When I told my friends and family I was into pairing artisanal cheeses with fine sipping rum, they thought I had finally lost my marbles. That was until they tasted this surprisingly delicious pairing. I’ve been exploring this sugar cane spirit and the pairing it with all kinds of cheeses with great gusto. I was fascinated by the different flavors from country to country, Island to Island, and distiller to distiller.
Much of the rum available in our country is made from the molasses left over from the sugar making process. This does not mean that it’s bad or of less quality, it’s simply a different flavor profile. Some rums are made from fresh squished sugar cane juice and are categorized as Rhum Agricole. These are primarily made in the French territories in the Caribbean. I adore the rhums of Martinique. Ed Hamilton founder of The Ministry of Rum introduced me to Neisson Reserve Rhum from this special Island. Ed is considered by many to be the worldwide top expert on rum. I appeared with artisanal cheeses at The Ministry of Rum’s San Francisco Rum Festival and people were gushing with pleasure over the pairings.
I like to use the Neisson Rhum Agricole Réserve Spéciale. The Neisson has a fresh green flavor that makes me feel like I’m running through the sugar cane fields smelling the fresh plants growing. It’s dynamite paired with artisanal cheeses. This is not an inexpensive rum but it’s really well worth the price. I enjoy it served neat and I take a nice smell and think about what I’m experiencing. Spice, sweetness, fresh green sugar cane and a nuttiness comes through in the nose. Then, I savor the Neisson in my mouth. A deep, rich flavor comes on and then I can discern a fruitiness with a nuttiness that’s really stunning. There’s a long spicy finish along with vanilla and smokiness from the aging in French and American oak barrels. The final libation is a blend that’s aged up to 10 years. After I taste the complexity of this marvelous liquid, I add a few drops of spring water (no chlorine!) to the rhum. This addition of water brings out even more delightful details to your senses.
There are quite a number of successful cheese and rum pairings to enjoy with your friends and family. I’ll detail one of my favorites I’m having pleasure with at this moment in time. Gouda is a delicious cheese to eat with rum. I’d suggest finding the finest quality Gouda you can. As I always say, “Ingredients are everything!” There’s an award-winning cheesemaker from Wisconsin, Marieke Penterman from Holland’s Family Farm. She and her husband Rolf, moved to the green rolling hills of Wisconsin from Holland. They have their own herd of cows which means their cheeses are classified as Farmstead. They also make raw milk cheese. Using raw milk in cheesemaking results in a richer and more complex flavor. In our country, raw milk cheeses must be aged at least 60 days and Marieke ages them beautifully. She uses the classic Dutch pine planks for added flavor and premium aging. I recommend Marieke’s Plain Raw Milk Gouda and her famous Foenegreek Raw Milk Gouda to pair with the Neisson Réserve. Foenegreek is a seed from Holland used in making curry. It has a sweet almost maple syrup taste. When it’s imbedded in this stellar raw milk Gouda, you’ll experience a pleasure you’ll want to experience over and over again. The deep complexity of the cheese and the depth of flavors of the rhum deliver nuts, fruit, spices, sweetness, and smoke.
Website: The Cheese Impresario
My educational show CHEESE RULES with Barrie Lynn – The Cheese Impresario is all about cheese and pairing cheese with all kinds of beverages.