakushu herbal notes and a green tea finish. Aged two to three months, Camembert, quite possibly one of the most recognizable names in French cheese after Brie, has a firm yet creamy texture that works beautifully with the vibrancy of Hakushu.
Round 3: Suntory Hibiki + Mimolette
This powerhouse duo wins the night as the best pairing. First Hibiki and Mimolette are visually interesting, with the rich amber of Hibiki and the dynamic orange of Mimolette. Quite possibly the best cheese ever, Mimolette is a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese with a nutty flavor and a saltiness that complements Hibiki, a blend of both malt and grain whiskies that has a woodsy aroma and a finish that stays on the tongue. Hibiki has won more awards for Suntory than any of their other whiskies, and it’s easy to see why.
Round 4: Suntory Yamazaki + Tomme Brulee
As Suntory’s flagship single malt and the #1 single malt whisky in Japan, Yamazaki is bold. Its Mizunara aroma and fruity flavor was a tasty fit with Tomme Brulee, a hard sheep’s milk cheese from the Basque region. The strongest pairing of the evening, this combo is not for the lighthearted.
AWIB’s cross-cultural event was a success, bringing together businesswomen (and men) of all backgrounds at the headquarters of the ambassador of French Cheese in New York to serve the brand of whisky that’s most synonymous with Japan. (Full disclosure: The author is a member of AWIB.)
So how can we rate the grand experiment between Japanese whisky and fromage? Totemo Magnifique!