This is the epicenter. New York City. Covid-19. Aka, the Novel Coronavirus. It struck here several weeks ago. In small numbers at first. But we who were paying attention knew it was time to prepare. We did our 'pandemic shopping' and waited for the signal to sit it out at home. How long, we weren't sure. But I thought it might be a year until therapies were proved and vaccines tested, so I readied myself psychologically. Provisions for several weeks included the basics, medications, non-perishable foods, and chocolate, of course. But I always have months worth of that in my chocolate fridge.
About two weeks ago, the numbers started to reach significance. Day by day, they have mounted, the reported cases, then the confirmed cases, once Cuomo got the tests rolling, and the deaths. You will read it all in news articles of these times, so I don't have to cite the numbers. What really punched my gut, the hospital beds set up by the Army Corps of Engineers at the Javitz Center, the refrigeration trailers wheeled up to hospital exits as morgues to handle the overflow of the coming corpses, the frantic calls of the Governor to find ventilators and PPE masks, visors, gowns and gloves for our medical teams. Finally, it was time to pull up our gangplank. We, my husband, our dog, and I, were now officially shut-ins. My years of germaphobic practices would now pay off. I hoped. I worked with my husband to refine our preventive procedures. He stopped saying I was being ridiculous.
Those of us who live lives of the mind and creativity are blessed by those traits while others might consider their apartments prisons. We leave our enclosure once a day, walk a half block to Riverside Park to exercise, or if we can wake up early enough, to make a run to the market, some with special hours for us old folks. Regardless, we mask and glove, make sure it isn't crowded, then dash in, grab, pay and run. Once home, we go through meticulous decontamination rituals. Still, any throat clearing by one of us is enough to send the other running for the exit. Is this the day all the ICUs will reach full capacity? Doctors and nurses, ill equipped, forced to reuse masks are themselves becoming ill and dying. The death of one today brought tears to my eyes. He was so young. So brave. So dedicated.The best of us.
It is spring. The flowers in Riverside Park have burst open in defiance, determined to remind us that there is beauty in the midst of such grimness. I pull down my mask to smell the blossoms on the breeze. I smile at people ten feet away, walking their jaunty dogs. The wind blows eastward from the Hudson. Drizzle smacks down dreaded droplets to the ground.
At home, there is chocolate. A retreat into these senses opens the spirit to times beyond the plague.
It's been decades since I'd visited Edinburgh. Decades. Many. While based in London, I attended the Edinburgh Festival one late August. But I hadn't really seen much of Scotland. Consider this trip a check on the ol' bucket list. Cheese Connoisseur Magazine gave me an assignment, so I had a mission that landed me at the door of cheesemonger and affineur, I. J. Mellis. After our interview and tour of his cheese aging facilities, I visited his first store on the winding, colorful Victoria Street where I sampled more than a dozen Scottish artisan cheeses. Hopefully, you'll get a chance to read all about I. J. Mellis when the article is published. Yes, I'll keep you informed.
In a previous blog posting (10/30/16), I wrote about chocolate makers who were using nibs aged in whisky (Bourbon) barrels and as flavoring in caramels. Since then I've encountered more chocolate makers producing whisky-inspired bars and bonbons. In these later tastings, Scotch was used rather than Bourbon. Zotter of Austria produces a dark milk bar which contains a peated Scotch caramel filling that is quite pleasing, but rather subdued. It is suitable even for consumers who may not like Scotch. But for a heady aromatic experience of peated Scotch, Chocolate Tree's 70% dark Whisky with Nibs bar really satisfies.
Scottish chocolate maker Alastair Gower soaks Marañon nibs in a peated Islay whisky and sets these crunchy wonders in a bar made from the same beans. Gower says that the alcohol is lost in the process, so don't look for a buzz beyond the sensory delights of aroma, taste and texture. A great Islay classic would not have been my first choice for treating nibs because it has medicinal and marine notes. There are peated whiskies that don't, so I might have recommended Connemara, for example. But the medicinal and island notes don't really show up in this bar. instead, the rich smoky aspects pour from the bar as it does from a dram.
If you are a fan of smoky peated Scotch, you will like this bar. Chocolate Tree also produces a caramel bonbon (praline) with a non-peated Scotch inclusion. The ultra-soft caramel center is a miracle of liquid suspension, a thick nectar sipping consistency. The Highland (Speyside) Scotch flavor is true, full and satisfying. Gower was fully transparent with me about the sources of his whisky. But unless the chocolate maker discloses on line, I won't name names. The reason is many whisky producers enter into non-disclosure agreements with those who simply age and/or bottle the "juice" their spirit and sell it under another label. Unless I hear otherwise, I will assume the same agreements may be in effect with chocolate makers.
Also from the UK is Hotel Chocolat. And they just opened a shop in NYC! A British chocolate maker that grows their cacao in St. Lucia, HC has a delightful range of spirit filled bonbons, not just whisky. They don't publish the source of their liquor. Even though I may discover their source, it's not my place to disclose.
I tasted their gin bonbons and liked them, even though I'm not a gin drinker. They also make bonbons filled with red wine, cognac, rum, beer and champagne. The moment I opened their package of six whisky truffles, the aroma of whisky poured from the celophane. The shell is a (dark?) milk chocolate (cacao percentage unknown) with a creamy ganache (center). The whisky flavor is gratifyingly bold and true. The package says the whisky has been aged 10 years, but the website says 12 years. Possibly, HC changed whiskies. My guess is the whisky is an unpeated Speysider. It doesn't appear to be sherry-finished. I was also able to obtain a sample of their plain 70% dark coverture bar and look forward to pairing it with other whiskies and cheese for Whisky Magazine.
Chocolate began life as an unsweetened Mesoamerican drink, a savory, a spice. Occasionally, it was mixed with honey, but more often, corn flour and chilies. Sweet chocolate was a European innovation following the introduction of sugar cane, plantations, and the tragedy of slavery. Sweet chocolate drinks were sipped surreptitiously by creole church ladies of New Spain and exported to the monasteries and courts of Europe. Wherever Spain ruled, cacao and chocolate soon followed. It was traded widely. Before coffee, hot, sweet chocolate rivaled tea in the colonies of Northern America. But cocoa often found its way into recipes, and not just desserts. A fan of Mexican cuisine, I was always aware of cocoa or chocolate as a savory. I lapped up Mole sauce at any opportunity. Even sweetened chocolate, preferably with cacao content in excess of 70%, can bring excitement and hearty nutrition to appetizers and main courses.
For the past year, I've taken the pairing of chocolate and whiskey that inspired my book Deep Tasting Chocolate & Whiskey to the readers of Whisky Magazine and expanded the concept. My recurring column is about quick and easy, modern entertaining and features triads that include cheese as well as chocolate and whiskey. These triads can be pulled together with a minimum of smart shopping––you just have to know a world class cheese monger, a well curated chocolate online or brick and mortar store, and a reliable liquor store. Add a good green grocer for fresh fruit and a vendor of whole grain breads. Then slice and serve! Instant party.
Invite your whiskey-loving friends over and pour them a dram. Serve the chocolate with the bread and cheese, side by side, or melted on toast as a sandwich. If you scroll down to previous posts, you'll find many pleasing pairings and triads. Here's another one featuring all Hudson Valley, New York ingredients.
Hillrock Double Cask Rye Whiskey with Fruition Chocolate Heirloom Costa Rica 74% and Cochran Farm St. Johnsville Goat Cheese.
Serve with a whole grain or sourdough by Bread Alone bakers. Maybe you didn't know that New York produces more varieties of apples than anywhere in the country. True! Finish with apples grown right here in the Hudson Valley and send everyone home satiated and superbly nourished.
Let's get over the notion that chocolate is just for dessert. Dark chocolate bars are palate-opening appetizers. They're also stunning with a main course. When it comes to dessert, think chocolate cake, chocolate mousse, even milk chocolate. Oh, yes! Apples, too.
Decades ago, a sudden onset of allergies to the sulfites in wine slammed the brake on any serious relationship I had with that beverage. Years later, when I first nosed my way into whisky, the prospect of sherry cask finishing gave me pause. In the United States, any food or drink containing more than 10 parts per million must list sulfites on the label. The European Union and the United Kingdom have similar regulations. So I checked the labels. Finding no warnings on sherry-finished whisky bottles gave me the courage to try. I swallowed an alcohol compatible anti-histamine, kept my adrenaline pen at the ready, tasted, spat, and actually swallowed one sip. I survived! But you already know that.
About 10% of the population may be allergic to sulfites. A similar percentage of the population report allergies to penicillin, and that brings us to cheese. Penicillium candidum or camemberti, found in brie and many soft cheeses, and Penicillium roqueforti and glaucum, found in blue cheeses, are not the same strain as the antibiotic form--Penicillium chrysogenum. The antibiotic is made with an extract, not the whole form as used in cheese. Many people who are allergic to the medication are able to consume these cheeses without difficulty. But not everyone! Some people will indeed react to these cheeses with symptoms ranging from mild rashes or hives to life-threatening anaphylaxis.
Food writers seldom suggest alternative ingredients for well known allergens. I can’t offer an alternative for chocolate. Trust me, there is none. But with respect to cheese, I decided to search out substitutions for the blues, tasting my way through various groups of non-blues made in Britain, France, Denmark, Holland and Switzerland, only to end up in Italy. Why is it important to find a substitute for blue cheese? Because peated whiskies tend to pair best with the blues.Given the number of peated whiskies and their fans, I couldn't just leave these spirits unmatched. My search turned up two northern Italian cheeses that are most compatible with the peated. They are both unpasteurized varieties. One is semi-soft, the other hard. And they are well-aged. I can’t stress the aged aspect strongly enough.
Here are the ones to buy:
Fontina (PDO) Valle d’Aosta (Val d’Aosta in the USA) is semi-soft, made from the raw milk of grass-fed cows in the Piedmont region. The cheese should be aged 6-9 months, minimally. The texture is almost gummy. Of the two cheeses, this melts more easily, if you wish to serve it on bread or toast. Easy does it, though. Even in my old microwave, 10 seconds suffice.
Asiago (PDO) d’Allevo (Vecchio or Stravecchio) is a hard cheese that originates in the Veneto or Trentino regions, made from the raw milk of cows grazed on a high alpine plateau. Look for one that is aged more than 10 months (vecchio) or 15 months (stravecchio). The texture is somewhat crumbly. It is best cut into cubes.
PDO means the name has origin-designated protection similar to use of the terms “scotch” or “bourbon.” Make sure to get to know and buy from reliable, knowledgeable cheese mongers who sell the highest quality imported cheeses. Yes, it will cost more, but it’s worth it. In New York, the cheese mongers at Zabar’s or Murray’s will let you taste before you buy. To be sure the cheeses are the real deal and not cheap knock-offs, look for the consortium stamp on the outside of the cheese wheel, or ask the seller to check. Don’t settle for the younger, pasteurized-type Fontina or Asiago— they are too mild to hold their own when matched to a peated whisky.
Here are some tasting notes for the cheeses:
Nose: earthy, mushroom, smoke
Palate: cream, sometimes fruity, truffle undernotes
Finish: cream of mushroom and white pepper
Nose: toast and savory caramelized butter
Palate: sharp, tangy and slightly spicy
Finish: saline and tangy
Lagavulin 16 & Fontina
The cheese amps the peat, and the whisky pops the mushroom bottom of the cheese. Add a baguette or sourdough bread to bridge the two. If you like peat, you’ll enjoy the direction of the duo.
Lagavulin 16 & Asiago
Very good together. Balanced. Whole grain or spelt bread bridge works here.
Lagavulin 16 is a widely-owned, classic peated whisky, but Ardbeg 10 worked well with both cheeses too. When matching to cheese, compatibility comes down more to the strength of the peat and, surprisingly, less than whether it has the marine or medicinal notes. I tried whiskies that source their peat from regions other than Islay. The American Single Malt by Kings County Distillers (USA) uses peat from the Highlands. The effect is gentle. Connemara Peated Irish Whiskey is more heavily peated than the Kings County, but also lacks marine notes. Both the Kings County and the Connemara worked well with the Fontina and the Asiago. So start with your favorite peated whisky. Experiment!
Add chocolate (although, you should probably taste the chocolate first. I always do!):
In general, what works with peated whiskies is a dark chocolate that has some spice notes in its profile. Here are my picks:
Marou (Vietnam) Tien Giang Dark Chocolate 70%
with Fontina & Lagavulin 16
Bold balance of brown fruit and spice respect all that the whisky and cheese bring to the experience.
Pump Street Bakery (UK) Madagascar Dark Milk Chocolate 58% with Asiago & Ardbeg 10
If you’re a die-hard milk chocolate fan, try this dark one. The usual citrus notes found in a Madagascar are sufficiently off set by the milk, enabling it to work with the cheese and this peated whisky.
Pump Street Bakery (UK) Honduras 80% with Asiago & Lagavulin 16
High octane cacao with winey fruit, smoky molasses and spice notes stands up to the power of the whisky and the cheese.
Fruition Hispaniola (USA) 68% has just enough spice, fruit and extra sweetness to work with almost any peated whisky. Try it!
ALTERNATIVES FOR BRIE, CAMEMBERT AND SOFT CHEESES
Brie-type cheeses tend to go well with young single malts and blended grain whiskies, aged in bourbon casks, according to Martine Nouet. As for pairing with chocolate, it all depends. Bries can vary as to sharpness as well as flavor notes, so finding the right whiskies and chocolates will take some experimentation. That may be the least of your challenges. Why?The molds most used to produce the typical bloomy rinds and soft centered cheeses are Penicillum Camemberti and Penicillum Candidum. They are prevalent, not only in brie and camembert, but also in many goat cheeses. You may think that if you are allergic to these white molds that you can never enjoy a soft cheese, but I have good news. There are a number of delicious cheeses that use Geotrichum Candidum instead. The cheeses may be buttery like bries with a rind of a brainy or cauliflower appearance. They tend to be sweeter, less acidic, and more delicate than the cheeses made with the penicillum molds. Geotrichum is a yeast that occurs in nature. It may be used in addition to, or instead of, Penicillum. Of course, if you're allergic, you will want to find cheeses that use the Geotrichum exclusively. One caveat, however, for those who have had severe allergic reactions to penicillin as an antibiotic or cheese. Be aware that many cave-aged cheeses are housed in close proximity with other cheeses. Unless the cave is careful to separate cheeses with varying molds, a geotrichum cheese may still attract a small amount of other molds in the environment. Also if you have a compromised immune system or are on immune-suppressant medications, geotrichum cheeses may not be for you. I am not an expert in this area, so I advise you to research Geotrichosis and discuss it with your doctor.
One French cheese available in the States is Saint Nuage. This geotrichum cheese is rather in a category of it's own. It's a triple-cream made from cow milk. The aroma is hay and pleasantly animally, not as strong as a goat cheese and not blatantly barnyard.On the palate, there's a fleeting lemony impression. In terms of texture, the rind is buttery but the paste is more like cheese cake, with a hint of grainy texture. It's more delicate and sweeter than brie, with a slight acidity to the finish. Try it with a young spirit, like Westland American Single Malt or others with roast flavors. American single malts tend to have higher alcohol content than Scottish counterparts, so I was surprised that the Westland, at 46 ABV, didn't just crush the hell out of the Nuage. Saved by the cream, I guess. Akesson's Chocolate, Criollo Madagascar 75% completed these two as a trio, if you're so inclined.
An American soft, brie-type cheese I've been enjoying lately is Cremont by Vermont Creamery. It's made with cow and goat milks. And it's delightful! Its delicate buttery flavors require a lower alcohol proof whisky companion. I suggest a gentle single malt or blend with orchard fruit—fresh apple or pear— flavor notes. I haven't tried them together, but Dewers Blended Scotch Whisky (white label) comes to mind. I'd also try Brenne aged in cognac casks. Teeling Blended Irish Whiskey aged in rum casks worked nicely. The Speyside single malt Balvenie Double Wood 12 year opened up fruity notes, particularly some apricot. Chocolates that triad well are ones that have a substantial fruit and floral profile component, such as Charm School Belize 70% or Pump Street Grenada 70%.
Another geotrichum American-made soft cheese is St. Johnsville Jr. by Cochran Farms, a Hudson Valley creamery. This cheese is all goat and is a great substitute for Boucheron-type logs. It's stronger than the Cremont and stands up to single malts such as Glenlivet 12. As for teaming up with chocolate, look for one with a roast profile–nuts and delicate cocoa notes. The necessary classic "chocolatey" backbone can be found in Dandelion's Mantuano 70%.
(C) copyright 2018 by R. M. Peluso.
Researching chocolate compatibilities with whisky and other foods has meant knocking on many literary and actual doors. Since publishing my book Deep Tasting Chocolate & Whiskey, I've had the privilege to write for Whisky Magazine (UK) and, along the way, was delighted to encounter the writings of Martine Nouet, a leader in pairing food and whisky for over 20 years. A prolific writer in her native French, fortunately, Ms. Nouet's book `A Table: Whisky from Glass to Plate is available in English. Her insights and basic principles are gems. Take her concept of a food bridge. A bridge food uses the texture or flavor of one food to facilitate a favorable interaction between two others. The result is a gustatory triad. Ms. Nouet and I share a regard for specificity. In other words, the exact brand and expression of a whisky matter when attempting to pair. In my experience, it’s the same when attempting to pair chocolate, cheese, or anything else.
Ms. Nouet spent decades experimenting. Meanwhile, a quiet revolution has been going on in food science. Flavor specialists and molecular gastronomists have been busy deriving formulae for successful pairing. One idea that has shown promise is “molecular rhyming,” that is, pairing foods that share molecular compounds. There are websites, such as the subscriber-based foodpairing.com, co-founded by Bernard Lahousse, Peter Coucquyt, and John Langerbich, and IBM’s Chef Watson :https://ibmchefwatson.com. Among several books on the topic is the latest, The Flavor Matrix: The Art and Science of Pairing Common Ingredients to Create Extraordinary Dishes, by James Briscione of New York’s Institute of Culinary Education and wife Brooke Parkhurst. Contrary to the use of the word “pairing,” the focus is actually enabling home cooks and chefs who want to combine ingredients to create novel dishes rather than simple pairings as ends in themselves. Dining versus tastings. As far as whisky is concerned, both foodpairing.com and Chef Watson lead in including broad categories of whisky. But that’s also their limitation. They do not list specific brands nor distinguish between their expressions. Their databases are more advanced in descriptions of beer and cheese brands than whisky or chocolate, which are, in reality, presented as generic ingredients. Ms. Nouet’s recommendation to consider whisky as a spice when using it as a cooking ingredient is consistent with that approach.
When it comes to tasting two or three individual items, pairing is a matter of subtlety and nuance. Just as the flavor profiles of whisky brands and expressions, chocolate cannot always be reduced to the broad industrial categories of dark, milk and white. Fine chocolate is more than “chocolatey”; it contains complex aromatic and flavor notes, and those flavor profiles must be considered carefully when pairing. The science-based data bases referenced above are simply not yet specific enough.
It’s essential to describe complex flavor profiles when working with artisan or craft chocolate in the context of pairing only two or three items. We need to tease out and appreciate the full spectrum of flavors and textures available to us. This need for specificity extends also to cheese, as I’ve been finding out. A Gouda aged 1-2 years is an entirely different animal than a Gouda aged 4 years. A raw farm house cheddar that whispers barnyard is a world away from the sublime notes of the Dorset's Coastal Cheddar ® or even an unpasteurized (raw milk) cheddar like Montgomery's (also UK). These cheeses will pair with whisky in an entirely different maner too.
Whisky, chocolate, cheese. When I recommend any of these, I know I need to be as specific as possible. So start with a great whisky, then locate a reliable cheese monger and a purveyor of fine, craft (artisan) bean-to-bar chocolate bars or the chocolate-maker's online store.
Let’s try some pairings and triads.
Redbreast 12 year (Ireland) with its rich, sherry-endowed dried fruit notes
pairs beautifully with….
Coastal Cheddar ® (Dorchester, England), aged a minimum of 15 months. It has a nutty and floral nose and a fruity, buttery palate. In a word–superb.
Castronovo (Florida, USA), Sierra Nevada (Columbia) 72%. The profile is fruit and forest.
or, easier to find in the UK–
Akesson’s, Brazil, Fazenda Sempre Firme, 75%. Earthy roast characteristics brings out oak and spice notes in the whisky, then balance the triad completed by the cheese.
Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon. The significant rye presence in the mash bill wins this year’s Kentucky Derby. It goes well with another winner…
Prairie Breeze™ (Iowa, USA). A “Cheddar-type” cheese aged a minimum of 9 months has garnered international awards in the Cheddar category. It has a fresh-lemony and slightly nutty nose. As soon as your teeth sink in, it explodes with depth, cream crumble and perfect salinity.
Creo Chocolate (Oregon, USA), Heirloom Hacienda Li´mon (Ecuador) 73%. A delightfully rich mouthfeel with an earth, fruit and honey-caramel profile
Westland Peated American Single Malt Whiskey (Washington, USA). Peat in the nose along with orange zest, spice and malt. Herbal palate and roast notes. Cinnamon and smoke finish. But let it breathe a long while and chocolate notes hit you in the face. One great innovator deserves another two …
Bay Blue (California, USA). With caramel in the nose, and dark chocolate on the palate, it’s fudgy mouthfeel still finishes blue.
Fruition Hispaniola 68%,batch 23 (New York, USA) The fruit and spice profile complements the chocolate notes in the Westland perfectly.
or go for a Scottish peated option with…
Ardbeg Peated Single Malt Scotch Whisky 10 year. Peaty and malty, of course, roasted notes, coffee, chocolate and smokey finish.
Colson Bassett Stilton PDO (England). Milk chocolate and butter nose, peanuts and chocolate that bites back. Firm, butter mouthfeel.
Marou (Vietnam)Tien Giang 80%. Spice profile with the power to stand up to any Islay peated. If you prefer a chocolate with less muscle, try the Marou Tien Giang 70%
ALLERGIES ANYONE? Check out my next blog on alternatives for cheese allergies.
(C) copyright 2018 by R. M. Peluso.
R.M. Peluso spoke to a filled-to-capacity crowd at her Chocolate & Whiskey tasting class at the DC Chocolate Festival on April 28, 2018. Among the many participants was the legendary cacao specialist Ray Majors.
“ It was a thrill to finally meet Ray, “ R.M. said.
The participants greatly enjoyed learning about the origins of flavor in both whiskey and chocolate as well as the perception of flavor. Dr. Peluso led the group through tasting the whiskeys and paired chocolate.
Book sales for both her first book and the latest, both pictured here, exceeded expectation.
Looking for a signed special edition of Deep Tasting Chocolate & Whiskey? Festival organizer, Marisol Slater, of The Chocolate House (DuPont Circle) now has a few at her shop for those who didn’t get a chance to purchase them at the show.
Thanks to chocolate makers Fruition, Potomac, Charm School and Castronovo.
(C) copyright 2018, all rights reserved
When you think St. Patrick's Day, think chocolate...and whiskey!
We need a new chocolate holiday between Valentine's Day and Easter to off-set those lean, melty days of summer. I know chocolatiers are already up to their elbows crafting chocolate bunnies and eggs. Easter lends itself to exquisite chocolate creations. Increasingly, Passover does too. Still, I think we can make St. Pat's far sweeter and richer.
During the famine in the mid 1800s, some 2 million people emigrated from Ireland. Huge numbers settled in New York–okay, Boston, Chicago, and lots of other places, too. But we've also seen large numbers of Irish arriving in the 1920s, 50s, and in New York in the last few decades, part of the brain-drain before Ireland re-invented itself with technology and pharmaceuticals, and so on. There are over 200 communities in the USA alone that mark St. Patrick's Day with parades and various celebrations. In New York City, we say that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day. Everyone wears green. Almost everyone. That's due to the enormous influence of the Irish on our city.
If you're going to sip some whiskey on St. Paddy's Day, then surely think about pairing it with chocolate. Here are my recommendations for a holiday, people and cultural influence worth toasting.
In my book Deep Tasting Chocolate & Whiskey, you'll find some fabulous pairings for Teeling Small Batch Irish Whiskey, Connemara Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey, and even the ever popular Jameson Blended Irish Whiskey. I confess to being very fond of Connemara Original Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey. The Connemara is much easier to pair with chocolate and other foods than the heavily marine-endowed Islay whiskies.
Let me share with you a few whiskeys that didn't make it into my book.
Writer's Tears Copper Pot Single Malt
As a writer, the name of this distiller captivated me. That's because I love the unique way the Irish use language–so colorfully, inventively, playfully. I spent a couple of days in Dublin at a young, impressionable age, and it totally opened my ears. It's no wonder so many great writers of English hail from Ireland.
Writer's Tears is difficult to find on the shelves, but if you ask a good wine and liquor store to order it for you, it is obtainable. And it is highly affordable. Typical of Irish whiskey, it is triple distilled, then aged in ex-bourbon barrels. As of this writing, this is the only expression available in the States. But I've heard that there are plans to begin exporting their sherry-aged Red Head expression to the States soon. Can't wait to try it.
Nose: apple, vanilla, honey ginger and malt
Palate ginger and spice, butterscotch, toasted oak:
Finish:long, "subtle milk chocolate"
Pair it with:
Dandelion Chocolate, Mantuano, Venezuela 70%: has earthy, roast notes of espresso and almond. With Writer's Tears, goes rich and quasi-mahogony wood
Castronovo, Honduras, the Lost City, 72%: Takes the chocolate's earthy, roast, cinnamon, brown fruit, banana and almond even richer.
Redbreast 12 Year Single Pot Still Irish Whisky
An extraordinary value. Go ahead, compare it to any Scottish counterpart. If you're looking for a sherried whiskey, begin here. Redbreast 12 Year's rich aromas won me over with my first whiff. It's complexity, smoothness and finish made me come back again. The 12 year is available at cask strength, but at 40 abv, this version is amazingly generous with those Oloroso sherry cask-endowed dried fruit notes. In addition to the distiller's description of the so-called Christmas cake attributes, I delighted in dried apricot notes.
Nose: sherry, malt, orange marmalade, dried apricots, "sultanas" and figs
Palate:creamy, spices, fruity, sherry, and wood notes
Finish: long with sustained flavor
Pair it with:
Castronovo, Sierra Nevada, Columbia 72%: SN's fruitiness turns smoky, molasses and prune jam. In combination, the sweetness is reduced for both.
Arete', Brazil, Fazenda Camboa, 70%: has fruit and nut notes. The Redbreast brings out the nuttiness (Brazil, Hazelnut).
Since the release of Deep Tasting Chocolate & Whiskey, in November, I've been interiewed for podcasts by Lauren Heineck of WKND Chocolate (wkndchocolate.com, podcast #18) and Mark Gillespie of Whiskycast.com (episode #680, February 11) for Valentine's Day. Canadian whisky expert, Davin de Kergommeaux, author of Canadian Whisky: the New Portable Expert, graciously mentioned my book in an op ed for Whisky Magazine, #149. A review of my book appeared on the website Bourbon & Banter (bourbonbanter.com) and journalist Simran Sethi quoted me in an article about whisky and chocolate. Whisky Magazine invited me to write an article on pairing chocolate with whisky in which I’ve issued a challenge to pair it with other foods too. I’ve begun a data base to record and analyze those parings. The Whisky Magazine article should be out in mid April. I'll be breaking more news as it happens. Check back.
Rev. Dr. R.M. Peluso is an ordained Interfaith minister whose spiritual journey has included meditation and chocolate. She is a writer, chocolate taster/reviewer, a long time contributor to the C-spot.com and, recently, Whisky Magazine (UK), American Whiskey Magazine and Cheese Connoisseur Magazine. Dr. Peluso is the author of Deep Tasting: A Chocolate Lover's Guide to Meditation and Deep Tasting Chocolate & Whiskey.