Each Valentine’s Day, I receive a number of story pitches from marketing companies. I almost always hit delete. This year, though, one that advised me to “turn up the sweet and smoky in your love life by adding these chocolate and Scotch whisky pairings” got me thinking.
Whisky and chocolate are not a match made in heaven, but I have enjoyed some fabulous whisky and chocolate pairings before. And the three pairings the story pitch suggested were worth trying.
Pairing of Johnnie Walker Blue Label — at a suggested retail price, or srp, of $225 — with dark chocolate covered peanuts seemed to work well. The subtle smoke of the whisky underscored the intensity of the dark chocolate, with the slight nuttiness of the peanuts picking up some of the nuttiness in the Scotch. I found, though, that the pairing was not nearly as good as simply drinking this expensive whisky by itself.
For the Dalwhinnie 15-Year-Old — srp of $65 — the marketeer suggested salted caramel chocolates. I liked the interplay of the sweetness of the caramel with the slightly honeyed sweetness of the Dalwhinnie, and I enjoyed how the chocolate itself clung nicely to the vanilla and malty-bread notes in the whisky’s finish.
Overall though, I thought the chocolate treat somewhat flattened the Dalwhinnies’s complexity. It was a pleasant taste sensation, but the Dalwhinnie on its own usually tastes slightly better than it did when paired with this chocolate.
The suggested match of Lagavulin 8-Year-Old — srp of $60 — with mint chocolate truffles showed some promise, too.
Ultimately, I found the mint a touch jarring with the meaty smokiness of the Lagavulin. A Scotch with a different smoky signature might’ve worked better. That said, the truffle’s slightly drying note did mingle nicely with that part of Lagavulin’s complex flavor profile that calls typically to mind the drying slightly smoky edge of Lapsang Souchong Tea. Having warmed to the general theme, however, I thought a little further experimentation was in order. My primary conclusion is that, as with pairing any alcohol with food, some deliberative consideration helps ensure happier combinations. The goal, as always, is to seek complimentary or balancing sensations, and to avoid jarring combos, or instances in which one element overpowers the other.
Following up on the Lagavulin pairing, I decided to see if I could find a better smoky partner for the mint chocolate truffles. Some smoky whiskies are more smoked-fish like, or smoked-meat like, some are more extinguished-beach-bonfire like, but some have more of a medicinal profile. Thinking that the mint might take on a menthol-like character when paired with an iodine-heavy medicinal malt whisky like Laphroaig, I happily experimented through much of the Laphroaig lineup. Low and behold, I find a superb match.
Try the regular-strength Laphroaig 10-Year-Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky — srp $50; 40 percent abv — with mint chocolate goodies. Having tried a bunch of options, peppermint mintyness worked best. Indeed, Girl Scout Thin Mints went down a treat. Admittedly my stash has been kept in the freezer longer than is probably ideal, but thawed to room temperature they still tempted me to eat more than I should.
A perfect after-dinner palate cleanser, the peppermint combination is an uplifting combo. On its own, the powerful, smoky, peaty, iodine-rich, love-it-or-hate-it Laphroaig 10-Year-Old is a fabulous, heavy, digestive-style dram. Mixed with the Girl Scout Thin Mints, it became an oddly yet deliciously rejuvenating, restorative dram. Highly
Send your wine and spirits questions to Joshua E. London at [email protected].