I always love meeting people who are as passionate about their own field as I am about chocolate. I also find it hard to resist the offer of free drinks, so when the people at World Duty Free invited me to a whisky and chocolate pairing evening as part of their Whisky Festival, I was never going to refuse.
The evening was hosted by journalist and whisky aficionado Alwynne Gwilt, better known as Miss Whisky, who guided us through the six whiskies we would be tasting, explaining their intricacies for the total whisky noobs in the room (AKA me).
The chocolate side of things was handled by our friend and world class chocolatier Paul Wayne Gregory. He had picked a chocolate match for each, and was on hand to explain his choices.
To say my whisky knowledge is poor would be an understatement. Writing about it, I feel like I’ve been thrown back in time eight years to when I started writing about chocolate. I know that I like it, but I would be completely out of my depth if I were asked to explain the manufacturing process or what gives any given whisky its unique characteristics.
For me, the most interesting part of an evening like this is the opportunity to compare like for like. While I might not be able to identify any particular whisky, having six of them in front of me is the perfect way begin to understand the differences. In that respect, it’s very much like chocolate tasting.
These were the pairings Alwynne and Paul came up with:
- Jameson Signature Reserve + Salted Caramel
- Balvenie Triple Cask 12 Year Old + Vanilla Pod Chocolate
- The Dalmore Valour + Passion Fruit Chocolate
- Highland Park Harald + Chocolat Madagascar Organic 70%
- Jack Daniel’s Silver Select + 2 different coffee chocolates
- Talisker Dark Storm + Cacao Barry Ocoa
For me, it was something of a revelation to see, smell and taste such a wide variety of colours, aromas and flavours in the whiskies. These are the things I certainly wouldn’t have picked up in isolation, and brought back memories of early chocolate tastings, where that side by side comparison was what really made things fall into place for me.
The Dalmore Valour and Passion Fruit chocolate were probably my favourite match. The fruity aroma of the whisky worked perfectly with the chocolate, and the sharpness of the passionfruit cut through the slightly woody flavour of the whisky.
Pairing whisky with chocolate added a whole new dimension to both. The chocolates don’t just complement the whiskies, they change the flavour in different ways. Take a sip, a bite, then another sip and the flavours are entirely new.
What was also surprising to me was that my taste in whisky didn’t necessarily match my taste in chocolate. My favourite of the evening was the intense and smoky Talisker Dark Storm; qualities I don’t usually go for in chocolate. I learned a lot, and most importantly of all, I came away wanting to learn more.
All in all it was an exciting, educational and fun tasting experience.
But the evening didn’t stop there. After having tasted all the whiskies, we each picked our favourites, formed into groups and made our own whisky truffles to take home! We also made rather a lot of a mess, but with me around, that’s to be expected. You’ll see photos of our efforts in the gallery below.
Thanks to World Duty Free for organising this wonderful event and an extra special thank you to Alwynne Gwilt, Paul Wayne Gregory and everyone involved for all the hard work they put into making it such a fun evening.