Years ago, when I had absconded to New Zealand for work, I remember a friend of mine who worked in the liquor industry inviting me over for a night of chocolate and bourbon. I was disgusted at the time, thinking how could you muddle the intricate flavours of bourbon by mixing with something like chocolate? Boy was I wrong.
What followed was a night of Bourbons (far too many, if there is such a thing) expertly paired with chocolates of varying types. The shared chemistry between the two allows for numerous exquisite combinations, with the added benefits that the alcohol in the bourbon enhances the aromatic molecules, while the fats in the chocolate help to soften the strong alcohol.
My friend suggested that we approach the tasting with a modified Kentucky Chew (See our how to taste bourbon blog for more) to fully appreciate the bourbon itself, as well as the combination of the two
Observe the colour and ‘legs’ of the bourbon. Typically, a darker colour bourbon will have more complex flavours and be of a higher proof
Smell the aroma of the bourbon, ensuring you keep your lips parted while doing so (else all you get is the alcohol aroma)
The fun part. Break off a small piece of chocolate, place it in your mouth, and take a sip of the bourbon. You want to ensure the bourbon swishes around your entire mouth to get the complete flavour profile. While both the chocolate and bourbon are rolling around your mouth, you want to ‘chew’ on it.
Once you are finished chewing – swallow and breathe out. This will allow you to enjoy the finish of the mix.
Break up the tasting with some cheese or crackers to give your palate a rest, followed by some water (still works but sparkling is best)
As we all know, taste is subjective, and you may find that the pairings we had aren’t quite to your liking. However, after we finished the tasting, my friend and I (a little inebriated) discussed what we thought worked best
White Chocolate – Due to the high sugar and fat content (ignoring the fact that white chocolate isn’t technically chocolate), white chocolate is perfect for taming your stronger proof bourbons. Think Booker’s or 1792 Full proof
Milk Chocolate – The balanced tastes of milk chocolate match perfectly with more peppery bourbons. Try matching with a Rye from your March delivery, or Basil Hayden’s.
Dark Chocolate – With full flavoured chocolates that hold some bitterness, my personal favourite is to pair with your sweeter bourbons to create that nice balance. Take a look at Woodford Reserve Double Oaked (February box) or Four Roses Single Barrel (Which can be hard to get unless you're receiving our April box - hint hint, wink wink)
To finish the night off we decided to get really experimental and made a couple of chocolate and bourbon cocktails. My favourite was without a doubt the decadent Bourbon Ball cocktail. It was simple to make and was the perfect drink to end a wonderful night