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Chocolate Pairing by Sip Smoke Savor Flavor Category

Flavor Floral 275 Flavor Malt 333 Flavor Nuts 333 flavor honey 333 Flavor Caramel 275 Flavor Cacao 333 flavor smoke 333 flavor iodine 333 flavor pepper 333 flavor spice 333 Flavor OrgSherry 333 Flavor Fruit 333

Here at Sip Smoke Savor, we developed flavor categories for the express purpose of pairing whiskies to cigars, chocolates and other foods.  Since the cask in which a spirit is matured and finished has such a profound influence on the flavor, it also gives a convenient, but not exclusive, clue for organization.  But what's exciting is that while the whiskies in each category may exhibit those predominant notes, each expression has it's own sacred individual profile, allowing for endless permutations for pairing.  Here are some tangible tips to get you started.  You will also find specific chocolate pairing suggestions on each whisk(e)y page.


Floral Herbal


Think of the lightly peated Highland or Irish spirits that are light on the tongue, then look for something that might compliment those subtle flavors.  Perhaps a rose champagne truffle, lavender caramel, or violet cassis infused ganache to flatter these elegant drams.  Or keep it simple and choose a light mousse-like chocolate filling, so as not to distract from those delicate notes.


The grassy and herbal notes characteristic of Lowland scotches, might not have an obvious partner, so try something zingy and complementary such as a lemony citrus bar or bonbon.


Malt & Grain


The distillation process is responsible for those fleeting biscuity, cereal and popcorn flavor notes in scotch.  Get creative with malted milk balls or chocolate covered caramel corn.  Caramelized macadamia nuts or even chocolate covered shortbread are also good ploys to help bring out that biscuity taste in a whisky such as the Longmorn 16 year old that exhibits those unique malty notes.


Nutty Oaky


This category is supremely easy to pair, as there are many nut filled and flavored confections.  Focus a little harder and try to identify the specific hazelnut, almond, pecan, or pistachio note in your spirit for an even tastier match.  Madeira cask drams are delicious when paired with just about any nutty praline.  Fino cask finished spirits seem to have an affinity with chocolate and almond combinations, while hazelnut bonbons such as Gianduiua or Gianduja are most sympatico with Amontillado finished drams.


It is no coincidence that we put Oak and Nuts together in this category.  Nutty pralines are also a great way to advance those dry oaky attributes of single malt whiskies.


Honey Vanilla

Be careful when attempting to isolate the honey note, as there is a risk of verging on too sweet of a pairing.  I personally prefer a counterbalance to such sweetness, but then again rules are made to be broken.  In the past we have enjoyed Dalwhinnie 15 year old with a milk chocolate, honey and nutty praline.


Vanillins are a compound naturally present in oak.  Hence the amount of vanilla present in a whisky expression is based on the type and age of the oak, toasting of the barrel and maturation time, just to name a few factors.  It also happens to be one of the predominant notes of single malts that have been matured in rum cask barrels.  Single malts in this category are: Tomatin 9 year Old Caribbean Rum, The Balvenie 17 year old Carribean Rum Cask , and Benriach 11 year old Jamaican Rum Cask Finish.  Luckily, it is very easy to find a chocolate/vanilla treat from many artisan chocolatiers.




The breakdown of barley sugars and the cellulose in those seasoned oak barrels during the fermentation process is what develops those yummy caramel, toffee, dulce-du-leche flavors in whisky.  This makes for one of the easiest categories to pair with.  In my opinion, boubon matured whiskies just beg for it, and Pedro Ximenez matured drams have that toffee note in common.  Since every chocolatier on the planet has some combination of chocolate and caramel or toffee, what could be easier?  Sample the Highland Park 18 year old with one of your favorites.


Cocoa Java


While not many whiskies fall into this category, this note happens to be one of the most delicious to mimic.  Bar, bonbons, and truffles with notes of java, espresso, mocha or cappuccino are heavenly.  Stout flavored bars and bonbons are also fun to try with this group.  The Cocoa Java group is one of our favorite categories for the three-way whisky to cigar to chocolate pairings.  Glenmorangie Signet and Bunnahabhain 12 year old are perfect single malts to experiment with.


Smoky Peaty


Peat generated phenols are considered moderate when they are around 30 parts per million.  40 - 200+ ppm are considered heavily peated.  Even these "peat monsters" deserve a chocolate mate.  Try a zingy chocolate and lemon citrus combination, or if the whisky is olorosso sherry finished, orange might work a bit better.


Don't be afraid to experiment with chipotle spiced confections if you love those smoky spirits.  And of course, if it's bourbon cask matured, you can't go wrong with a chocolate caramel confection.  Multi-layered spirits are especially delightfull to experiment with.  Ardbeg's Uigeadail, Correyvrecken and Laprhoiag's Cairdeas are three that provide all sorts of pairing possibilities.




This category is challenging, since notes that hint of resin, menthol, brine or seaweed might not be flavors you want to isolate.  So consider bright lemon citrusy flavors with rich dark chocolate coatings, and be forewarned that milk chocolate can be a little dicey with this category.




Often the pepper note is on the finish of a whisky, so for this category try a confection that pulls it forward.  Bars, bonbons, or truffles that mention black pepper, peppercorn, cayenne, chile or chipotle are all candidates.  If that's a bit too much, turn to the other whisky notes for a less overpowering mate.




Spice is a broader category including almost every seasoning except pepper.  Ginger is one of my favorite notes to accentuate.  I'm a fool for dark chocolate covered crystallized ginger, and assure you that it is fabulous with the Glenlivet Nadurra expression.


The distinctive flavors of cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves in spirits are often commonly referred to as "holiday spices" or "Christmas Cake spices".  This combo is supremely easy to find in bars, bonbons, and truffles.  Ditto for single malt expressions.


The "Mayan" combination of cinnamon, chile and cayenne is so popular in bars and bonbons, that most chocolatiers have included one in their collection.  It does, however, need a whisky with some depth to stand up to the intensity.  One "knock it out of the park" combination is the cask strength Aberlour a'bunadh with a spicy Mayan chocolate bar or bonbon.


Sherry Fruity


This is a multi-layered grouping where the possibiities seem endless and almost foolproof.  Olorosso expressions in the group actually go best with orange citrusy chocolatea, but Pedro Ximenes maturations have the flavor of dried fruit notes in common with raisins, figs, and sultanan dates. You will also frequently find that raisin note in Cognac matured spirits.


Bordeaux and Port finished expressions are great with red fruit inclusions and fillings to intensify all that delicious jamminess.  Strawberries, red and black cherries, and raspberry fillings are a great place to start.  Red currants, blackberries, and pomegranate would also fall into this category.  Anyone who has sipped the Balvenie 21 year old Portwood will know what I mean.


Lighter white wine finished spirits such as Sauterne casks play well with chocolate and apricots.


Tropical fruit flavors are characteristic with rum cask matured spirits.  Think pineapples, mangoes, and passion fruit - all delicious fillings for bonbons.


Apple and pear notes are somewhat elusive, but I have found them in common with Cognac cas matured  liquors and provide for some wonderfully sophisticated bonbon pairings.




We've separated the notes of lemons and oranges into a category of their own.  As mentioned above, Olorosso sherry is a perfect match with orange and chocolate in a bar, bonbon, or truffle.  Try Aberlour 12 year old with chocolate covered orange sticks from Trader Joes for a quick test to see what we mean.


Lemon is a most valuable player in a number of categories, but pairing it with Glenkinchie 12 year old is guaranteed to isolate its zesty essence.


We originally started our website with partner Chuao Chocolatiers, a top notch artisan conveniently located near us in Southern California.  Therefore you will see their specific confections referenced throughout our website.  We realize that access to their products might not be as convenient to you, plus there are so many wonderful luxury chocolate products, that we decided to expand our resources.  In our section labeled Chocolatiers, we want to share with you the many resources that meet our exacting standards.


If you are planning a chocolate tasting party and need some recommendations for chocolate pairings - don't hesitate to contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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