On paper this pairing makes a lot of sense. In their purest forms both chocolate and Whisky are made from a simple set of ingredients that combine to produce a whole variety of diverse flavours.
Finding ideal combinations has therefore become a fun way to explore both products and it’s no longer uncommon to see a few squares of dark chocolate at a Whisky tasting.
More recently, tastings focusing specifically on exploring different types of Whisky alongside Chocolate have become increasingly popular.
Port Askaig for example recently hosted a tasting event at London’s most famous Whisky shop. The evening celebrated each of their brand’s expressions alongside a different flavour of dark chocolate.
Milk chocolate pairings certainly do exist but this tends to be using very high quality cocoa beans and additional flavours such as ginger, lemongrass or chilli. In other words, the couple of Hershey’s kisses leftover in your cupboard might need a bit of an upgrade if you want to really enjoy the experience of Whisky and chocolate!
While buying higher quality dark chocolate is no a bad thing either, you can tend to get away with less expensive versions due to the higher percentage of cocoa beans.
Once you feel comfortable appreciating the taste of the Whisky then try eating a piece of chocolate after a sip. Allow the chocolate to melt and move around your mouth in order to get the flavours combining together. At this stage you will probably just be picking up the new flavour of the chocolate with the lingering flavour of the Whisky.
Take another sip however while the chocolate is still melting and you will immediately note how the chocolate has transformed the taste of the Whisky from start to finish. You may find yourself picking up a whole host of new flavours that change the drinking experience entirely.
The Auchentoshan 12 year old is one that works well for example and pairs really nicely with the gentle citrus flavours in Lindt’s Lime intense dark chocolate. Tasting notes will often pick out citrus in this Whisky as it is and the chocolate really helps to draw out this flavour and compliment what is also quite a sweet tasting malt.
But it’s not all about complimenting flavours. One of the most interesting parts of experimenting with Whisky and chocolate is often trying to find contrasting flavours in each that can actually work together.
Speyside Whiskies and sweeter milk chocolate or flavoured dark chocolate
While undoubtedly these could compliment the taste well, I really enjoyed the experience of pairing a sweeter Whisky like Glenfarclas 10 with the contrasting flavours in Lindt’s Sea Salt flavoured dark chocolate. The salty edge to the chocolate adds a whole new dimension to the sweet, fruit flavours in the Whisky and left me with notes of coffee and even a hint of smoke.
Flaviar team also visited distillery in 2016 to try their carefully selected pairings:
- Dalwhinnie 15 YO with a milk velvet truffle.
- Dalwhinnie Winter's Gold with hazelnut creme praline.
- Dalwhinnie Distiller's Edition with strawberry and star anise truffle.
The medicinal and even seaweed notes associated with smoky Islay malts compliment the bitter tasting experience of 70-75% dark chocolate. Meanwhile the Sherry notes from the Whisky add a sweet contrast to these flavours and seem to melt through and mellow out any harshness from the extremely dark chocolate.
My personal favourite from tasting experiences so far has been Bowmore Darkest with Green & Black’s 70% Dark chocolate. With three years worth of finishing time in a Sherry Cask this Whisky is more sweet than smoky and therefore benefits from the bitter dark chocolate.
The combination of Sherry, bitter chocolate and subtle smoke becomes incredibly moreish to the point that I now struggle having the dram without a small square of chocolate on the side!
You’re just going to have to go out there and try lots of Whisky and chocolate—what a hard life you lead! So go treat yourself to some quality chocolate, line up a few malts and then share your favourite combinations.