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How to Pair Whisky and Chocolate

Ask your friends about the traditional product to enjoy with Whisky and you’ll most likely get one answer: cigar. And while there’s certainly nothing wrong with the relaxing pleasure of a Cuban, for most of us there’s only a certain time and place when we choose to light up the stogies. For those of you looking to break out from the traditional Whisky and cigar combo, or even add a third item to the set, there has been a growing interest in the pairing of Whisky and chocolate.

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.

So what type of chocolate do you eat with Whisky?
At the few Whisky and chocolate tastings I have been to lately the focus has always been on dark chocolate. As always this is a matter of personal preference and one for you to try at home but the logic being that the underlying sweetness and alcohol bite to Whisky is offset extremely well by the more bitter and lingering flavour of dark chocolate.

Peat Smoke & Chocolate Tasting Event at Milroy'sMilk 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.

Here's your Whisky and here's your chocolate. Now how to start?
In order to enjoy the process, all tastings generally recommend tasting the Whisky first. Move the spirit around your palate to help desensitise your mouth to the alcohol and after a few sips you should be able to start identifying certain flavours in the Whisky without suffering any harsh burn from the alcohol. A few drops of water can also help you here!

 

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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.

Now let’s have some Whisky-Chocolate fun…
So you’ve got the process down for combining Whisky and chocolate. Let’s discuss which pairings are worth a try.

Lowland Whiskies are a nice place to start
Lowland Whiskies tend to be quite light and easy-drinking so don’t get overly complicated with the addition of chocolate.

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
With Speyside Malts you will often be working with richer flavours in the Whisky and sweeter tasting notes such as Christmas Cake and dried fruits. Logically to compliment that with a chocolate you may think of a sweeter milk chocolate flavoured with orange or maybe a cinnamon flavoured dark chocolate to bring out the spice.

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.

Whisky and chocolate pairing is also popular in Scotisch Highlands
Thousands of tourists visit Dalwhinnie distillery every year and they go mainly for two things. The first one, obviously, is Whisky. And the second one is Dalwhinnie Whisky paired with chocolate. They work with the Highland chocolatier Iain Burnett, the most awarded chocolatier in the UK.

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.

Dalwhinnie: Whisky & Chocolate pairing

Islay Whiskies and Chocolate: The Real Dark Side of Pairings
For me, Islay Whiskies benefiting from Sherry Cask maturation and the darkest of dark chocolate are a match made in heaven as they find the balance between both complimenting and contrasting flavours perfectly.

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.

Bowmore Whisky & Chocolate pairing

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!

Now it’s over to you…
At the end of the day Whisky preferences and flavours are already complex enough to ensure that picking a favourite pairing with chocolate will always be a matter of personal preference. Because you know, tasting is believing!

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.


By Calum

Calum

Having lived in Spain and America from age 13 to 21, Calum returned to his homeland of Scotland and immediately took an interest in all things Whisky. Today he is based in London working in marketing and makes any excuse for a trip home to visit a few more distilleries.

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