Everything You Need To Know About Clydeside's Chocolate & Whisky Tour
Our guest blogger, Robin, sampled our unique whisky and chocolate tasting tour. here he tells us his thoughts on the paired combinations.
I love chocolate nearly as much as I love whisky, so it was unmitigated joy that I learned of the Clydeside Distillery’s Chocolate & Whisky Tour. Join me now as I take you on an epicurean journey into two of the world’s finest pleasures, which I hadn’t really realised worked so well together. And trust me they seriously do!
I knew I was in capable hands when my tour guide introduced himself as a man who loved both whisky and chocolate. We kicked things off as all tours do here leaving the well-stocked shop and café behind to delve into another room where a video set the scene for this historic distillery on the site of the old Queen’s Dock Pumphouse. You can read about the full ‘normal’ tour experience in another of my blogs here.
the current owner Tim Morrison’s great grandfather John Morrison was the builder behind both the construction of Queen’s Dock?
After exploring the brilliantly laid out and informative main part of the visitor experience on our own (there are only ever a maximum of six guests on this exclusive tour), we learned more about the Morrison family who gave new life to this grand old dame by the banks of the Clyde. Did you know for example that the current owner Tim Morrison’s great grandfather John Morrison was the builder behind both the construction of Queen’s Dock and also Loch Katrine as Glasgow’s water supply? It’s an engaging historical loop as now the clear, fresh waters of this gorgeous loch in the Trossachs find their way into the Clydeside Distillery whisky. For more on Loch Katrine see my blog here.
A tour of the distillery production followed, including the all-important stills, which enjoy a great view out over the river. Then it was time for the main event, the chocolate and whisky paired tasting. I savoured this in the rarefied surrounds of the exclusive Blender’s Room, which gazes out over the River Clyde too.
The secret is finding a chocolate that shares similar characteristics to the whisky.
The locally made artisan chocolates come courtesy of Sugar Wings of Glasgow. They would be spectacular on their own even without whisky. I ponder aloud if it’s a shame to waste them or the five whiskies we are about to taste by combining them. “Not at all”, answers Ronny with a winning smile, not taking the bait. “The first time I tried pairing chocolate with whisky was a total revelation – they are a marriage made in heaven. The secret is finding a chocolate that shares similar characteristics to the whisky, so you pair a salted caramel with a maritime malt, a chilli chocolate with a dram with a bit of spicy peppery notes and so on”.
The idea apparently came about in a moment of serious inspiration. One of the distillery employees, Ana, was already renowned for her palate. The distillery was looking for quality produce to pair with whisky and Ana turned her well-trained nose and tastebuds towards the hallowed worlds of whisky and chocolate. The rest has become dram drenched history.
First up was the Balvenie Double Wood 17-year-old...paired with a sweet chocolate laced with blackcurrant, raspberry and lavender.
By now I was desperate to try the combinations for myself. First up was the Balvenie Double Wood 17-year-old, the only sherry cask whisky amongst the quintet I sampled. This fruity Speyside malt was paired with a sweet chocolate laced with blackcurrant, raspberry and lavender. I was an instant convert as the whisky and the chocolate went perfectly together. Each enhanced rather than detracted from the other’s flavour.
Next up was a wee Highland malt, that old whitewashed dame you see as you head north to Inverness or Speyside on the A9, Dalwhinnie. Their 15-year-old expression has a bit more about it than their signature 10-year-old malt. Its still light fruit notes proved an ideal companion for the chocolate infused with pear and cardamom.
Glansa does have a touch of smoke, which worked very well indeed with...salted caramel.
The third pairing took us all the way north to the Northern Isles, to the slightly less well known of the brace of Orkney distilleries. Scapa’s non-age statement Glansa was a revelation. I always think of Highland Park as having a wee whiff of peat, not really Scapa though. Glansa does have a touch of smoke, which worked very well indeed with that trendy flavour of the moment, salted caramel. It was truly, as Ronny declared with a beaming smile, that “marriage made in heaven”.
a smoky whisky with a smoky chocolate...you will either love or hate.
Now it was time to head across to Islay, where the Morrison family behind the Clydeside Distillery are well-kent faces. Here I came to the joyous 12-year-old Bowmore. I can see that some people may struggle a little with this one as it matches a smoky whisky with a smoky chocolate, a palate tingling sensation that is mercifully something I have acquired a taste for. Ronny told me the tale of a Chinese lady who ‘didn’t like whisky’ who steered clear of all the other options, but then was bowled over by this combo! It is a real Marmite combination you will either love or hate, but it makes you think about whisky and food, which is the whole point of the tour.
a balanced fruitiness and peppery spiciness
I love a good peaty malt too, though, I tend more towards Islay than Talisker from Skye. That is why the Talisker 18-year-old that came next was another surprise. Gone was the fire for fire’s sake and in its place was a balanced fruitiness and peppery spiciness that could have been dreamed up with the chocolate laced with chilli I had it paired with in mind.
the chocolate actually changed the flavour of the whiskies
After the tour I had a wee chat with the Retail Manager at the Clydeside Distillery, Donald. I’ll leave the last words to him on this brilliantly fun and engaging whisky and chocolate tasting experience:
“The chocolate tasting experience offers an opportunity to try things that are not generally available out there. It opens up ideas about what whisky is and how it can be enjoyed, seeing whisky as a liqueur or digestif to be savoured with chocolate. I have to admit I wasn’t sure before I tried it. I had heard the theory and science, but I remained to be convinced. Our chocolate tastings were created by one of the team here whose palate is impressively developed, our own Ana. She expertly suggested what worked. What really blew me away is that the chocolate actually changed the flavour of the whiskies. In a very good way!”