Who wouldn’t love the task of tasting through a lineup of stellar whiskies from around the world and pairing them with a selection of delectable chocolates? When my editor asked me to do this, it was one of the many moments in my life when I ponder how I manage to get paid for these types of things.
While it was enjoyable, it wasn’t so simple. I originally thought that most chocolate would pair easily with most whiskies. That turns out not to be the case. Too many variables—wood, peat, age, proof and grain—have to work with the array of different styles and flavors of chocolate available. Hours into it, with a liquor buzz and a sugar high, I still felt like I had only scraped the surface.
Pairing chocolate with whiskey is an interesting exercise, since it is an assault on all your senses. Chocolate coats the mouth and tongue, blunting your taste buds, and whiskey’s complex aromas overwhelm the nose. But it’s worth the effort, because when the combination is right, it really sings.
And I did find several amazing pairings, but don’t just take my word for it. All the fun is in the experience itself. So in the name of research, buy some chocolate and whiskey and start tasting. Cheers!
70-percent-cacao dark chocolate & Redbreast 12-Year-Old Irish Whiskey:
This Irish powerhouse is fantastic with the dark bitterness of a high-cacao chocolate. The bitter notes are balanced by that hint of sweetness from the whiskey. It is pure happiness.
Milk chocolate & Rittenhouse 100-Proof Bottled-in-Bond Straight Rye Whiskey:
I really love how these two play together. All the new-American-oak flavors clash a little with dark chocolate, but with milk chocolate it makes the spice in the rye explode.
Milk chocolate with almonds & The Macallan Sherry Oak 12 Years Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky:
All the rich sherry-cask notes that come through in this Highland malt pair wonderfully with the almonds and rich creaminess of the milk chocolate.
50-percent-cacao spiced chocolate & The Glenlivet Nadurra 16-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky:
Oak does not overwhelm this Scotch, so it allows for the hints of fruit to come through. Those notes, combined with the high proof of the spirit and the spicy bitterness of the chocolate, are an intensely cheeky experience.
Salted hazelnut chocolate truffle & Bowmore 15 Years Old Darkest Single Malt Scotch Whisky:
A salted truffle perfectly complements the notes of the sea and peat smoke in the Bowmore. And the sweet nutty chocolate loves the sherry-cask flavor. I could imagine myself sitting at the distillery on Islay enjoying both and having no worries in life.
Snickers bar & Russell’s Reserve 10-Year-Old Bourbon:
This bourbon actually pairs well with many of the chocolates above, but one cannot always enjoy only fancy confections. I love how the peanuts and caramel react to the beautifully aged whiskey.
Jacques Bezuidenhout is a national cocktail and tequila ambassador for Partida Tequila and the master mixologist for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. He is also a Liquor.com advisory board member.