“It’s always been a synonymous marriage,” says Jessica Pedemont of pairing chocolate with whisky. A pastry chef and chocolate specialist founder of Chocolate Artisan based in Haberfield, Pedemont says both products offer a, “connoisseur-style reflecting experience. Even putting whisky in ganache, caramels and chocolate fillings has been going on for years. It’s a natural pairing, if done right.”
As someone who has led whisky and chocolate pairings for groups, Pedemont knows first-hand how well they can flourish in tandem. “You’ve got the strong accentuation of the alcohol, which can balance with the fattiness and deep cacao notes,” she says. “Then you’ve got different smells and tastes that come together. You’re getting the creamy mouthfeel and all of that connection between tastebuds, nose and brain. It keeps layering and you have a nice sensorial experience.”
Recently Pedemont took the pairing a step further and collaborated with The Macallan to create bespoke bon bons to match their latest release, The Macallan Harmony Collection Rich Cacao. The idea, as Pedemont says, is to “smell, sip and savour” both the chocolate and the whisky simultaneously. The partnership also sought to source the chocolate ingredients sustainably via ethical social enterprises. One bon bon is made from 75 per cent organic dark chocolate (using cacao beans from the Solomon Islands) and filled with rich cacao, honey, dark chocolate, vanilla (the vanilla beans are sourced via a rainforest protection programme in Papua New Guinea) and dates. The other is filled with a smooth praline (using organic Solomon Island coconut), nutmeg, cinnamon and a piece of semi-sundried apricot.
We asked Pedemont to run through some general tips on matching chocolate and whisky.
For a richer spirit, go for the intensity of dark chocolate. If you’re not a fan of dark chocolate, opt for milk chocolate or even white chocolate and pair it with a mellower single malt. In both cases, a little can go a long way.
“You don’t need to have a lot of either because they’re both quite intense [on the palate],” says Pedemont. “Especially with a nice quality chocolate. You can tone it down, depending on how much or how little you have, and your tolerance and tastebuds. People think of chocolate and wine together, but more fortified and deep spirits go with it even better.”
Pairing considerations go beyond intensity. Pedemont says you’re looking for flavours in both the chocolate and whisky that work in harmony. “[In a whisky] I would suggest anything along the profiles of dark chocolate, vanilla, honey, cinnamon and dates,” Pedemont says. You can even complement your choice of chocolate with some actual source ingredients, like a quill of cinnamon or a bowl of dates.
Some whiskies are created with these exact type of pairings in mind. The Macallan is even offering a Rich Cacao whisky in their new sustainability-minded Harmony Collection. A collaboration between The Macallan whisky maker Polly Logan and Spanish pastry chef Jordi Roca from Girona bistro El Celler de Can Roca, the drop is aged in sherry casks and marries dark chocolate, date, vanilla, and honey notes, while some apricot and nutmeg is also evident. The drink’s sustainable packaging is even made from the actual husk of cacao beans.
Cacao is something Pedemont knows a lot about. Along with Chocolate Artisan, Pedemont is also a co-founder of South Pacific Cacao, which produces chocolate from scratch with a focus on fair trade and zero waste. The transparent venture might use date molasses from Iran, vanilla from Manus Island and honey from ultra-local bees.
As with all whisky and chocolate pairings, the ingredients combine to form a tasting journey that can be as nuanced, rich or intense as you like. “Playful is the thing,” says Pedemont. “It’s about having a nice time and creating an experience.”
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with The Macallan.