Tuesday, 21 October 2008

i wanna be a chocolate god post 8: booze

When I drink whiskey, my brain often searches through my catalogue of chocolate tastes and pairs it with a chocolate. I don't know why. It just does. I told this to Spanky and....

a few months later, Spanky and I had a whiskey and chocolate tasting evening at our place. Spanky knows alot about whiskey. I know a lot (perhaps too much) about chocolate, mostly through a good decade of dedicated tasting. Soooo... one night, Spanky and I went through his whiskeys and tasted and smelled them, and I wrote down which chocolates I thought would go with each one. Then I hunted down these specific bars to go with these specific whiskeys, using mail order, calling in favours from friends in Germany and France, and well... walking down the street to Coco of Bruntsfield. Because Spanky and I are very, very serious at all times, we named each of the pairs. In cases where the whiskey comes from the Whiskey Society, I've given you the cask number.

Some of the pairings are whiskeys and chocolates that are very similar (such as the "One note wonders"), while some are linked by a single aspect of each of their tastes (such as "Vanilla Sex"). The most interesting one, and the one I was most proud of, is a case of the two complementing each other so that the combination of tastes is quite different than you'd expect based on the two individual tastes ("Rum Punch", but see also "the old man and the sea").

Enjoy. In all cases, our clever name for the pairing is in red, followed by the name of the whiskey and then the chocolate. My comments follow, and then the "official" description of the whiskey. As usual, in feeding your chocolate addiction, don't use slave chocolate. Most of the chocolates here are from small companies that deal more or less directly with producers.

Whisky-Chocolate Tasting

One-note wonders
Nikka Black AND Pralus – Madagascar 75%

Both the chocolate and the whiskey are clean, single tastes. The chocolate has a strong red fruit taste that hits the front of your tongue and then just disappears with almost no aftertaste. Very minimalist on both counts, and they go together very well. Pralus has really seduced me over the past few years by making such consistantly fabulous chocolate where they really know how to bring out the character of each single origin bean.

Whisky Magazine Tasting Notes
Nose: Fresh pear, then richer notes quickly develop. Custard, apricot, touch of hazelnut. Hint of pine. Delicate smokiness in the back. Caramel with water.
Palate: Sweet and flowing. Well balanced. Nutty. Drying on light oak.
Finish: Medium, firm but retains sweetness. Ginger.
Comment: Easy-going, well-balanced. To be enjoyed as a refreshment with water and ice.

The Prince and the Pauper
Rosebank 1990 Gordon & MacPhail AND Hachez 88%

Rosebank is really well balanced, and a fairly snooty fancy whiskey. I love it, even when I'm not feeling snooty or fancy. Hachez has this mellow, almost peanut buttery, fatty feel to it and is remarkably un-sweet without being in the least bitter. I believe the word is "comforting". One of those rare grocery-store gems. Each of them makes the other seem more themselves, yet they somehow work together.

JMWB p. 183

The Society consensus pairing
Single Malt Whiskey Society 46.17 AND Chocolate Society 85%

A tribute to the dangers of trying to please everyone. A perfectly good, though not terribly exciting whiskey paired with a perfectly good, though not terribly exciting chocolate.

46.17 Comfort in a glass

This distillery, 4 km south of Elgin, is next-door to Mannochmore and a dark grains plant. This pale gold dram is from a refill barrel. The nose has pear, apricot, strawberry starbursts and apple flapjack, along with some toffee and salt. It has an interesting, almost sneeze-inducing dustiness reminiscent of cocoa powder or honeysuckle pollen. With water, the nose is chalky and lemony, like Swizzler lollipops. The palate is sweet, hot, juicy and salty, reminding one of salted melon, gooseberry fool and Black Forest gateau. Reduced, it has apple, ginger cake and brandy snaps. A well balanced, pleasantly comforting dram.

Vanilla sex
Glenmorangie Cellar 13 AND Bachhalm Shitake

Both have a nice undertaste of vanilla, and the muskyness of the mushrooms keeps the whole thing from getting too cloying. Plus, mushroom are so... I'm gonna leave it at musky... Bachhalm also uses super-silky chocolate (in that luxurious super silky underwear kinda way).

Notes on the whiskey:
JMWB p. 120

The particularity of this selection is the warehouse where it was matured: cellar 13, close to the ocean.
Aging happens in bourbon casks for 10 to 12 years.
The colour is pale yellow. The nose is sweet with wood and fresh sandal, vanilla and wild menthol hints.
The mellow taste recalls malt, toffees, vanilla and honey.
The very long juicy finish recalls the fragrance of the buttercup.
Normally, Cellar 13 is only available in tax free shops

The Balancing Act
Highland Park 12 yr AND Dunkles Gold Cacao de Cologne with Salt

Sweet and salty. Dunkles Gold is a small chocolate shop in Cologne that I had the good fortune to happen upon when I lived there. They guy who runs the place is very, very knowledgeable about his chocolate, and has exquisite taste. His house bars make me so very happy. They're quite sweet, though, and I find that a little sprinkling of salt rounds it all out nicely.

JMWB p. 133

Peter Pan
SMWS cask 116.12 Yoichi 21 yr “Tinned Peaches and Tobacco Pipes” AND Coco dark with rosemary.

Both the whiskey and the chocolate are playful yet oh-so-grown up. The Yoichi really *does* taste of tinned peaches and a faint whiff of pipe. It's all very "Daddy's study after dinner", which is odd, because my dad didn't have a study, nor did he smoke a pipe. ... Coco of Bruntsfield is a chocolate shop here in Edinburgh that makes divine flavoured bars (as well as good bars of plain chocolate). They use a good quality chocolate, but their stuff tends to lean towards a bit sweet for my tastes, so I favour the bars that incorporate a savory element, such as this rosemary one, which is my current favorite from their selection of flavoured bars. I go there every saturday that I'm in town, for a chocolate and an espresso. Life is so much better if you spend 30 minutes a week completely surrounded by chocolate, no? They also get kudos for having a "suitable for vegans" list posted on their wall. So anyone who wants to buy me vast amounts of chocolate can do so there without having to read labels....

Tinned peaches and tobacco pipes Cask No. 116.12
The only distillery on Japan’s northern island, Hokkaido, was built by Nikka’s founder, the legendary Masataka Taketsuru in 1934. It produces a range of styles of malt whisky for use in its blends, and this bottling is highly phenolic. The immediate scent is of tinned peaches and charcoal scattered with lavender. There is lilac blossom in the background, and traces of bath oil, so the taste at full strength – which is like chewing charcoal or licking the bowl of an old pipe – comes as something of a surprise. Water develops the fragrant theme, with floral notes, scented honey and sugar soap; slightly waxy, and only a hint of tar. This passes across into the flavour at reduced strength: a nice smooth mouthfeel, pleasant balance of sweet and vinegar-sour, and only an ash-like trace of smoke. A common descriptor for this whisky is ‘welcoming’.

The Comfy Chair
Ardbeg 10 yr AND Luento Santoro Grand Cru Blend South America

Ardbeg 10 is an easy, comforting, whiskey. Luento Santoro make the best blended bars I've ever tasted. In fact, their blends are so genius, I prefer them to their single origins. Both the whiskey and the chocolate are really complex, but not overwhelming, and oddly enough, mash together well, sort of like when someone manages to wear several different plaids at the same time and look good.

JMWB p. 28

Lap of Luxury
Port Ellen (Royal Mile Dormant Distilleries Company bottling) AND Domori Porcelana

Um. Perfection. Times 2. Really. In both cases, turn off the music. Sit down. Shut up. Close your eyes. Smell. Taste. The platonic ideal of a whiskey paired with the platonic ideal of a chocolate. It's hard to move on to anything else once you taste these. Porcelana beans are fan-fucking-tastic. (Bonnat also makes a Porcelana bar that I love). Clean and complex, with a taste of raspberry and a whiff of tobacco.

Seriously, if you want to see what all the fuss is about "fine chocolates", but only want to buy a single luxury chocolate bar for yourself, buy either Domori or Bonnat Porcelana. They are what heaven tastes like.

The Old Man and the Sea
Compass Box Eleuthera WITH Coppeneur Ocumare

Yeah, both are kinda salty and rough and charming. Coppeneur chocolate is crumbly rather than creamy, but that's a good thing. Trust me. Ocumare is earthy and has a bit of an iron taste to it. Love it. A friend of mine actually mails me a few of these bars from Germany on a regular basis.

This Vatted Malt Whisky (blend of 100% single malts from different distilleries) is made from combining the strong, smoky complexity of traditional island malts with the smooth richness of mainland malts. The result is a whisky which is rich, smoky and silky with a long, spicy finish.

The Rum Punch
Tyrconnell Madeira Cask WITH Stainer Peperoncino di Espelette con Ananas

For some reason, if you take a sip of Tyrconnell and then a bite of this chocolate, it tastes like rum punch. Now, usually I find chocolate with peppers boring. Stainer, however, has elevated it to an art form. They actually take care about the peppers so that they *match up* with the taste of the chocolate. Here they've added some dried pineapple, so you have sweet-hot-rich (not unlike thai food). The quality of their chocolate is only okay, though, with some waxiness. But it's worth trying for their chilli ingenuity alone.

JMWB p. 265

Lagavulin 16 yr WITH Bonnat 100%

Lagavulin 16 is briny, iodinish, and superb. It's strong, and can be overwhelming. But if you like espresso, olives and such, it's probably your thing. Bonnat 100% has NO SUGAR. Just cocoa mass. Yup. It too is iodinish and superb, strong, and can be overwhelming. Again with the espresso and olives. It's surprisingly sweet for a chocolate without sugar, and is one of my all-time favorite bars that I just keep around all the time (that I can... the stuff sells out.)

boozy sweet music: Cheap drunk by Ember Swift.


medici said...

Okay, so I lied -- this post kept me from retreating to bed with my paper! I couldn't resist remembering the tasting experience of all those fine whiskies and chocolates, and remembering the long moments of silence that would descend over the room while we (six of us) tasted a few of the pairings. And it *was* hard to move on from the Lap of Luxury! But I did, gloriously.

What a splendid evening. What a brilliant idea.

Right. Now I'm gong to go read some science.

Jake said...

*faints with envy*

Anni said...

IMPRESSIVE! I do not think I will ever have that kind of variety of whiskeys or chocolates in front of me... I have only tasted that coco rosemary chocolate, which you sent me, and that's all - I feel completely uneducated!

Andrew said...

Oh, yum... I'd been looking forward to this post! I think that I'm still tasting Lap of Luxury... the only negative about that pairing was that I was too preoccupied with it (and, frankly, was rather drunk by then) to fully appreciate the brilliance of the Rum Punch.

Definitely an occasion worth repeating...

(aka Spanky)

sinead said...

Yup. Next time I go on a chocolate-buying rampage, we'll have to see what we can come up with.