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I am constantly on a search for new fabulous flavour pairings for chocolate and thanks to the complexity of this food there’s a lot of road ahead of me! My next chocolatey adventure takes place during a meeting between Jack Sparrow and Willy Wonka: pairing rum and chocolate! Rum has a sugar cane base with plenty of intense notes that can play delightfully with the creamy and caramel notes in certain chocolates.
This is a quick ‘how to’ guide for any fellow chocolatey adventurers…
David Owen from St Abbs with Dghchocolatier
QUALITY QUALITY QUALITY
If you’re going to the effort and trouble of a rum and chocolate pairing then you need to ensure that you treat yourself and buy good quality chocolate and rum. That’s not to say that the process won’t work if you’re penny pinching but this should be a treat.
Always use high quality rum and good single origin chocolate; if you can pair the oldest rum with the highest cocoa percentage chocolate and milkier, sweeter chocolates with the younger rums.
Barrels are important
When selecting your rum you need to pay attention to the barrels. The production process of the oak barrels typically used to age spirits adds a great deal to the symphony of final flavours: charcoal, smoke, vanilla, caramel etc. most of the craft and quality rum companies will tell you what they have used.
This process serves to enhance the whole tasting experience so use this additional knowledge to help you select a complimentary chocolate.
Chocolate judge trying rum with some of the best chocolate
Chocolate and rum both have similar origins in terms of geography and climate and they tend to get on well together. Rum, like chocolate, has a plethora of complexities and varietals which offers a multitude of opportunities to find serendipitous pairs. This means your options for rum selection are wide open but when in doubt select something super smoky or splendidly sweet.
What distinguishes white rum from dark, and how spiced rum is made
Interestingly, in bygone years, white rum was just young rum that had not taken on the darker tones of the barrel. Now, the distinction is a little more complex; rum is often aged and then filtered to remove the colour. Spices can be added during the barrel ageing.
When trying to find a good rum to pair with chocolate I take my cue from David Owen at St Abbs Reserve Rums. David’s rums hold a host of flavours including: tropical fruits, citrus, lime, warm spices such as ginger and nutmeg. Chocolates with any of these flavours would be lovely with rum. Try aged rum with chocolates filled with marzipan.
Milk chocolate and white chocolate pair best with rums that have a fruity body and notes of oak, and are balanced and lighter in character.
60-72% Cocoa chocolates provide for incredible pairings, if not some of the best! This level of cocoa pairs best with rums that exude darker flavour notes, like toffee, coffee, leather, tobacco, smoke, and dark dried fruits akin to dates, raisins, and dark berries.
Milk chocolate can coat the palate with a cloying-like effect, so if you prefer milk chocolate – be sure to keep the pairing portion small. Remember that the proof of the rum will not only pair well with a smaller portion, but will also help cleanse the palate. Below are some Rums and chocolate paring along with the various flavours you’re likely to find in them:
Rhum Barbancourt 15 Year (Haiti) and Valrhona Caraïbe: Chocolate and cocoa butter are the strongest overtones in this velvety, aged rum, which brings out the complexities of the Caraïbe bar made from a blend of Trinitario beans from multiple islands.
St Abbs Captain’s Table XO The first was matched with Haitian 75% Dark chocolate. The chocolate engages with certain flavours in the rum, cancelling out any mutual flavours and bringing others to the fore: Citrusy, chocolatey notes of this aged rum blend nicely with hints of fruit in this bar. Raisins, brandy snap, dates, prunes, leather, Tabaco, and toasted wood.
Angostura 1824 (Trinidad) and Pralus Trinidad Trinitario: Cane and cocoa from the same soil make an ideal pairing in this smoky, rich rum and herb-and-tobacco flavoured chocolate.
St Abbs Six spice pairs well with Guittards soleil d'or 38% cacao which has Bold, rich, upfront chocolate flavour with subtle caramel notes and a lingering hint of cinnamon, fresh dairy flavour and a spicy finish. Complimenting the rums flavours of Clove, cinnamon, star anise, black pepper and ginger.
St Abbs Cask silver pairs well with Guittards soleil d'or 38% Milk Chocolate or Guittards soleil blanche White Chocolate – plain; or an infusion of almond or hazelnut; or infused with citrus, tropical fruit or stone fruits
Note that can be found in cask silver include Zesty, citrus coconut, woody tones and cocoa
Food pairing isn’t a science it’s an art so there isn’t a right or wrong here and you’ll be pleased to know that practice makes perfect. So go off, experiment and enjoy!