Awards & Events

The ultimate Christmas indulgence

We thought it would be fun to match some favourite whiskies with cigars, coffee and chocolate for a Christmas treat, so we called on the experts. This is what we got
By Dominic Roskrow
Simon Chase, Hunters & Frankau – cigars
Gerard Coleman, master chocolatier,
Artisan du Chocolat – chocolate
Dominic Roskrow – whiskies
Jeremy Torz, roast master, Union Coffee Roasters – coffeeGlenfiddich Solera ReserveCoffee selection:JT: “The fairly light body of this whisky but sweet yet bold citrus characteristic on the palate means our Nicaragua Estate coffee from the Hacienda la Ilusion works best here. Bright, zesty with a punch of lemon, the larger than usual sized beans also impart an intriguing apricot like
quality.“The coffee builds on the sweetness of the whisky through its bright citrus notes which build very satisfactorily on the softer candid peel tone in the glass.”Chocolate selection:GC: “For this pairing, the Lemon Candid Peel from my collection works well. Using milk chocolate instead of dark, the sweetness is contrasted with the bolder citrus tone. This acts as a bridge between the zestiness of the coffee and the melon quality which is oh so apparent in the whisky. For me, this is a really enjoyable combination which is light and fragrant, not challenging and enjoyable in the late afternoon.”Cigar selectionSC: “My initial instinct was to liven up this rather light looking combination by introducing a cigar with a really big, bold character. My choice, the Cohiba Reserva is full bodied but also has an intensely deep sweetness, something I felt would complement the melon quality which so
defines the whisky.“Yet when it came to actually sample them together, I felt that its depth of flavour somewhat overpowered the whisky – although it did complement the Nicaragua coffee’s bright citrus-apricot notes very nicely.“Nonetheless, the boldness of the Cohiba was forcing the combination as a whole to follow its lead, suggesting that what was needed was a cigar with a lighter body which would allow the distinctive sweet melon tone present in the chocolate, coffee and whisky, to follow through. The
Trinidad Reyes is one such cigar that can remain behind the first three, supporting the weight of the combination while ensuring the intriguing fruit top notes can stay with you.”The verdict: Best as an alternative to a usual afternoon tipple.Highland Park 18 Year OldCoffee selection:JT: “The gentle nutty tones and medium body of our Brazil Fazenda Lambari are a perfect complement with this whisky. I like the sweet, toffee like characteristic, and wanted a coffee that was not going to challenge, or really take anything away from this. Subtle notes of vanilla, almond
and sugar cane come through in the cup – just elegantly building on those which we identified in the nosing and tasting of whisky – while it’s uncanny how both the coffee and whisky have almost identical mouthfeels.”Chocolate selection:GC: “I’ve chosen a ganache which contains an unusual spice from Venezuela called Tonka. Like Jeremy, we both felt that this selection – unlike the first – should be one about coming together – so the chocolate’s almond and subtle spice tones work unusually well in rounding the
combination off.”Cigar selectionSC: “At first I felt the chocolate was the one element in this combination that did not go. We sparked a Montecristo Edmundo cigar, and the initial draw began to combine wonderfully with the whisky’s nose and really accentuated the glass’s toffee-butterscotch quality. The coffee had an exceptional balance, its soft vanilla hazelnut tones always likely to work well alongside a malt such as Highland Park, but also a very gentle acidity which seemed to sparkle when the cigar was introduced.“Yet the chocolate was a puzzle – it seemed to have a deeper body than all the other components. That was the case until Jeremy suggested I try the chocolate in another order. From being initially sceptical, I found this to be an extremely rewarding combination – the coffee is the catalyst which helps the flavours of the chocolate drive on and help realise the true potential in both whisky and cigar.”The verdict: Best for its symphony of flavoursArdberg UigedailCoffee selection:JT: “This is such a bold whisky that at first it appeared to be quite difficult to think of a coffee that would ensure these pleasurable qualities were not lost. My choice is a blend – our Arabian Mocha Java coffee – which is in itself a perfect treat after Christmas dinner. In our recipe you have a Java base of bittersweet, herbal and heathery chocolate, with just enough of the gamey, red wine tones in the Yemen coming through. The coffee sits behind the whisky, but more than brings a depth of character which just extends the surprisingly meaty quality in the glass.”Chocolate selection:GC: “My single estate chocolate from the San Juan plantation, Trinidad is a superb rounded ganache that has a jasmine quality
and deep body that plays on the low chocolate notes in the coffee, and rounds off the whisky nicely.”Cigar selectionSC: “A Partagas Series D. This is the cigar equivalent of an Islay whisky – deep, earthy, peaty like and smokes beautifully. I loved all the elements in this combination – the Ardberg’s complex phenolic, meat-like consistency; the weighty dark chocolate and full red wine tones of the coffee – not to mention the superbly bold, well rounded nature of the chocolate. Yet this is a combination not for the faint hearted – it
has so much boldness to it that I feel it’s one for the young men among us! The verdict: Best with friends before bed!Redbreast 12 Year OldCoffee selection:JT: “Conventional wisdom would normally dictate that a light bodied whisky should be matched with a lighter bodied coffee. Not so here – despite trying some light, bright coffees, we found that the savoury, soft and delicate nature of this whisky required a coffee to challenge it, build up on the foundations and prepare the palate for the introduction of the chocolate. Our Java Estate from the Blawan and Jampit farms works well here. Creamy bodied but lighter in character than most other coffees from the Indonesian Archipelago, the Java’s bittersweet chocolate and gentle earthy tones overlay the sweet spice found in the whisky.”Chocolate selection:GC: “Having debated the coffee selection for this pairing, I was keen not to build further on the whisky’s base; this time actually delivering a chocolate with gentle flavours and a sweetness that might balance out the whisky’s savoury tone. The choice is my Lapsang Souchong ganache – a smokey flavour in the tea is brought forth, but not too sweet, so as to preserve the qualities of the whisky while allowing the
coffee to stand out.”Cigar selectionSC: “The coffee is just such a great combination with a Truinidad Fundadores – it gives a real enhancement to the smoke. The Lapsang Souchong flavours in the chocolate are the herbal link between the two – the flavour of which is enhanced very much by the whisky.”Chivas RegalCoffee selection:JT: “The elegance imparted from the red wine low tones in our Colombia single estate coffee from the Timana Co-operative work very well with the diverse flavour notes in the whisky. Milk chocolate notes complement the sweet red fruit and raising flavours while the coffee’s crispness works because it refreshes the palate nicely.”Chocolate selection:GC: “Here, we chose two chocolates, giving people the opportunity to round off the pairing in a contrasting way – either by bringing it together or by extending it dramatically. For the former, I selected the Venezuela estate chocolate – smooth, with roasted nuts and a gentle tartness which mimics the slight crispness in the coffee. For the latter – my Moroccan mint ganache. Although it may seem like too much on paper, and certainly looks that way, the freshness of the mint really brings out that raw oakiness in the whisky so well, while the sweetness of the milk chocolate ganache extends that flavour tone in the coffee – and the raisin like taste of the whisky.”Cigar selectionSC: “It was actually tasting the mint chocolate – on paper something I would never chose to place alongside a whisky so graceful as a Chivas – that really made this combination fun. When taken first, with the whisky added afterwards, the mint makes the blend fly brilliantly. And, again, the mint does something to the taste of a Montecristo Edmundo cigar which I’m not sure Cuban purists would approve of, yet personally, I feel somehow works well. “This is a combination that everyone should sample as it has just about everything you would want out of such an exercise: surprise, intrigue and a delicious, memorable burst of flavour. Delightful.”The verdict: Best for a flavourful surpriseWild Turkey Sherry FinishCoffee selection:JT: “Like the Ardberg, I felt there may not be a coffee that would be suitable with this bourbon at first, but as with everything, a partner can always be found once you have a quality to catch on to. This pairing is very much linking onto one, and I found that the selected coffee actually extends it.“Make sure you dilute the whisky just slightly first. Take a sip, let the flavour role round the palate and then introduce the coffee – which in this case is our Ethiopia Yirgacheffe sourced from the Konga Co-operative. The coffee has a very pronounced floral characteristic – almost like the whisky’s sweetness – which somehow just hits the slight liquorice tone head on and really drags that forward. Watch out for the racked black pepper mid tone in the coffee too – this is the enduring flavour on the palate while the liquorice gently tickles the throat.”Chocolate selection:GC: “I’ve chosen my liquorice finished chocolate which has a Dominican Republic 70 per cent cocoa base. The creamy, rich body of this dark chocolate together with the subtle hints of liquorice which come through just round off this pair nicely. For me, I like the fact we have a combination that has a dominant characteristic right the way through.”Cigar selectionSC: “The cigar was chosen for its earthy quality, with a hint of sweetness – which immediately worked well with the coffee, a contrasting pairing – where the characteristics of the coffee really lift the cigar in a highly unusual way. “The whisky and chocolate both had an interesting liquorice tone and this was bought out by the coffee, and sustained by the cigar.“As a footnote, we decided to sample the Cohiba again – mainly because we felt its boldness, and natural sweetness, might accentuate the liquorice quality further still. “My feeling was that this worked too. In this instance, I’d recommend the first, while for the more discerning, I’d suggest the Cohiba as it just gives a little bit more dynamism which may make help lift those Christmas spirits.”Verdict: Best for those with a sweet tooth! Union Coffee RoastersJeremy Torz Steven Macatonia set the company up three years ago. Both have had long careers in the world of speciality coffee, with their first business, Torz & Macatonia, exclusively supplying many of the country’s best restaurants, bars and retailers. Their vision is to bring consumers and producers together through quality coffee. By working in direct partnership with an array of coffee growers from the four principal producing continents, Jeremy and Steven ensure not only is fair price paid, but that their fair price is targeted in the most effective and responsible manner. But the most crucial element to Union Coffee Roasters is quality. The personality of the growers is crucial, and so is their coffee.
The Union Coffee Roasters’ ‘house style’ is to develop a sweeter, fuller cup.
For more information on Union Coffee Roasters please visit: www.unionroasters.com or tel: +44 (0)20 7474 8990L’Artisan du ChocolatL’Artisan du Chocolat is a small family run company dedicated to creating the highest quality chocolates in the UK and some of the best worldwide. Relying on word of mouth, the company’s reputation lies solely in the taste of its chocolates. All are produced by hand in l’Artisan’s atelier in London using high quality natural ingredients, traditional artisan skills and innovative and balanced tastes and textures. The result are ganaches which are smooth, with flavours that excite and explode on the palate.
L’Artisan du Chocolat is located on 89 Lower Sloane Street, London SW1W 8DA.
For more information on the range of chocolates available, visit: www.artisanduchocolat.com or tel: +44 (0)20 7824 8365Hunters & FrankauHunters & Frankau have been in business for more than 200 years and are one of most highly respected importers of fine cigars and have the sole importing franchise for Havana cigars. As well as selling cigars from a range of different countries, the company’s emphasis is on quality and it prides itself providing the discerning smoker with the best the cigar world has to offer.