About this blog:

This blog will feature tasting notes, reviews, distillery visits and whisky news with focus mainly on Scottish single malts. This will sometimes be accompanied by politically incorrect (whisky) opinions. You have now been warned! :-)
The views expressed here are entirely my own, unless otherwise stated.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

WHISKY AND CHOCOLATE PAIRING

Thursday April 24th I hosted at whisky and chocolate pairing at the local whisky club. I tried this first around 3½ years ago at Aberlour Distillery in Speyside and had often thought that it actually works quite well with whisky and chocolates.

My experience prior to the Aberlour event ammounted to having Port with chocolates - but that was 'only' with high cocoa content chocolate...
This time though, I thought I'd go all in and try the pairing with chocolates from Danish luxury chocolate producer Summerbird - the website's in Danish or use Google translate on the website... anyway, I'm sure you can get an idea of what their products are like :-)

Now what am I going to highlight in this post? Well, I thought I'd focus a bit on why I made the specific paring and, of course, on what worked and more importantly what didn't work - that, and of course a few tasting notes on the whiskies...

The bottles in tasting, April 24th 2014 © The Malt Desk

First pairing:

Springbank 15yo 46% (bottled mid 00's)
Praline Petit Four with organic raspberry cover

Why this pairing?

The Springbank 15yo normally has medium light sherry influence along with salty sweet notes and a mild smoky trail.. or at least this was what I counted on with this one as I've had versions of it on numerous occasions before.

Instead I found this Springbank very peaty with thought going towards the Longrow expression from Springbank Distillery, being oily with dried fruits, honey, malt and very peaty as mentioned above. This goes to show the small batch production they do at Springbank and underlines their status as one of -if not- the last craft distillery in Scotland.

This comes in at a score of 86/100!


Did this pairing work?

Yes, it did! Besides from the whisky being far more peaty than expected, it showed great form and spririt quality - no doubt about that. The praline had the right texture and mouthfeel to compliment the light sherry and also actually the very noticeable peat and the raspberry rounded the experience off with a light red fruit influence working very well in neutralizing the peat from the whisky.

If I have say 'but' here, I could have wished for a slightly more noticeable influence from the raspberry. This was not a miss at all, just a slight bump with the Springbank being more peaty than expected.


Second pairing:


Macduff
2000 11yo 60%, 1st fill sherry cask#5774, Berry Bros. for The Whisky Barrel

Chocolate truffle w/ licorice

Why this pairing?
Macduff is usually a bit of an odd whisky. It's also sometimes marketed as Glen Deveron and as that its far from a malt that will rock your world. Old Macduff however can be great and the particular bottling used in this tasting has gotten some good and even great reviews, so this was what my pairing was pretty much built upon.

The nose on this one extremely sweet, almost in a Pedro Ximinez style. It doesn't state what kind of sherry cask is used, so its possible its a PX cask. Also loads of dark fruit mint and orange here. The palate is very overpowering and mouth coating with its massive sweetness, bit of anise, milk chocolate and a little dirty (spent fireworks) on the finish.

This scores a very nice 87/100!

Did this pairing work?
The majority of people at the tasting seemed to think so as it was voted best pairing.
It wasn't my personal favourite pairing, but I agree that the sweet creme licorice and very powerful sweet sherry matched up very well as the licorice prevented the sherry from overpower the experience.

Third pairing:

Arran 121.61 2002 10yo 61,1% 'Pulled pork with Chocolate mousse', The Scotch Malt Whisky Society
Chocolate truffle w/ raspberry (heavy)


Why this pairing?

I tried this Arran when it first came out in the Autumn of 2013 and just knew right away I had to get one - actually I was lucky to even get one as it sold out at the 1 year birthday bash of Danish branch of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. This has a dry nutty, oloroso sherry profile with dried fruit, mainly raisin and prunes, Vienna roast coffee, and still - quite amazingly due to its heavy sherry style - a little Arran character of apple, oils and barley richness left in this... especially if you leave it to breathe for a while.

A cracking sherried Arran that scores a great 89/100!

Did this pairing work?

Oh yes! For me it turns out to be the 2nd best of the evening.The raspberry gives off a big burst of raspberry to compliment nutty dry sherry profile and with this its like the raspberry chocate carries over into the whisky and vice versa. The outer chocolate coating of the truffle makes sure the experience never gets too dry and  the whisky and its abv of 61,1% never makes it too sweet. Lovely!


Chocolate truffels, left to right - mint, lemon and licorice. Picture with permission from Summerbird website
Fourth pairing:

Glen Grant 1974 37yo 49% Sherry cask#7643, Berry Bros
Chocolate truffle w/ mint

Why this pairing?

Older whiskies and especially sherry matured ones, can carry delicate mint/cooling notes both mid palate and on the finish. I've tried quite a few old Glen Grants through the years and based on that, it was pretty clear to me that the creme mint truffle should be paired with the Glen Grant. Lighter in its sherry style than expected makes this bottling quite a delicate whisky, IMO with Mocha latte and old tawny port and fresh leather notes. The palate deliveres a good combination of spotless oloroso sherry profile and anis and a little mint on the finish.

A delicate number, this Glen Grant with a score of 89/100!

Did this pairing work?

Yes, this also worked :-) Though the mint and chocolate took the lead in this pairing, the Glen Grant still managed to shine through with its combination of 49% abv and coffe, tawny port notes and old age. The mint from the chocolate also provided at sort of palate cleansing for the next pairing

Fifth pairing:

Inchgower 1982 28yo 56,2% cask#6968, Berry Bros
Cream puff of white chocolate w/ passion fruit/rosehip fill

Why this pairing?

Since I've not tried that many Inchgowers through my whisky drinking years, I thought based on its tasting notes, it could be fun to put this one in the tasting. This was a pairing done on the basis of other peoples tasting notes of the whisky and a pre-tasting of the cream puff used. so I was very excited to see if this would work. The whisky itself turned out to be a cracker! Thick creamy malt, ginger, hint of peanut, a little mixed herbs and oak spice.

A delicious malt, this one - one I'd take a bottle of any time - scores a solid 90/100!

Did this pairing work?

Definately yes - this was hands down the best pairing of the evening, according to my taste. The malty herbal Inchgower matched the passion fruit/rosehip beautifully. You had the think malt, slight sharp gingery, spicy and herbal notes matching the sweeter passion fruit/rosehip in a way where you'd want to take a nip of the whisky, then the cream puff ad the whisky again until both were gone. A sure sign of a excellent pairing :-)

White chocolate cream puffs w/ passion fruit/rosehip. Picture with permission from Summerbird website


Sixth pairing:

Ardbeg 'Galileo' 1999 49% ex-bourbon & marsala cask, Distillery bottling
Chocolate truffle w/ lemon

Why this pairing?


Some lemony/winey peat smoke and chocolate with lemon - whats not to like?
I've previously reviewed the 'Galileo' on the blog - you can read them by following this link

Did this pairing work?

Ehh no - it did not! The lemony creme filling and the marsala wine and sweet peat just made it go over the top and borderline queasy. This pairing just didn't work and the 'Galileo' is a dessert dram to be had on its own. Not much more to say about this, really... maybe other than 5 out 6 isn't so bad :-)


Was this fun?

This was a very nice evening out, indeed and hosting this was a lot of fun and I know that most people left the tasting with the desire to explore whisky and chocolate pairing further, which was really the point. If asked again, I'll be more than happy to host another tasting like this.

Finally, I hope this blog post will inspire some of you out there to try whisky and chocolate pairing yourself...

And most importantly... have fun :-)

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