A slight variation on the more common wine and cheese pairing events … last evening, I was invited to a Scotch and Chocolate pairing event for members of the Ritz Carlton Club in Bachelor Gulch.
As I am a self-proclaimed newbie to the Whiskey-World, Master of Whisky Robert Sickler was entirely informative and a wealth of knowledge, not to mention a generous pour-er. It was a very conversational group, as we mingled around and sampled 5 different whiskies paired with 10 different chocolates. The handcrafted chocolates were so decadent, tantalizing and perfectly paired to each scotch, if my very amateur palette does say so. Julie Pech, author and owner of The Chocolate Therapist out of Littleton, CO, and Robert Sickler matched these chocolates and Scotch whiskies, so well. As I type, I certainly wish I had a sea salt caramel or 2 on which to nibble.
Johnnie Walker Blue Label was paired with milk chocolate amaretto and dark chocolate black cherry. Johnnie Walker Gold Label was matched with dark chocolate toffee. Lagavulin went perfectly with double shot dark chocolate & espresso. Talisker was paired with a dark chocolate peanut butter cup and the milk chocolate sea salt caramel (my favorite!). And, finally, Oban went well with milk chocolate orange and dark chocolate orange.
The Bookworm of Edwards was in attendance promoting books with titles such as 1001 Whiskeys You Must Taste Before You Die and Whisky Opus, as well as Ski Town Soups. And, seeing as Robert was interested in the soup cookbook, I took the chance to ask him about pairing suggestions for some common soups:
For a clam chowder, Robert thought the Oban 14 yr would pair well with the creaminess of the white version. For a comforting chicken noodle soup, he suggested Clynelish 14 yr. And, for a tomato basil soup, he recommended Glen Kinchie 12 yr, which he believes would bring out the herb (basil, in this case) flavors. And, while on the topic of pairing foods with whiskies, Brian Farquharson, owner/chef for Red Canyon Catering, showcased some incredible hors d'oeuvres. He mentioned that he was able to expand his repertoire of scotch-paired samplers – highlighting salmon, scallops, phyllo tarts with herbs and a mouth-watering goat cheese and apricot tart with a freshly grated Himalayan pink salt atop. When considering pairing suggestions, Nick Noeson of Avon Liquors, has paired some incredible wines with select soups for a Soup & Snowshoe event in which I participated, last week.
Finally, Robert had such a wonderful outlook on the Scotch whisky selections and expanded on what occasions he would most enjoy each scotch:
Johnnie Walker Blue Label – to savor with very close friends that he hasn’t seen in a long while, due to its rarity and craftsmanship.
Johnnie Walker Gold Label – after any dessert, because of the rich toffee and butterscotch undertones.
Talisker 10 yr – while sailing in the Gulf along the Florida coast, as the maritime nature of Talisker reminds him of being on the sea.
Oban 14 yr – during an enjoyable week night, he refers to it as the 'Goldilocks' of single malt Scotch whisky because its not too light, not to heavy, but 'juuuust right'.
Lagavulin 16 yr – whenever he needs a little “central heating” ... perfect on a cold, snowy winter night before a fire.
Although, I can’t begin to explain the length of time in casks, the locations/rivers from which the ingredients come, the Highlands/Lowlands/Speyside/Coastal differentiation, or the grains that are used in each, I did enjoy the introduction to Scotch whisky and the rekindling of a very old relationship with ... chocolate!