If you’re looking to change that tired Whisky and cigar routine, try pairing your Scotch with chocolate instead.
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 flavors.
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.
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 flavor of dark chocolate.
Milk chocolate pairings certainly do exist but this tends to be using very high-quality cocoa beans and additional flavors such as ginger, lemongrass, or chili. In other words, a 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 not 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 desensitize your mouth to the alcohol and after a few sips, you should be able to start identifying certain flavors in the Whisky without suffering any harsh burn from the alcohol. A few drops of water can also help you here!
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 flavors combining together. At this stage you will probably just be picking up the new flavor of the chocolate with the lingering flavor 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 flavors 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 flavors 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 flavor and compliment what is also quite a sweet tasting malt.
But it’s not all about complementing flavors. One of the most interesting parts of experimenting with Whisky and chocolate is often trying to find contrasting flavors in each that can actually work together.
Speyside Whiskies and sweeter milk chocolate or flavored dark chocolate
With Speyside Malts, you will often be working with richer flavors in the Whisky and sweeter tasting notes such as Christmas Cake and dried fruits. Logically to compliment that with chocolate you may think of sweeter milk chocolate flavored with orange or maybe cinnamon-flavored dark chocolate to bring out the spice.
While undoubtedly these could complement the taste well, I really enjoyed the experience of pairing a sweeter Whisky like Glenfarclas 10 with the contrasting flavors in Lindt’s Sea Salt flavored dark chocolate. The salty edge to the chocolate adds a whole new dimension to the sweet, fruit flavors in the Whisky and left me with notes of coffee and even a hint of smoke.
Whisky and chocolate pairing is also popular in Scottish 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.
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 flavors perfectly.
The medicinal and even seaweed notes associated with smoky Islay malts complement the bitter-tasting experience of 70-75% dark chocolate. Meanwhile, the Sherry notes from the Whisky add sweet contrast to these flavors and seem to melt through and mellow out any harshness from the extremely dark chocolate.
My personal favorite 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!
Now it’s over to you…
At the end of the day, Whisky preferences and flavors are already complex enough to ensure that picking a favorite 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 favorite combinations.