There are pairings made in heaven. And when we think about matching whisky with food, there is a couple that comes to mind almost immediately: whisky and chocolate pairing.
You already know that this classic match work perfectly. What you might not know is what makes this pairing so special. As it happens with cheese and whisky pairings, this type of food is extremely versatile, since you can pair them according to texture or flavour. But, unlike cheese, chocolate have an incredibly wide range of variety. Think about it! Its is possible to find chocolate with from sweetest flavour to the bitterest, there is chocolate mixed with almost anything (from fruit to salt, spices or nuts), and it has an infinite number of textures.
Chocolate and whisky go so well, you can find chocolate bonbons with whisky inside, or even chocolate with whisky in its recipe for an extra flavourful punch. On the other hand, the number of whisky expressions that have chocolate flavour notes is countless.
With all these kinds of chocolate, and all the variety of whisky and bourbon expressions, the impossible is not finding a chocolate that goes with a whisky expression of some kind. To help you going through the universe of chocolate and whisky, we created this guide.
In this article, we will explain why whisky and chocolate pairing is such an amazing tasting hack and a true (guilty?) pleasure, and present you several whisky and chocolate power couples.
Table of Contents – Sip this article!
- The Whisky, the Chocolate and all the Flavours in Between
- How to Pair Whisky and Chocolate?
- Whisky and Chocolate Pairing – The Power Couples by Type of Whisky
Whisky and chocolate go hand in hand in a lot of ways, and especially in whisky and chocolate pairing. They both have a lot of different flavour notes: whisky because of the flavours it gets from maturation, chocolate because it is mixed with other ingredients. Also, they can have different textures as well. While some whisky expressions have a buttery, creamy or even an oily mouthfeel, chocolate may be softer and sweeter or harder and bitter.
Joining these two together is really a powerful move for both master blenders and chocolate artisans, but especially for you while having a whisky tasting.
It is not new information that a lot of whisky flavours have chocolate or cocoa flavour notes. And this is one of the reasons why this pairing works so well.
While going on our whisky journey, we noticed that the older the whisky, the more chocolate notes it gets. Expressions like Glendronach 18 Years and Bowmore 18 Years have noticeable notes of chocolate. However, it is not proven that the length of the maturation influences the existence of this flavour in whisky.
What we know that correlates with this flavour in whisky is the casks in which whisky is matured in. When a whisky matures in American oak sherry casks or ex-bourbon casks, it is more likely to have this flavour profile. It happens due to the vanillin formed by caramelised oak particles in the charring process on the casks used to mature bourbon, that whisky will later assimilate; A lot of chocolate have vanillin as well, and the resemblance of the flavour comes from there. That’s how Glenglassaugh Revival get its soft milk chocolate flavours, for instance.
Another factor that contributes for chocolate flavour notes on whisky is the heavily roasted barley some master blenders use for the mashing of their expressions, like Glenmorangie Signet.
One thing we know about chocolate is that the higher the cocoa content, the harder in texture and bitter in flavour it will be. And this wide range of chocolate makes it possible to create extraordinary chocolate and whisky pairings, being them just complementary or complementary opposites. From white chocolate (that is made with cocoa butter and not with cocoa per se) to 90% + cocoa dark chocolate, it is impossible no to find a good fit.
That is why some chocolate brands produce chocolate bonbons with whisky filling. Or with chocolate ganache made with whisky. All the options work perfectly, but there is a third one that work even better.
Brands like Chocisky integrate whisky in their chocolate recipe to produce chocolate with several types of whisky. From Speyside Scotch Whisky chocolates to Japanese Whisky chocolates, their range is absolutely phenomenal. And that is why we offer Chocisky chocolates to some of our clients that sign up for the Whisky Flavour Subscription Box.
When you think about whisky and food pairing, there are a lot of ways to make a match. The same happens when pairing whisky and chocolate: either you choose to complement the same flavours and intensity of both of them, or you choose to play with complementary opposites.
To quickly review the rules of thumb when pairing whisky and food:
- Bitter flavours will balance sweetness and saltiness
- Sourer flavours will enhance salty notes, while balancing the sweetness and spices.
- Salty flavours will bring up all the other flavours, especially the sweetness.
- Sweet flavours will cut the alcohol punch, as well as the spicy and salty / smoky flavours. It will bring up fruity flavour notes.
Having these golden rules in mind, you should choose the chocolate and the whisky with a purpose. If you enjoy some power matches when tasting whisky, go for a Peated Scotch Whisky with a salted caramel chocolate. If you feel like balancing everything out, choose Irish Whiskey with 60% or 70% dark chocolate. If you like your tastings to sail smoothly, you might want to choose a Speyside Scotch Whisky and milk chocolate.
You can also make a whisky and chocolate pairing by joining complex whiskies with a mild, simple chocolate. That way, you will be able to really taste some hidden notes on the whisky.
Another tip we can give about tasting whisky and chocolate is to keep them both at room temperature, since it helps maintaining their aromas.
The close relationship between whisky and chocolate goes beyond the recipes of a certain chocolate or the aromas or flavour notes of a whisky expression. They work together harmoniously in a tasting, as they help enhance each other’s flavours.
Thinking about a chocolate tasting, the alcohol content in a whisky (as long as it is a smoother expression) helps cleaning the palate for the next type of chocolate on the line.
Regarding whisky tastings, it all starts with the sugars and fat of the chocolate. If it is milk chocolate or chocolate ganache, for instance, it will coat your palate in a way that the alcohol punch will be softer and you will get a cleaner feel of the flavour notes. If it is a darker chocolate (and, consequently, a bitter one), it will bring up the sweeter notes in whisky.
These are a few of the reasons that make whisky and chocolate pairing so perfect when having a whisky tasting. In order to take your tasting session to a whole other level, there are several golden rules you might want to follow. In this way, you’ll know what chocolate flavours with match a given type of whisky and power up each other flavours and textures.
Scotch whisky have a great range of expressions that makes it difficult to define a general character and, consequently, impossible to pair them with only one type of chocolate. When asking what chocolate goes with Scotch whisky, we ask you: which kind scotch whisky?
To make this whisky and chocolate pairing easier, we will give you some examples of amazing matches.
Glenrothes 12-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky + White Chocolate
Coming from Speyside, the character of the Glenrothes 12 Years is smooth and fruity character. This expression is matured in sherry casks only, which makes it a perfect match for white chocolate.
This type of chocolate will coat your mouth perfectly and be the platform for the fruit flavours to shine, while enhancing the cinnamon notes.
The Arran 10-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky+ Sea Salt Dark Chocolate
We’ve tasted this multi-awarded single malt scotch whisky with sea salt dark chocolate and felt like a piece of heaven. This is the whisky and chocolate pairing you didnt know you need.
The Arran 10-Year-Old is an amazing Scotch Whisky expression has a fruity and sweet flavour profile with a round mouthfeel. This perfectly balanced expression will see its flavours enhanced by dark chocolate mixed with sea salt.
The bitterness of the dark chocolate will balance the fruity, citrus and spicy flavours of this The Arran whisky, while the sea salt will bring up the vanilla and sweet oak flavour notes.
Have you ever tasted The Arran 10-Year-Old Single Malt Whisky? Some of our clients did! This expression was already part of several previously sent Whisky Tasting Boxes.
The Dalmore 12-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky + Dark Ginger Chocolate
The Dalmore is known for its complex whiskies, aged in different types of casks. Being the Dalmore 12 Years Old expression is a double cask whisky, the best way to pair it is to complement it with a high-class chocolate such as dark chocolate with ginger.
Matured in ex-Bourbon White American Oak and Oloroso Sherry Casks, this expression has a range of flavours that go from oranges and vanilla to coffee and chocolate.
The intense flavour of this chocolate with ginger will pick up on the sweet vanilla and dried fruit flavours of the whisky, while the spiciness of the ginger will add an extra punch to the coffee flavours in the finish of the whisky.
Ardbeg 10-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky + Salted Caramel Chocolate
The Spirit of Islay is bottled in the Ardbed 10-Year-Old Peated Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Being highly peated and having hints of sea salt, the best match for this Scotch whisky expression is a salted caramel chocolate.
This is a powerful combination, since both whisky and chocolate have salty notes, which will only enhance each other and the smokiness of the whisky. On contrary, the sweetness of the chocolate will bring up the lemon and lime flavour notes of the whisky. In the end, you might think that the chocolate would cut the black pepper and cinnamon flavours, but the caramel is there to make sure they don’t disappear.
This is a truly amazing match in whisky and chocolate pairing, since they are complementary opposites that enhance even the most hidden flavours.
Irish whiskey is known for its light, sweet and fruity flavour profile with cereal undertones in the background. Maybe it’s the use of malted and unmalted barley in its mashbill, or perhaps it is the usual triple distillation that takes place in Irish Whiskey production process that gives it this characteristic flavour.
Another feature that makes Irish Whiskey different from other types of this spirit, is that it is not peated. Some expressions may have aromatic smoky notes, but it depends on the casks used to age a certain expression. Unlike Scotch whisky, the Irish don’t use peat to dry the barley, so it won’t have that punchy and salty smoke aromas and flavours.
Alike Scotch whisky, though, Irish whiskey has a wide range of expressions, given that it is possible to name 4 different subcategories of this spirit.
Because this spirit is so diverse in its flavours, it can be difficult to make a successful whisky and chocolate pairing. One pairing that usually works out perfectly is combining a clean and light Irish whiskey with dark chocolate, since they will complement each other nicely. If you’re tasting a fruity and floral whiskey, pair it with milk chocolate
Here’s some foolproof ideas for you:
Redbreast 12-Year-Old Irish Whiskey + Milk Chocolate with Almonds
Such a complex whiskey cannot be overpowered by a full-flavour and spiced chocolate. The Readbreast 12-Year-Old Irish Whiskey contains everything that this type of spirit has to bring to table: malted and unmalted barley mashbill, triple distillation in pot stills and 12 years maturation in seasoned casks.
This Redbreast expression is smooth and balanced and has a spicy and fruity profile. The milk chocolate will provide the perfect mouthcoat to cut the alcohol punch and to make you taste all the hidden flavours in this whisky. The hazelnuts will enhance the toasted cereals flavour notes, while being the ideal partner for the spicy notes.
Teeling Single Grain Irish Whiskey + Chili Dark Chocolate
Representing the Single Grain Irish Whiskey, this Teeling’s expression has ‘distinction’ written all over its label.
Being a Single Grain, the mashbill of this Irish Whiskey consists of 95% corn and 5% malted barley, giving the whiskey a sweeter flavour profile. The Triple distillation process adds the fruity flavours and the maturation in French oak Ex-Cabernet Sauvignon red wine casks gives it red berries, spice and tannic flavours.
Pairing this Irish whiskey with Chili Dark Chocolate is a bold move in a whisky tasting. The dark chocolate will play with the sweeter undertones, bringing them to light, while the chili will join the tannic and spicy flavours giving it an extra punch.
Tullamore D.E.W. Original Irish Whiskey + 70% Dark Chocolate
Tullamore D.E.W. is one of the most well-known Irish Whiskey on the market, and for a good reason. It is distilled three times, as it is so common in Irish Whiskey production. And it is matured in triple casks, which makes it stand out from the crowd.
With a sweet, fruity and spicy profile, Tullamore D.E.W. Original will pair perfectly with 70% Dark Chocolate. The bitterness of this high cocoa percentage chocolate will balance the sweeter flavours in the whisky, such as caramel and toffee, while bringing up the hidden fruity flavours, given by the ex-sherry casks in which it matures.
Like it happens with Scotch whisky and Irish Whiskey, Bourbon is a complex type of whiskey with a broad range of aromas and flavours. However, to find Bourbon Whiskey’s flavour profile, we will have to analyse its standard recipe.
Bourbon is made with at least 51% corn in its mashbill, and the rest is composed by rye, wheat, malted or unmalted barley. This mash will give bourbon its sweet flavour notes, such as vanilla, caramel and honey. The distillation influences the waxy or oily mouthfeel of this spirit. Lastly, the charred American oak casks in which the spirit ages also influence its flavour. The more charred they are, the smokier the Bourbon will be.
Besides this flavour profile, you can also find baking spices, fruity and floral aromas and flavours in Bourbon whiskey.
Such a diverse range of flavours opens the space to be playful and to try out combinations between bourbon whiskey and chocolate with fruit, mint, nuts and so much more!
Mitcher’s Straight Bourbon + Mint Chocolate
Produced in Small Batches only, the Mitcher’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey is the expression that incorporates smoke in their flavour profile. Combining it with mint chocolate is a powerful move, but it actually works out perfectly.
With sweet notes so usual in Bourbon – the vanilla and caramel, for instance – Mitcher’s Bourbon also has smoky and oak flavours, courtesy of the fire-charred new American oak barrels used to mature their whiskey. The chocolate will play nicely with the sweeter flavours of this bourbon expression, while the mint will clash against the hot smoky flavours, giving it the most interesting combination of flavours.
Angel’s Envy Port Finish Bourbon Whiskey + Milk Chocolate
With notes of vanilla, maple syrup and chocolate, Angel’s Envy could be just one more bourbon among the crowd. However, the brand chose to finish their expressions in different types of casks, giving them a distinct flavour profile.
We’ve tasted this expression with milk chocolate, so that the flavours that come from the Port Wine casks finish don’t get overpowered, but enhanced instead. This chocolate will cut the alcohol punch of this flavour, bringing up the fruity flavours, such as tangerines and red berries.
Woodford Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey + Orange Dark Chocolate
Woodford Reserve Straight Bourbon Whiskey is an unforgettable expression with such complexity, this whisky and chocolate pairing has to live up to that. We have tasted this whiskey with Orange Dark Chocolate and it was nothing less than you deserve.
This whiskey has over 200 flavour notes and that’s what makes it such an amazing dram. To complement it, we had to taste it with a chocolate has quite similar flavour profile. The orange dark chocolate will match the citrus and cocoa flavours of the whiskey.
Besides, the bitterness dark chocolate will enlighten the sweet flavours, such as caramel and vanilla while the sourness of the orange will bring up some baking spices, like cinnamon.
Japanese Whisky, Indian Whisky and Rye Whiskey have different flavour profiles but they all deserve the best match one can find. For this whisky and chocolate pairing, we’ll present you three expressions with three different kinds of chocolate that will, surely, make your whisky tastings.
Paul John Bold Indian Single Malt Whisky + Dark Chocolate with Pink Pepper
Indian whisky has been on the rise for quite a few years now and Indian Single Malt Whisky expressions are among the most awarded whiskies in the world.
Paul John is one of the most well-known brands and it even made it to our Whisky Tasting Box in the Past. The Paul John Bold is an expression that says it all in its name: it’s peated and spicy with honey notes in its core. We got it together with dark chocolate with pink pepper for an even bolder experience.
The bitterness of the dark chocolate will go alongside with the peaty and honey flavours, and pink pepper will join the spicy notes in the whisky to keep the flame alive.
Bulleit Rye Whiskey + Milk Chocolate with Hazelnuts
Because rye whiskey has such a powerful flavour profile, we decided to taste it with something that would tone down some of the kicks of this type of whiskey.
The overall character of Rye Whiskey has a strong alcoholic punch, lots of baking spices, a lot of nuts flavour notes and hints of citrus. The Bulleit Rye Whiskey is not so different from this character, having a lot of spices, but also a lot of sweet flavours, as vanilla and honey flavours.
Milk chocolate is a standard match for rye whiskey and, if a team wins, the players are not to be changed. This chocolate will protect your tastebuds from the alcohol kick in Bulleit Rye whiskey, as the hazelnuts go naturally with the baking spices and sweeter flavours.
The Hakushu 12-Year-Old Single Malt Whisky + White Chocolate with Roasted Almonds
Japanese whisky flavour profile shares a lot with Scotch Whisky: smooth, sweet and with fruity notes. However, Japanese Whisky – like Hakushu – have a life of their own and a lot of expressions have a light and floral profile, with perfect balance being achieved.
The Hakushu 12-Year-Old comes from the well-known Suntory distillery. This expression has a smoky background, with herbal and citrus notes coming forward. For this whisky and chocolate pairing, and because this is not the sweetest whisky, white chocolate with roasted almonds will complement it thoroughly.
While the cocoa butter and vanilla will coat your mouth and be the ideal platform for the citrus and grassy notes to be even more noticeable, the roasted almonds will pull the smoke and oak flavours to the front.