Posted by: Nick. Photos courtesy of Craig Johnstone
Whisky. Chocolate. Two undoubtedly magnificent creations. Why, then, has it taken me so long to realise that combining the two is the best idea hit upon since a particular Bill Lark fishing trip?
Enter Ian Reed, organiser of tenuous themes for Whisky Business, who decided the night’s proximity to Easter was as good an excuse as any to bring along chocolate bunnies to the next gathering.
While the selection of whiskies was sure to be excitingly varied, the selection of chocolate turned out to be less so, although this was through no fault of mine or Craig’s, who both brought some excellent blocks (disclaimer: mine was slightly more excellent). Ian gathered everyone together. It was time to begin.
Whisky number one, it transpired was the Scapa 16 Year Old, a lovely and easy drinking Orcadian drop. However tonight I couldn’t help but notice an intriguingly pleasant bitterness about it, so selected an equally bitter 70% dark chocolate to accompany it. My results were as follows:
Bitter + bitter = not bitter!
Strangely enough, together the two bitter flavours cancelled each other out and left smooth and sweet strawberry and melon notes I hadn’t noticed before. A win for the paring!
Whisky number two was immediately picked by Craig as a rum barrel finish, which was either a lucky guess or proof that he knows his stuff. The whisky was a 15 Year Old BenRiach, which had indeed been finished in rum barrels. I selected a Lindt Salted Caramel to accompany it.
Rum barrel + salted caramel = tropical punch!
Apparently the secret to unlocking the fruit flavours in the rum finish was a block of salted caramel chocolate! Two out of two for the chocolate paring!
Whisky number three had been matured in sherry casks, this much I could tell. I quickly ruled out Glenfarclas and took a stab at another famously sherried whisky: Glendronach. Imagine my pleasure (read: smugness) when it turned out to be the Glendronach 18 Year Old (Big Sam) Allardice. One sip gave away the Olorosso maturation. It was dry. As in really dry. And I loved it. I went for the strong stuff. 90% dark chocolate. No messing around here.
Dry whisky + dry chocolate = the Sahara desert.
I suspected that one ingredient may make the other sweeter in comparison. I was wrong. This combination could not even be crossed upon a camel. And I loved it. Three out of three.
After a short break filled with science jokes from Bish, and vaguely Easter-themed jokes from Rosie, we moved onto whisky number four: the clue from Ian being that its name was Gaelic for ‘natural’. Because I speak fluent Gaelic (or because I’ve read it on the internet) I immediately realised we were trying the cask strength Glenlivet: the Nadurra. I needed a feisty chocolate to compete with this, so selected my own contribution: a fancy and fully-flavoured Anvers salted caramel chocolate.
Strong whisky + strong chocolate = Pirates of the Caribbean!
Ok, yes, by this stage of the night my pairing notes were starting to get, shall we say, ‘creative’, but hear me out. I mean this in a way that these two flavours did not go together. At all. In fact they clashed. In fact, they clashed entertainingly, one might even say ‘swashbucklingly’ (if one could pronounce such a word at this end of the evening). Hence: Pirates of the Caribbean.
Whisky number five, the final dram of the evening, was wonderful. There was subtle peat on the nose, mild sweet spices on the palate, and a warm lingering finish. It had to be Laphroaig, and as it turned out, it was the 18 Year Old. It was a wonderful dram and I paired it with the 70% dark chocolate. At this point of the night, the equation was simple:
Whisky + Chocolate = awesome.
I don’t think I really need to explain this one.
Five out of five.