Whisky, Iain Burnett Chocolate and Trial and Error

To pair or not to pair?, that is the question

And the answer?  To pair, definitely to pair.

With this year (2015) being Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink, we thought there was no better time to sample Iain Burnett’s Whisky Tasting Boxes, these come in a box of nine of a box of twenty, and Iain has personally selected the whisky that he thinks best suits each chocolate.  All the information that you require comes perfectly packaged with beautifully designed chocolates and a booklet advising you of Iain’s choice of whisky for each chocolate.

Whisky Pairing Selection
Whisky Pairing Selection

They have covered the whisky regions Highland, Speyside, Island (includes Islay) and the Lowlands.  They are the perfect size to fit through the letterbox, and the packaging keeps them safe.  A whisky tasting box of 9 chocolates costs £14.95 and a box of 20 costs £27.95 (plus delivery).  However we have a special treat for you, a Whisky Corner discount of 20% for you lucky, lucky people.   Either visit them at their shop at Legends of Grandtully, they have an amazing café as well as the fantastic shop, or order online and use code CORNER20 at checkout.

About Iain Burnett

Award-winning artisan chocolatier Iain Burnett trained under Master Chocolatiers of the Belgian, Swiss and French schools, and creates the multiple awarded Velvet Truffle as well as an internationally renowned range of fresh cream truffles and spiced pralines.  It took over 3 years to create his unique truffle using only natural and fresh ingredients – the now famous Velvet Truffle.

Iain and his team provide top chefs with gourmet truffles of an artisan quality unavailable elsewhere. The small dedicated team of chocolatiers are trained in-house to meticulously hand-craft chocolates. Their ganaches can be elegantly enrobed in chocolate, or experienced in its purest form without a chocolate shell at all!

Iain Burnett Highland Chocolatier uses a uniquely flavoured single-origin cocoa from the volcanic island of São Tomé in the South Atlantic.  This intense cocoa was carefully selected for its exceptional range of fruity, aromatic and spicy characteristics, and was painstakingly matched with an unblended fresh Scottish cream from a particular herd of cows.  With no artificial additives or preservatives, only the best ingredients and exotic spices are infused to create flavours and textures to delight the palate.  Each fresh harvest brings constantly shifting flavour balances to our recipes.

See the full range of paired chocolates here or the whisky companions here you can also follow the team on twitter (@HighlandChoc).

Now I could have followed the very comprehensive pairing ideas, which would have been great, but I know that they will be excellently paired.  I decided to try out a few different combinations myself, all in the name of research of course!  Some worked, some didn’t and sent me back to the drawing board, but here’s what I paired a selection of these high quality chocolates with.

Espresso Truffle paired with Glenmorangie Signet

Tart strong coffee hits straight away, the chocolate melts and the coffee feels dissipates slightly leaving a beautiful creamy chocolate sensation.  When tasted with the Signet, the coffee becomes less tart and more “manageable”, the richness of the Signet brings out more from the chocolate than when it was tasted on its own.  Some spices from the Signet mix with the creaminess of the chocolate giving you a wonderful mix.    With thanks to (@StewartCraigon) for this note.

Ginger Truffle paired with the Redbreast 12yo Cask Strength

Rich and gritty, the ginger gently combines with the smooth dark, almost fruity chocolate, before becoming stronger and imparting a soapiness on the palate and a touch of black peppercorns.

When tasted with the Redbreast 12yo CS, (which I picked as the creamy vanilla should help to tame the ginger, whilst there is enough heat from the ABV to enhance the ginger), the ginger is intensified, it’s hot, but not unpleasant, it’s no longer sweet and gingerbread soft, but more like fresh ginger root, the peppercorns are there as is a slight liquorice note, which I hadn’t found earlier.  Just as it all becomes a little too intense the vanilla and creamy fudge notes from the Redbreast come through and impart an extra level of richness.

Cinnamon Praline paired with Old Pulteney 21yo

Cinnamon and cloves combine making this praline almost perfume like on the tongue, then it becomes sweet with a lovely doughy note, like a fresh pretzel dipped in a sugar and cinnamon crust.

I picked the Old Pulteney 21yo for this, as I figured it would require a robust whisky, with notes of leather, fresh apples and hints of lime to compete with but not overpower this chocolate.   The apple from the 21yo bring out a lovely apple strudel note in the praline, the cinnamon from the whisky really enhances the cinnamon in the praline and brings out a smoothness of the milk chocolate, with a slight almond nuttiness.

The Highland Chocolatier
The Highland Chocolatier

Lemongrass Praline paired with Laphroaig QC

To say that there is an intense hit of lemon on this chocolate really doesn’t do it justice, there is fresh lemons, lemon zest, lemon oil and a more gentle lemon bon bon notes.  Somewhat more surprising however was the amount of fresh limes that can also be found, you almost forget that there is chocolate there also.  This is very intense and almost effervescent.

I paired this with the Laphroaig QC, as it is already chock full of lemon, and the peat should give an interesting dimension.  Fantastic the TCP notes really come to the fore, before the lemon and the peat combine transporting you to the ocean.  Sticky sweet BBQ notes appear before the lemon notes tangle with chocolate limes and linger on.

Raspberry Truffle paired with Mackmyra Midnattssol (Midnight’s Sun)

Rich dark chocolate dominates for a few moments before the raspberry tartness floods in, there are also hints of blackberries and a good measure of cracked black pepper.  There is a fleeting kiss of vanilla before the berries burst on the palate, you could be convinced you are eating a fresh raspberry.

I paired this with a rather unusual dram, from Mackmyra, Midnattssol as this is a spirited dram with plenty of acetone notes, pear drops, vanilla, honeysuckle and grapefruit.  This really works, the citrus notes combined with the slightly damp, vegetal notes almost overpower the raspberry, it enhances the black pepper and tangy chocolate, and then the berries are back, the raspberry stronger, sweeter, at once both fresh and dried, backed up with blackcurrants and cranberry.  At times it’s fruity and sweet and at others sour, if you have this whisky, this is a pairing I’d strongly recommend.

Chai Truffle paired with Great King’s Street, Artist’s Blend

Silky smooth milk chocolate, with boiled milk and a hint of rich homemade custard.  Vanilla and gentle spices, nutmeg, ginger and just a hint of sweet spicy tea.  I’ve paired this with the Great King’s Street, Artist’s blend, as the soft apple and vanilla should enrich, rather than fight with the milk chocolate and the cereal will encourage the spices to flourish.

This is a gentle pairing, the apples from both the chocolate and the whisky are first on the palate, combined with the cereal notes from the whisky, there’s an almost vanilla cheesecake quality to it.  A subtle tang of lemon and a mustiness of the tea round this off.

Milk Velvet Truffle paired with Aberlour 10yo

This is a sweet, creamy smooth chocolate, heavy on vanilla, with just a touch of butterscotch.  Lighter than air this chocolate is wonderful and decedent.  I paired this with the Aberlour 10 as this is quite a full bodied dram, with sultana’s and Christmas cake spices, I wanted to see if this would coax the vanilla out or dominate it totally.

At first I thought this whisky was just too much, I was immediately flooded with rich spices, a heavy treacle influence and a nuttiness, but as the darker fruits came through, the vanilla suddenly arrived, plums and vanilla combine and the milk chocolate becomes sweeter and caramel like.

Sea Salted Caramel Heart paired with Bowmore Small Batch

This milk chocolate heart is incredible sweet, the saltiness from the caramel comes through with salted lemons, this very quickly changes into a sweet explosion, the mix of silky soft milk chocolate and salted caramel combine to provide a very intense Caramc taste, I really can’t think of a better way to describe it, it’s almost sickly sweet, but saved by the quality of the chocolate.

I’ve paired this with the Bowmore Small Batch Reserve with the hope that the lemon, salt and vanilla would both enhance the toffee sweetness, but would also help cut through it somewhat.

As suspected the salted notes in the whisky combine with the salt of the caramel and give a strong coastal feel.  The sweetness is still there, but is somewhat subdued by the lemon and soft coconut from the whisky.  There is a slight drying oak notes to this dram and this stops the chocolate reaching maximum sweetness which, in my opinion is a good thing, it also allows a gentle orange note from the caramel to appear.

White Velvet Truffle Heart paired with Balvenie 14yo Caribbean Cask

Delectably smooth cocoa butter, fresh Madagascan vanilla pods, the smoothest whipped ganache, this is a delight, and it soothes the palate and is buttery soft.  The hardest decision was whether to try and further enhance the vanilla and the richness or to challenge it instead.  I decided to work with the vanilla but challenge it with lovely rum and tropical notes.

As I thought the whisky really enhances and adds to the flavour of this, as the vanilla is so strong it can withstand the tropical notes that come through, there’s pineapple, mango, bananas and honeycomb all covered in vanilla infused whipped cream.  The vanilla still remains the star of the show, and quite rightly so.                 

Overall thoughts:

This was a really enjoyable experiment, I know that the opinion on chocolate and whisky pairing is very much divided but for me, with the right chocolate, and with exceptional quality and craftsmanship then chocolate and whisky can really bring out the best in each other.

It is all down to pairing, but don’t be afraid to experiment.  All the whiskies suggested by Iain Burnett work perfectly, but as I learnt today you can take a chance and try different whiskies and still get excellent results.  So if you feel like giving chocolate and whisky pairing a try, then I’d say go for it and don’t forget with our exclusive discount code you can get 20% off, so there has never been a better time to experiment.

Kirsty Clarke (@Kirstyclarke29)

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