|Francisco X. Vivar pairing Pacari chocolate & whisky|
|Piura 70% (front), Nube 70% (rear)|
I'm preparing a chocolate-whisky pairing event which will be held in January at The Morgan Library's beautiful Morgan House Dining Room and I figured Pacari chocolates would be ideal pairing partners for whisky. I already knew they were, actually. I was introduced to the topic by Mr. Vivar and Compass Box's Brand Ambassador, Robin Robinson back in April at a pair of tastings. Over the ensuing months I have studied the topic. Of particular value was Stuart Robson's Connosr.com article on whisky chocolate pairings. He discusses the concept, methodology, and lists a number of very very specific pairings that cover a wide flavor range. Here's the paragraph on the methodology of pairing whisky and chocolate, to give you an idea of how it's done, and how Robson writes:
- Take the whisky on the palette, moving it around the mouth for awhile to let the flavours build.
- Once swallowed, wait a few seconds before placing a very small piece of chocolate on the tongue. Allow the chocolate to melt slowly and experience the profiles of the Chocolate and Whisky as they come together.
- Towards the end of the melt, take a little of the whisky back over the chocolate. This leads to greater intensity and often the development of some interesting and unexpected flavours.
- Enjoy the finish as you normally would, only this time you will see some interesting variations in the profile of the whisky.
Robson is unusually situated to write about whisky chocolate pairings. He is the whisky reviewer at Connosr's Whisky Marketplace Blog:
This confluence of whisky and chocolate expertise makes Stuart Robson a pretty special person at the intersection of these two fascinating passions.
|Judging at the International Chocolate Awards Semi-Finals|
A few weeks ago George Gensler, one of the founders of the Manhattan Chocolate Society and a frequent reviewer on SeventyPercent.com, who I had met at the Compass Box-Pacari pairing event, incredibly generously nominated me to be a judge at the International Chocolate Awards Western Hemisphere Semi Finals. I got to taste an amazing array of chocolates, meet an amazing group of chocolate epicures and play some small role in an important industry review of the stars of high end chocolate. At the conclusion of each judging session I pulled out a mess of sample bottles and did impromptu whisky-chocolate pairing sessions with the three Valharonha chocolate "palate calibration" selections: Guanaja, Manjari and Abinao. Importantly i got to do a one on one whisky chocolate pairing with Clay Gordon, the amazing impresario behind the Chocolate Life online community, the book "Discover Chocolate", and a host of other chocolate projects ranging from chocolate factory start ups to radio presentations on the Heritage Radio Network and the creation of a chocolate factory in Bushwick. These impromptu jam sessions were a total blast and taught me a lot. These experiences gave me the audacious ambition to make my first public whisky event a whisky chocolate pairing event.
Back to the tasting at hand. Francisco & I toured The Morgan and then began the pairings in a private space. The Morgan is a very special place: JP Morgan's private library is one of grandest beaux arts residence spaces ever envisioned. It is alive with culture, beauty, history, and power. Surrounding it is an array of exhibition halls and scholarly resources jammed with the literary and graphic roots and fruits of human civilization. After the tour we were in a fit mental state for appreciation of a different sort.
|A dozen chocolate varieties and five whiskies...|
|Pacari Nube 70%|
Pacari Nube 70% varietal bar (limited to 2000 bars world-wide). Dark acidic blueberry, rich ivy & cilantro herbal notes, and aromatic smoky espresso flavors with a rich velvety mouth feel. This selection paired synergistically with Glenmorangie Nectar D'Or. Nectar D'Or is sweet, light, and intensely floral. I was anticipating an accentuation of the herbal qualities. Paradoxically, the combination was suddenly warm and vividly toffeed - brimming with butter and sugar browning in a pan Maillard reaction flavors.
Piura White Cacao varietal, 70%. This chocolate is a lovely amber reddish-brown hue because of the white cacao from the Piura region (Pacari's first from beyond Ecuador). Rich and heady with a potent raw cacao flavor punch: earthy, fermented, with vivid acids, honeyed toffee notes, and plenty of dark cocoa flavors. This one did the toffee Maillard thing with Nectar D'Or too - even more than the Nube. A stunning pairing.
Elijah Craig 12 with the Pacari Chili bar: peppery heat squared. The big oak tannin hit from the EC meshed with the capsicum heat to form a potent mouth burn. Maybe a bit too potent. This was somewhere between a mesh and a clash.
We also paired the Elijah Craig 12 with the phenomenal Pacari Salt & Nibs bar (one of my favorite chocolate bars on the planet). This one was a decent pairing with emergent big caramel flavors
We paired the sherried Port Ellen 23 with a number of bars but the stand outs were The Pacari Manabi 65% bar which meshed with the Port Ellen's lemon and chamois to produce a paradoxical huge caramel note with complex peat and citrus overtones. Stunning.
When paired with Pacari's landmark 70% Raw bar, however, the same Port Ellen 23 popped out a huge oak wood flavor note that was as surprising as it was delicious. Where in the world did that come from?
We finished the session with Balcones Brimstone (always put Brimstone last. Experience has taught me that the titanic finish on Brimstone finishes you palate for anything else). The killer combinations here were many:
From Pacari's tasty chewing "Fruit Harvest" line - the prototype of the upcoming Fig 60% bar produced an amazing smoky sweet flavor, reminiscent of sizzling bacon wrapped figs.
Brimstone also kills with the Piura bar - coiling sweet and smoke turned hauntingly toffeed. I have been repeatedly impressed with how well Brimstone pairs with big chocolates. It also makes an intensely memorable Old Fashioned. I still prefer it neat, however. I originally gave Brimstone 3 stars, but as my bottle opened up and I became accustomed to its dramatically novel flavor profile I fell in love and updated it to 4 stars and then to 5. Now I view it as an indispensable bottle to have on hand at all times.
Pacari's medals at the International Chocolate Competition World Finals 2012 are:
GOLD: Pacari Chocolate (Ecuador) – 70% Raw – Organic and Biodynamic
SILVER: Pacari Chocolate (Ecuador) – 70% Piura-Quemazon
GOLD – Chocolate Maker: Pacari Chocolate (Ecuador) – 70% Raw – Organic and Biodynamic
GOLD – Growing Country Chocolate: Pacari Chocolate (Ecuador) – 70% Raw – Organic and Biodynamic
GOLD – Directly Traded Cacao: Pacari Chocolate (Ecuador) – 70% Raw – Organic and Biodynamic
GOLD – Organic: Pacari Chocolate (Ecuador) – 70% Raw – Organic and Biodynamic
GOLD – Best cacao source: Piura-Quemazon