This week is our first ever food review. Nestle Japan has released another flavored KitKat bar. This time around it's of particular interest to whisky drinkers. KitKat Chocolatory Whisky Barrel Aged is aged for 180 days in ex-Islay Scotch casks. Of course we won't just eat it -- we'll eat it alongside the canonical Islay malt: Lagavulin 16.Anyone interested in Japanese confectionery has probably heard about the crazy variety of KitKat bars in Japan. Looking at the KitKat page, the current official lineup consists of 6 standard flavors and a 24 regional flavors. The latter has choices like strawberry cheesecake, sake, apple, banana, rum raisin, wasabi, and of course green tea.
Back in 2003 Nestle Japan decided to take things upscale and launched the KitKat Chocolatory line, calling on famed pastry chef Yasumasa Takagi, of Michelin pedigree. The Chocolatory releases focus on single-origin cacao, a particular ingredient, or methodology. Again looking across the current lineup, there's options like passion fruit, a "Volcanic" selection from Vanuatu's Malakula, and the new Whisky Barrel Aged.
How do you barrel age chocolate? Making chocolate involves harvesting cacao beans, then letting the slime/pulp that surrounds them (baba) ferment via outdoor, open fermentation. The beans are subsequently dried, roasted, then winnowed to remove the husks and get at the nibs inside.
Here's where the "Whisky Barrel Aged" part comes in. According to the press release, those nibs are then put in an ex-Islay cask for 180 days to soak up Islay's famous peaty, smoky notes. To ensure that the nibs contact the wood, the casks are rotated weekly -- something whisky makers also do to prevent excessive stave drying and evaporation. Importantly, this is the KitKat Chocolatory's first release made outside of Japan: the barrel aging is happening in the UK.
As you can see, creating chocolate from cacao beans has a considerable amount of crossover with whisky to begin with. Similar to cacao bean processing, making whisky involves harvesting barley, malting, drying/"roasting" (potentially using peat), milling, and of course fermentation. And now, both products even spend time aging in casks.
Given the similarities, is KitKat Chocolatory Whisky Barrel Aged the ultimate whisky nibble? Or just a marketing gimmick?
Review: KitKat Chocolatory Whisky Barrel Aged, Lagavulin 16 pairing
They say Islay casks, so I'll be trying this alongside the classical and Islay-est of Islay malts, Lagavulin 16. On a cold winter night, this should be a great combo.
Nose (whisky): We begin with a nosing of the Lagavulin 16. Caramelized malt, brine, diving head first into a pile of freshly cut peat, and a tiny rubbery underpinning. Give it a few more minutes and there's a fruitiness of cherries and red apples. It's all there. It's a classic for a reason.
Palate (KitKat): Have a small nibble of the KitKat. Bitter dark chocolate pops up pretty quickly, but it's followed by a very melancholy peat smoke that you have to reach for.
Nose/Palate/Finish (whisky): If you've ever wanted Laga 16 to be less in-your-face, this may be the way. Ordinarily we'd expect a powerful campfire-ish peat smoke, say after you're wet to the bone from a sudden rainstorm as you walked along the cliffs at Port Ellen. Instead, peat now sits next to a healthy serving of malt and the remainder of that bitter chocolate. Far more cereal character. Towards the end those rubbery notes come back in full force, turning more towards metallic, like a diesel engine on a tugboat.
Palate (KitKat): Back to the chocolate, the bitterness is blissful. This time around the orange and fruitiness is much more pronounced. That said, all notions of peat seem to have disappeared as it loses out to the whisky.
Price paid: 324 yen after tax
KitKat Chocolatory Whisky Barrel Aged brings a very slight amount of peatiness to your KitKatting. Unfortunately it doesn't hold on long enough to actually go toe-to-to with a hearty Islay malt. For the price, I'd recommend just picking up some nice dark chocolate instead.
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