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Pairing cheese with rum

Pairing cheese with rum – The best cheese to pair with dark rum

dark rum cheese pairing

Rum and food and particular cheese may not seem like your typical pairing – the market is filled with food and wine pairings for a reason – we don’t generally have our dinner with a glass of rum. However, we don’t generally eat our cheese alongside dinner either, so the cheese course really has an open playing field. Pairing cheese with rum is something which although less common, works an absolute treat. Dark rum and cheese works especially well for similar reasons to why I enjoy pairing cheese with spirits in general. Rum’s flavour spectrum is vast, and it frequently expresses flavours and nuances of foods and accompaniments which we already match with cheeses. Dark rum can show flavours of dried fruits like figs and raisins & nuts like pecans which are accompaniments often seen on a cheeseboard. Pairing dark rum is both a gustative treat and a perfect partner for cheese pairing. 

The ageing of dark rum lends very well to cheese pairing. It gives complexity, offers flavours of fruits, smoke, tobacco and vanilla and it rounds off and smoothens the alcohol. All these values make it easier to match easiest with complex or aged cheeses. 

Best cheese to pair with dark rum

Using the flavours touched on above, we can make decisions as to which cheeses will work when pairing cheese with rum and more specifically dark rum and cheese. 

When cheese pairing, I firstly like to look for congruent flavours. As a cheese professional I have access to a delightful world of cheese and a memory bank to accompany. The first cheese which I knew would be a match for dark rum is a cheese which I sell using the descriptors ‘rum’ and ‘rum raisin’. This cheese is aged Gouda. Young Gouda has a milky, ‘sweet and nutty’ flavour profile, however the ageing of Gouda and the controlled breakdown of proteins, sugars and fats give way to a higher complexity of flavours. If you taste a Gouda past the age of two years and even more so into the five-year realm you will find notes of rum and dried fruits. That, paired with the inherent salt in all cheeses (particularly prevalent in aged cheeses) and the sweetness from the cultures in the cheese, should make for a perfect match. 

As these rums have been aged in sherry casks in Jerez, I had to test them out with the most classic sherry and cheese pairings. Staying in Spain, I tasted these with both Manchego and a lesser-known hard goat’s milk cheese from Spain called Payoyo. I then wanted to look into the realms of the dried, sweet fruit nuances which are found in dark rum. Fruits such as figs and raisins are perfect pairings for cheese and especially blues which I will go into in more depth below. With more ageing in dark rums the best cheese pairings have a step up in complexity or strength to hold up to the rum. Alpine cheeses which have been made at higher altitudes during the Summer months when cows are grazing on rich, diverse pastures give further complexity in the milk and therefore the cheese. Finally, I have played with the tobacco elements which are found in dark rum. Smoked cheeses are generally balanced with a little sweetness and this combination of smoke and sweet are an excellent marriage of flavours with the dried fruit and smokey elements found in rum like the Dos Maderas 5 + 3 and 5 + 5. 

Types of dark rum to pair with cheese

The Dos Maderas rums are not only dark rums which already lend themselves to pairing flavour wise with cheese, but they have an extra dimension also. After ageing in Barbados and Guyana for five years, the rums are then transported to Jerez in Spain to continue their ageing in old barrels. Two of the best sherries to pair with cheese are Palo Cortado and Pedro Ximénez so the ageing of the Dos Maderas rums in these barrels make pairing these rums even more suited. 

Best cheese to pair with dark rum

Below are some combinations of Dos Maderas rums and cheese which worked very well together – this is not a finite list and I always recommend to keep tasting to find your own flavour combinations but these are tried and tested! 

manchego with dark rum pairing

Manchego & Dos Maderas 5 + 3

The Manchego was a ‘curado’, an aged Manchego but this could also work with a semi-curado (younger Manchego). Its flavours are briney, savoury, nutty and milky. The savoury notes of Manchego are complemented nicely by the sweet, dried fruits and aromatics of the Dos Maderas 5 + 3.

Gouda & Dos Maderas 5 + 3

The Gouda I tasted with this rum was a two-year-old cheese but as with the Manchego, this will work with different ages and even better with a more aged Gouda (up to about five years is the sweet spot) if you can find any. The, rich, concentration of salt and dried fruits is a fabulous match with the sweetness of the rum. This works well also with other sweet cheeses such as Mimolette and Comté. 

Stilton & Dos Maderas 5 + 3

The characteristics of a good Stilton include cereal and biscuit flavours plus a typical blue spice. A Stilton’s texture, as well as being crumbly is very creamy. The alcohol in the rum cuts through the creamy paste well and the combination of fruit, vanilla, spice, cereal and sweet is an excellent match. This will also work with stronger blues such as Roquefort and milder blues such as Gorgonzola. 

Smoked Cheddar & Dos Maderas 5 + 5

I matched the tobacco, cigar and smokey elements, which come through in the more aged dark rums such as the Dos Maderas 5 + 5, with a smoked cheddar. Smoked cheddars are generally balanced out with sweetness intentionally introduced through the cheese cultures used when they are being made, so the sweet and smoke combination works well with the dried fruit sweetness in the rum. This will also work well with other smoked cheeses with both a prominent strength and a more subtle smoking.

Gruyère & Dos Maderas 5 + 5

The Dos Maderas 5 + 5 has a lot of complexity which I have matched here with a complex cheese. Gruyère is salty, savoury and sweet, flavours which are fail proof when pairing with rum. If you can find a particular cheese called L’Etivaz this has a gentle smokey element within to tick every single box and to create the most perfect pairing. 

Pair cheese with dark rum cocktails

Author:  Emma Young,

Emma is a member of the Specialist Cheesemakers Association and an international cheese judge who has judged for numerous competitions including the World Cheese Awards, International Cheese Awards, Global Cheese Awards, Virtual Cheese Awards, and the Artisan Cheese Awards.

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