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.
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.
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).
Mizunara Finish, 92 proof.
Glendalough is considered the first craft distillery in Ireland, established in 2011 in County Wicklow. In addition to whiskey, the also make gin and poitin, an Irish moonshine and forerunner of whiskey, They pride themselves on small batch, hands-on, using double-cask aging their whiskey, first in ex-bourbon, then finished in Spanish ex-Oloroso sherry casks.
The Mizunara finished 13 Year is very difficult to obtain in the States currently and it is priced above most entry level whiskeys I recommend in my book. But if you can get your hands on it, it's well worth the expense. Matured in ex-bourbon casks, it's then finished in Japanese Mizunara oak, sourced from Hokaido. Mizunara imparts coconut and sandalwood incense-like notes.If you leave the glass to sit after drinking, an enchanting perfume remains. Multi-part sensory experience!
Nose: sandalwood, malt, light fruit
Palate: medium body, incense, vanilla, nutty, orange oil, green herbal
Finish: mint, whisper of coconut, orange oil with residue of coconut
Tricky to Pair!
Marou, Vietnam, Tien Giang 70%: fruit and spice notes of the chocolate go sweeter under the influence.
Fresco, Peru, San Martin, #225 70%
Happy St. Patrick's Day! Erin Go Bragh...
And always Drink Responsibly. Slainte!