Glen Moray whiskies paired with Coco chocolates

Glen Moray whiskies’ rich texture allows them to pair perfectly with Coco’s chocolates, writes Peter Ranscombe.

LET me start with a confession – I’ve been crushing on Glen Moray whiskies all spring.

I was given two samples back in January, and one of them has fast become my house whisky.

There’s something visceral about the texture of this Speyside Scotch – it’s rich, it’s mouth-filling, it’s satisfying on a Friday night.

And it’s that same elegant mouthfeel that allowed Glen Moray’s whiskies to pair so perfectly this afternoon with bars from Edinburgh-based chocolatier Coco.

Led by global brand ambassador Iain Allen, today’s online session was an adaptation of a whisky and chocolate tasting experience that’s available to visitors at the distillery in Elgin.

Regular readers of this blog will know of my long-held love for whisky and food matching, whether it’s Scotch beef, Orkney beef, desserts, or nibbles at the Fringe.

As with last year’s Spanish food and wine webinar led by Scotsman wine columnist and master of wine Rose Murray Brown, Allen suggested chocolate pairings for four of his brand’s whiskies.

I snuck those couple of sample bottles from back in January into the online tasting too, adding to the pairing potential.

THE WHISKY: Glen Moray Classic Chardonnay Cask Finish (£26.95, The Whisky Shop Dufftown)
Aged for an average of six years in ex-bourbon barrels before being finished in chardonnay casks from Burgundy, Allen pointed out that Glen Moray had been using wine casks since the early 1900s, and chardonnay casks in particular since the 1990s, switching from California to France. Light caramel, vanilla, mango, and honey on the nose lead into more peach and lemon chardonnay characteristics on the palate, along with a delicious milk chocolate note, even before the bar of corresponding chocolate was unwrapped.

THE CHOCOLATE: Coco Orange Milk Chocolate (£5)
Allen opted for the orange milk chocolate from Coco, which – for me – emphasised the heat from the whisky’s alcohol, yet highlighted the orange notes in the chocolate. Instead, I paired it with the passion fruit dark chocolate, which highlighted the vanilla in the whisky and brought a ginger-like note to the chocolate.

THE WHISKY: Glen Moray Classic Port Cask Finish (£26.95, The Whisky Exchange)
Glenmorangie-owner LVMH sold Glen Moray to French drinks giant La Martiniquaise in 2008, giving the Speyside distillery direct access to Port casks from Porto Cruz, which is billed as the world’s best-selling Port brand, shifting 11 million bottles each year. Allen hailed his distillery’s links with Porto Cruz, allowing Glen Moray to circumnavigate brokers and bring casks straight to Scotland. The classic Port cask finish was shyer on the nose, but produced more confident red cherry, spun sugar, brown sugar, honey, and gentler vanilla notes on the palate, leading into roast meat on the finish.

THE CHOCOLATE: Coco Isle of Skye Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Mini Bar (£1.60)
Last year’s special edition manzanilla sherry cask finish – with its salty notes – would have worked well with the Isle of Skye sea salt chocolate, Allen mused, but his choice to pair the bar with the Port cask finish produced an interesting match, with the whisky eliminating some of the saline tones, while the dark chocolate emphasised the wood tannins in the whisky. I tried the whisky with the rhubarb and ginger chocolate, but that didn’t work, with the spirit bringing the vegetal rhubarb to the fore, and underlining the dark chocolate note found already in the Port cask finish. Intriguingly, Allen mentioned that the same Port barrels are used for both the “Classic” range of whiskies and the older 21- and 25-year-old Port cask finishes, with a 30-year-old example due later this year.

THE WHISKY: Glen Moray 12 Year Old (£34, Morrisons)
Allen trumpeted the 12 year old as Glen Moray’s flagship and he’ll get no argument from me. It’s easy to see why many whisky writers use it as their benchmark for entry-level Speyside whiskies. It was the crystallised ginger note on the nose that caught my attention, wrapped around caramel, spun sugar, honey, vanilla, and raisin aromas. It was classic Speyside all the way on the palate too, with vanilla, caramel, orange, and more of that ginger.

THE CHOCOLATE: Coco Rhubarb & Ginger Milk Chocolate (£5)
Unsurprisingly, Allen matched the 12 year old to Coco’s rhubarb and ginger chocolate – but the combination sadly didn’t work for me. Somehow the whisky emphasised the rhubarb’s vegetal side, which wasn’t all together pleasant. In return, the chocolate picked out the higher spun sugar notes in the whisky. Instead, I returned to the orange milk chocolate, which allowed the whisky’s orange and ginger notes to shine, and left behind the chocolate’s creamy texture on the finish.

THE WHISKY: Glen Moray 18 Year Old (£67.49, Master of Malt)
Finally for the afternoon’s four pairings, Allen unveiled the 18 year old, which spent its entire life in first-fill ex-bourbon barrels, in contrast to the 12 year old’s mix of first, second, and third fill. It was much more sherried on the nose, with dried fruit, orange, caramel, and runny honey. On the palate, it was simply gorgeous – a rounded mouthfeel, a tannic finish, with heat from its higher 47.2% alcohol by volume, and heavy orange flavour, with cranberry, and vanilla fudge.

THE CHOCOLATE: Coco Passion Fruit Dark Chocolate (£5)
Passion fruit was Allen’s pairing, but sadly it fell flat for me – it removed the fruit from the chocolate and left behind quite harsh cocoa notes, with the caramel remaining but much of the whisky’s other characteristics disappearing. It’s a powerful whisky, so it’s no wonder it dominated the chocolate, yet I went back to the rhubarb and ginger bar, and found the ginger survived the journey, and made for a more harmonious pairing, with the honey remaining in the whisky.

THE WHISKY: Glen Moray Classic Cabernet Cask Finish (£23.50, House of Malt)
This is the whisky that’s kept me going this spring – perfumed red cherry and blackcurrant on the nose, with woody cedar notes alongside the classic combination of caramel, honey, and vanilla. On the palate, there’s a lovely balance, with the Scotch dancing lightly on its feet, yet producing flavours of honey, fudge, and strawberry laces.

THE CHOCOLATE: Coco Passion Fruit Dark Chocolate (£5)
The best pairing from my side-hustle experiments was the passion fruit bar, which really sang, picking out the tropical fruit note in Glen Moray’s spirit, while the whisky’s sweetness filled-in the gaps surrounding the dark chocolate’s bitterness.

THE WHISKY: Glen Moray Classic Sherry Cask Finish (£24.76, Amazon)
Predictably, the sherry cask finish delivers sherried aromas, alongside dried apricot, and caramel. Honey is the star of the show on the palate, with gorgeous sherried notes, and sweet caramel. It’s so rounded and balanced that it felt like a shame to pair it with anything else

THE CHOCOLATE: Coco Orange Milk Chocolate (£5)
…yet I’m glad I did try, because the orange milk chocolate brought out an otherwise hidden lemon flavour from the spirit, while the whisky elevated the higher mandarin notes in the chocolate bar.

Read more of Peter’s whisky, beer, and wine reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.