More often than I can count, smoked cheeses are treated like the flavored coffees of the cheese world. Sub-par cheese is smoked to suggest flavor where none existed before. Rarely do you get first rate, raw milk cheese like this.
Idiazabal is smoked as a matter of tradition, not expediency. You can taste the difference. The smoking—done over a mix of hawthorn and cherrywood—is subtle, sweet, and seems very natural. It is great paired with rich flavors like cured ham and peppery radishes. If you want to add a bit of smoky flavor to a dish—mac and cheese would be a good candidate—just grate a bit right in.
Idiazábal is a small village located in the Goierri valley in the heart of Basque Spain. The cheese was named for the town long ago, when shepherds would descend the mountains at first snow. They’d stop at the village and an annual market would spring up. They were the main attraction, offering the ewe's milk cheese they’d made and smoked over the summer. The market still exists today. So does the village. And, most importantly for us, so does the cheese.