I have always been intrigued by the idea of pairing various foods with selected drinks, be it spirits or wine. One of the pairings that has been on to top of my to-try list was a chocolate and whisky pairing.
What an interesting and enjoyable experience it was. Lara explained how her chocolate making process works using the artisan low heat technique and the importance of quality ingredients (the raw cacao is imported from Ecuador). Marc then continued on to explain how they went about choosing which whisky to pair with which chocolate for the tasting. It was a trial and error approach (though an enjoyable one I am sure) they used; by tasting the chocolates with various whiskies and selecting the combinations where they felt the chocolate added something to the whisky (and vice versa). For the pairings to work they would need to complement each other, amplify certain flavour profiles and even highlight other flavours otherwise missed by not combining the two.
We were then ready to move onto the whisky and chocolate pairing tasting, after one last topic was covered; how to taste chocolate and whisky together. The following was advised:
- Take a sip of whisky and move it around inside your mouth to coat all areas of your tongue.
- Swallow the whisky (I mean you should also properly taste the whisky right?) ;P
- Wait a short while before taking a piece of the paired chocolate and allow the chocolate to melt and let you experience the flavours of the chocolate and whisky together.
- Then, while still having some of that lovely melted chocolate in your mouth, take in some more whisky and swirl it over the chocolate. This should lead to greater concentration and sometimes the development of some surprising and fascinating flavours.
Right, onto the paired tasting!
1 – First up was the BenRiach 21YO Authenticus whisky (peated and with 46% ABV) paired with the 78% Ecuador chocolate (pure raw chocolate with a touch of blue agave nectar).
The whisky had a lovely spicy and clean peaty nose with stewed fruits and custard in the background. There was a beautiful richness on the palate with oak wood and dark chocolate fruit & nut bar. It had a long warm finish with mellow spices all way to end.
When combined with the 78% Ecuador chocolate, the chocolate brings out more of a sweet earthiness in the whisky for me, while enhancing the spicy character in both the chocolate (a bitter spiciness) and the whisky (more of a wood spice). The chocolate seems to add a good length of taste to the experience.
2 – The second pairing of the evening was The Macallan 10YO (43% ABV) together with the 75% cold pressed virgin coconut oil wrapped in 83% cacao chocolate.
Here the whisky had more of the stewed fruits and heather fields on the nose with only a subtle spiciness to it. The palate was soft, smooth and well balanced that had malt, wood and fruit on it. The finish was fairly lingering with hints of oak and spice on the whole tongue.
I found it really interesting and pleasant how these two combined and played together. The blending of the chocolate and the whisky brought out a lovely spicy sweetness in one’s mouth. The usual bitter taste that one gets from a dark chocolate with a high cacao percentage is superbly balanced out by the sweetness from the whisky. They made a delightful combination.
3 – The final pairing was between the GlenFarclas 105 Cask Strength (60% ABV) and the chilli bon bon (a dark raw chocolate bar with a thin line of chilli bonbon truffle running down the inside center).
The final whisky was a deep and complex one with dark Wilson toffee, wet oak wood, hints of pear & apples with pecan nut slice on the nose. It has a lovely full bodied palate that has a deep rich spiciness, sherried fruit cake and woody smokiness to it. With a finish that is dry and bursting that leaves a spicy tingle that lingers and coats your tongue.
The combination of the two brings out a more pronounced spiciness in both the chocolate and the whisky. As weird as it may sound, I found that the paired chocolate made the whisky a bit sweeter on the palate, bringing out more of that pecan nut slice I was getting. On the other side I found the chocolate to be even hotter, with the chilli even more pronounced. The finish of the combination lasted for a very long time.
Surprisingly my favourite pairing of the evening was The Macallan 10YO together with the 75% cold pressed virgin coconut oil wrapped in 83% cacao chocolate. I say surprising as I usual prefer the cask strength styled whiskies. In this instance, since it was a tasting to exploring the pairing and not the individual whisky, I just felt that the combination of the two was the most enjoyable for me that evening.
One of the attributes of raw chocolate is not only is it delicate, but they melt easier and quicker than ‘normal’ chocolate. I saw this by just picking up a piece having my fingertips covered in melted chocolate and a few scant seconds later. Another property is that the chocolate seems to be coarser and grainier when compared to ‘normal’ chocolate.
Both of these makes for a wonderful texture and feel of the chocolate in one’s mouth and especially on one’s tongue. I feel this also helps to spread the combined tasted with the whisky all over your mouth so that you can fully get and appreciate the various flavours.
Besides the three chocolates that were used in the pairing above, Fine & Raw Chocolate also has other chocolates on its offering. See their website for details on this and how to get your hand on this gorgeously fine and raw chocolates.
Marc also collaborated with Lara to produce a small range of chocolates that have whisky as part of their makeup. These are available from the WhiskyBrother store, if they are not already sold out.
Thanks to Marc and Lara for an interesting and delicious event.