The wine and whisky store Maison Claudel and chocolate shop Mococha joined forces two weeks ago to present a whisky and chocolate pairing. For me, it was a wonderful adventure into the discovery of exotic aromas and flavors.
The evening began with a presentation by Marie-Hélène, who described the process that cocoa beans go through during the production of chocolate. I learned that cocoa does not become chocolate until sugar—as little as 1%—is added to the cocoa mass. Marie-Hélène distributed raw cocoa beans, and then roasted beans, for us to taste. The roasted beans were easier to shell, because the roasting process had rendered their husks brittle. In either state (raw or roasted) they were pleasant to eat and not too bitter, because cocoa butter was present in the bean. During the process of making chocolate, cocoa butter is squeezed out, rendering the mass bitter until sugar is added. At some point during the manufacturing process, cocoa butter is added back in.
Charles Claudel then explained how whisky is produced from cereal grain. One of the early steps in the process is the production of malted barley. Wet barley grains are allowed to sprout at which point they are dried to stop the sprouting. In Scotland, during the drying process, peat is used to fuel the fire that heats the kiln in which the barley is dried. The barley absorbs the odor of the peat, yielding the smokey, peaty aroma that many whisky drinkers seek.
Charles spoke about the six aromas of whisky: malt (cereal, herbes), peat (smokey, medicinal, iodine), perfume (floral), acrid (sulfur, bitterness), fruit (dried or cooked fruit), woody (odor of the barrel in which it was aged). An acrid aroma is considered to be an imperfection, a defect. Nonetheless, Charles declared, even good whiskies have some imperfection—imperfection contributes to the character of the beverage.
Following the presentations, we tasted four whiskies paired with four chocolates. I preferred Compass Box Oak Cross that was served with a praline-filled chocolate. For me, the soft herbal aroma of the spirit harmonized well with the mild nutty flavor of the chocolate.
A good time was had by all!
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