Whisky & Chocolate, More Tasting Notes, Does Aged Have to Be Expensive?
Here we are at Easter weekend again (so soon?) and a person’s thoughts turn to mega amounts of chocolate. Well, this person’s thoughts do.
Is whisky hard to match with chocolate? Yes, but it is possible. If you think about it, some whiskies have chocolate notes about them they can be used to pick out those elements in other dishes. Also, chocolate, hot or cold, can be a great addition in whisky cocktails.
I like a rich sherry- matured Dalmore with dark chocolate and a sip of strong coffee, a combination advised to me some years ago by Master Blender, Richard Paterson. Goes over really rather easily. Indeed, whiskies with coffee notes tend to go well with some chocolate too. Looking at peatier whisky then there are expressions of Laphroaig that go with white and dark chocolate – 18 Year Old with dark and Quarter Cask with white. Why not make Easter a time to experiment with whisky and chocolate? Rarely a better opportunity!
Some of you may have noticed in newsfeeds this last week that Macallan has introduced a 50 year old whisky …..for £25,000 a bottle. Only 200 bottles and at 44% abv. Also Whyte & Mackay have released a 45 year old Dalmore (The Dalmore 45 at 40% abv and 500 bottles released globally in 2018) at £10,00 per bottle. Initially matured in American white oak ex-bourbon casks, the liquid has then been transferred into two different Vintage Graham’s Port Colheita pipes dating from 1961 and 1963 to create layers of flavour. Pricing tends to reflect the desirability of a brand in the world market and, yes, it does cost a lot to keep it that long. It’s losing volume every year and there is money tied up in wood and warehousing, energy costs and other overheads. If it’s still drinking well some of it may be kept back for single use in later years or for blending e.g. Ballantine’s 30 Year Old needs 30 year old single malts which means even less for single malt bottling. Stocks are a finely balanced thing. By the time it gets to 50 there isn’t a huge amount left. Distillers also have to be careful that strength hasn’t dipped below the legal limit of 40% abv and that it’s still worth drinking.
Having said that, I’ve heard complaints over the years that the packaging might be worth more than the contents as such things tend to be placed in much more precious or more “designer” vessels than the standard expressions. As the number of bottles is limited, producing special packaging in small or handcrafted runs costs a lot too. What would you rather have? A cracking old whisky in an ordinary bottle or something that celebrates its special nature?
A sample of the new Highland Park, The Light, partner to recent launch The Dark, is promised but not yet with me, though I do have the media release. More on that one when the sample arrives. There’s also the new Hedonism The Muse from Compass Box but that sample and a sample of the original Hedonism for comparison are somewhere in the post.
Things which have drifted across my desk recently include Benriach Cask Strength Batch 2 Triple-Cask Matured at 60.6% abv. If you didn’t add water it would be wild and hairy and burn your tongue but if you do, it’s really quite gentle. BenRiach distillery Master Blender Rachel Barrie has hand-picked a small selection from 2006, 2007 and 2008 combining cask strength whisky matured in bourbon barrels, Oloroso sherry casks and virgin oak hogsheads.
A rich, old gold colour with brassy blonde highlights. Tears quite swift indicating youth. On the nose there are sweet dried fruits, including fig; a dab of milk chocolate and sweet oak vanilla. Left a short while some youthful spirit notes come through. With water, it’s more viscous on the glass. The nose is flattened a bit at first then more vanilla notes and a more dominant soft toffee caramel.
On the palate it’s a light/medium mouth feel with oak, herbs and astringency then some bitterness as if from fresh citrus peel and almonds. The finish is a short – medium with more astringent, bitter cherry and almond notes persisting at the end.
Next up is Nectar Grove (46% abv; no age statement), a blended malt of all Highland malts from Wemyss Malts. Lovely, colourful label, inspired by Portuguese ceramics and an unusual colour of whisky which has spent some time in Madeira casks. Price is around £44 per bottle.
Appearance is medium gold with a slight coppery, peachy pink tinge. Tears are fairly fast to form and quite close together.
On the nose there are first fresh woodland earthy notes but also some richer honey and light fruit aromas; sponge cake. With water it is softer and fruitier and the alcohol sharpness has gone. I didn’t get any particular Madeira wine note – mainly soft stone fruits and honey, a bit of vanilla and a touch of caramel. To taste there is honey, vanilla, some sultana and stone fruit, a bit of licorice bitterness an even a touch of salt for me. Finish is quite short but still a neat little dram and I’d certainly drink it again.
Last one for this month is The Glenlivet Code (48%; no age statement). I didn’t try to solve it as I didn’t have all the information on the miniature bottle but it certainly tasted good and is in an enticing and tactile piece of packaging. It’s available in 28 countries at around $120 per bottle. No sterling equivalent was given. The official tasting notes will come out at the end of the year so people can see how they’ve done against those.
Appearance is a rich, mellow gold. Tears look quite viscous but swift at first then a bit slower and stickier.
Nose is interesting and multi-layered: orangey, floral, honey, some youthful pear, sweet fruit (sultana) and almonds/marzipan; soft spices. Some oak and golden syrup. With water there’s more of the barley sugar, golden syrup and marzipan, cake like (Simnel? It is Easter, after all.) Plus a hint of chocolate and a fresh, damp moss just wafting past.
Palate is mellow and rounded; honeyed with sweeter herbs and spices, some oak tannins and a heathery dryness. Finish is medium – long and dry with some bitter nut and herb notes. Very moreish. Of the three tasted for this month’s column, this was the richest, mellowest and most together, I feel.
One last piece of news this month is the Billy Walker has released his first Glenallachie whiskies since purchasing the distillery from Pernod Ricard last year. The whiskies range from 27 – 40 years old. So there we are till April. Have a happy and restful Easter and don’t forget the chocolate!