Whisky and Chocolate

On the day before Valentine’s Day, we hosted a whisky a chocolate tasting at Kensington Wine Market – the first time we have done this in a few years. I was the person picked to host the tasting.

I am not typically a whisky pairing guy. I can generally help with wine pairing ideas, but when it comes to whisky I have always approached as something to be enjoyed on its own – not as a part of a puzzle to be matched with something else.

This made the tasting exciting to run – it allowed me to focus on whisky in a different way than I usually do and attempt to find out what works and doesn’t work when it comes to pairing whisky and chocolate. I did some research and was able to come up with some ideas and a few questions for the group to focus on during the tasting:

  • Taste the whisky first. See which chocolate you think works best.
  • Strong flavours in whisky – do they work better with stronger flavours in chocolate?
  • Does a darker/more bitter chocolate bring out more sweet notes in the whisky?
  • Does adding water to tone down the whisky change things for the better or is it worse?
  • Do flavours that compliment or those that contrast the whisky work best?

To keep the focus on the pairing and matching of the chocolate with the whisky I decided to run the whisky portion as a blind tasting in order to let each person decide for themselves what worked and what did not. I wanted the tasting to be a discussion about what worked best with each whisky we tasted.

As a group we went through the lineup in the following manner:

  • First, take a small sip of the whisky. Roll it around your palate before swallowing.
  • Next, take a small bite of the chocolate and work it around your palate.
  • Then take another sip of the same whisky if you wish to.
  • Keep some of each whisky and chocolate so that you can try the pairings again after the first run through the lineup.

To pair with the whisky these were the chocolate based desserts we sampled.

  • Market Restaurant Bonbons
  • Chocolate Colomba
  • Italian Chocolate Cookies
  • Crave Double Chocolate Cupcakes
  • Chocolate Covered Hazelnuts
  • Double Chocolate Citrus Cookies
  • Chocolate Covered Candied Bacon

Thank you to Crystal of Peasant Cheese for sourcing putting together the chocolate focused delectables from around Kensington. And especially thanks to Crystal for making the Chocolate Dipped Candied Bacon!

1 – White Oak Akashi Blended Japanese Whisky
(Light and Easy-drinking): $65
We jumped at the opportunity to introduce the Akashi White Oak Blended Japanese whisky to the Alberta market. Bottled at 40% the whisky is composed of single malts from the Eigashima distillery in Akashi City, Hyogo. The whisky was matured in Shochu (American Oak), ex-Bourbon barrels and ex-Sherry casks. Bottled at 40%.

2 – Orphan Barrel Entrapment
(Rich and Smooth): $205
This is the 11th release in the Orphan barrel series, but the first to be made of Canadian whisky. It is from a mash of 97% corn and 3% malted barley. If you were ever wondering how much malted barley you need to ferment a mash of mostly corn, now you know. The whisky is from Crown Royal’s distillery in Gimli Manitoba. It was bottled at 41% after maturing 25 years in American oak.

3 – Wyoming KWM Single Barrel Bourbon #2
(Punchy and Sweet): $98
Only 2nd exclusive barrel of Wyoming Whiskey Bourbon is here, and another cracker! Bottled at 53.3% from a single barrel, #3483, that gave us but 192 bottles. Pop into the store for a taste! Wyoming is a wheated Bourbon, and always rich but delicate in character.

4 – Millstone Rye KWM Cask
(Spicy & Decadent): $88
This is our first exclusive cask of 100% rye whisky, as well as our first ever exclusive cask of whisky from the Netherlands. This 100% rye whisky is made from a mash of 50% malted and 50% unmalted rye grain. The rye grain was milled in Dutch windmills, distilled in a pot still and matured in a single virgin American oak cask, bottled at 53.2%. Only 144 bottles!

5 – Tomatin 1999 KWM Single Cask
(Rich, Fruity & Sherried): $150
Our first ever single cask of Tomatin is here! The whisky was distilled in 1999, matured in Bourbon and finished for five years in a Pedro Ximenez Sherry Butt. 621 bottles were filled at 52%. It was bottled at 18 years and 9 months of age. It is a classic big sherry cask whisky!

6 – Compass Box KWM 25th Anniversary Blend
(Creamy & Smoky): $160
Five years of discussions went into the creation of this product, the first collaboration between Compass Box and Kensington Wine Market. Inspired by Flaming Heart and some of Compass Box’s elegant old blends the Compass Box KWM 25th Anniversary Blend is a very special creation! Bottled at 45%, the whisky is a mixture of old grains and both spicy and smoky malts. The components were matured in First-Fill American Oak, Sherry Butts and French Oak. More details to come…

7 – G&M Caol Ila 2002 KWM Cask
(Peaty & Salty): $145
The older of the 2 KWM exclusive Caol Ila casks launched in fall 2017, this 14-year-old, bottled by Gordon Macphail at 52.5%, was matured in a First Fill Ex-Bourbon barrel. There was a very low outturn of just 155 bottles, which will be found nowhere else in the World, but Kensington Wine Market.

After the dust had settled and the chocolate desserts were eaten here were the favourites:


3. Tomatin 1999 KWM Single Cask
- The audience felt that the richness and sweetness from the 5 years in PX for this big sherried whisky made it pair well with a variety of chocolate desserts.

2. Millstone Rye KWM Cask
- The spiciness and rich depth of flavour made this a hit with many in attendance

1. Orphan Barrel Entrapment
- The layers of age, oak, and quality plus the rich but smooth style of this whisky made it a crowd-pleaser on its own as well as with a wide variety of the small bites.

As for the chocolate portion, these were the favourites:

3. Market Restaurant Bonbons
-There were a variety of ingredients and flavours in these giving many pairing options with the whisky.

2. Chocolate Covered Candied Bacon
- Chocolate and Bacon in one?!? I assumed this would work well with the smokier and peatier whiskies at the end but it actually paired capably with every whisky poured.

1. Crave Double Chocolate Cupcakes
- As one group told me – we could have just had the cupcakes and they would have been more than happy.

I would have stuck with just the bacon dipped in chocolate, but I guess that is just me!

Cheers and until next time,
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