Whisky-loving artisan chocolatier Matthieu de Gottal is on a perpetually-spirited search for the next rare single malt to use in his award-winning fine chocolates. Upon meeting him in the flesh, it’s evident that the debonair 48 year-old has an unabating love affair with ‘the fine’, from sharp suits and expensive cigars through to the two things so vital to his career as a chocolatier: rare whiskies and superior chocolate.
A garrulous character by nature, it’s especially hard to get a word in edgewise when the Belgian is talking chocolate. He works only with the very best bean-to-bar examples, and is every bit as discerning when it comes to selecting single malts he uses so generously in Gottal Chocolat’s ganaches.
There’s an air of exclusivity to Matthieu’s award-winning whisky chocolates; each batch comprises just 250 pieces, the production process taking a full four days. They take the eater on a journey – they certainly did me. We met; I confessed my non-fondness for whisky; he vowed to convert me. I ate his chocolates, I ate my words.
We are now dear friends, and mon amie is his own harshest critic. Matthieu’s recipes are ever-evolving, revealing the perfectionist tendencies which see him locked in his Cotswolds workshop; tasting, tinkering, tasting again.
Delivered glass-in-hand, chocolate-in-mouth, his wise words offer any whisky drinker fine food for thought…
All-time favourite whisky?
One I haven’t tasted yet! Whisky is a unique aqua vitae and, like wine, is hugely influenced by ‘terroir’. It’s also all about memories, atmosphere, and where you were when you encountered a specific example.
With this in mind, one of my favourite drams is Lagavulin 16 YO. In our late teens, my friends and I spent many nights drinking it whilst smoking pipes, discussing Nietzsche, Camus, Flaubert etc… all I remember now is the whisky! The one that really knocked my (pink) socks off was a Glenfarclas Family Cask 1967 – from the year I was born. Again, the associated emotions make all the beauty of the drink.
Where do you recommend seeking out weird and wonderful whiskies?
Whisky & Wines (@WhiskyAndWines on Twitter); an unassuming drink shop at the back of a council estate in Swindon. Behind the typical stuff in the front, you’ll discover over 1000 remarkable whiskies in stock.
What makes chocolate and whisky such happy bedfellows?
The makers of both things share true passion for their craft and invest in their products to make them truly exceptional. The complex flavours compounds in both whisky and chocolate can infuse into an infinite multitude of flavours. Once emulsified into a ganache, layers of aromas and flavours develop into a long-lasting bliss; some sort of sensory trance reminiscent of the music of the sixties. Chocolate releases endorphins in the brain.. add a good whisky and the two dance the Tango!
Top 3 most successful chocolate-whisky pairings you’ve put in a choc?
Again, the ones I haven’t yet created. I am lucky to have an excellent memory for flavours (albeit for nothing else). So when I discover a new chocolate or whisky, I immediately know how to pair it.
A real revelation was pairing a peaty, smoky Laphroaig with a dark milk chocolate from Chocolat Madagascar, although I can’t take credit for it. Whilst having one of the epic whisky and chocolate tastings which are now legendary in our hamlet, my very good friend Giles of Egghead Brewery suggested the combination, and bingo! The Sweet Peat truffle was created.
With my Indochine 105 truffle, I made a ganache with Marou’s excellent 65% Vietnamese chocolate – a dark number with rich fruity notes and a hint of liquorice, and laced it with Glenfarclas 105 from Speyside. The result was quite astonishing.
‘Yuki’ is a truffle whose name means snow in Japanese, conceived around the surprise discovery that white chocolate made from non-deodorised cacao butter marries wonderfully with a sherry cask-aged whisky. Its latest incarnation laces Original Beans’ Edel Weiss with Nikka Japanese whisky.
And, sorry – there has to be a fourth! Scandic Salty Fennel – a blend of Duffy’s Venezuela Ocumare 72% dark and 55% milk chocolates, infused with MackMyra Swedish single malt whisky, fennel pollen and Åkessons Organic Balinese Fleur de Sel.
What’s your most crowd-pleasing whisky chocolate?
This has to be my Kentucky Honey; an Åkesson’s Organic Madagascar 75% dark chocolate ganache with Evan Williams Single Barrel straight Kentucky bourbon, infused with Jim Dickenson’s Cotswold Honey from Lypiatt Lodge and roasted organic oats.
Most surprisingly successful choc-whisky combo?
Ha, this is a combination of three extraordinary components: The Last Drop 48 year-old whisky, a 2003 special edition Cohiba Gran Corona, and a Marou Ba Ria 76% dark chocolate truffle. The trick is to simultaneously eat the truffle and smoke the cigar, then take a sip of the whisky… Magical!
You’ve won a fair few judges over in prestigious competitions like the Academy of Chocolate Awards and the International Chocolate Awards…
I’ve been very lucky. I sold my first box of truffles on 13 November 2014 at the Shrewsbury Chocolate Festival, and when I sold out I decided to enter my chocolates for both contests. I strongly believe it’s the alcohol that worked in my favour, earning me the following…
- Cardinal Mendoza’s Bitter Mandarin: Academy of Chocolate Awards 2016 Gold; International Chocolate Awards 2016 Gold
- Mother Christmas 105: International Chocolate Awards 2016 Gold
- Dark Milk XO: Academy of Chocolate Awards 2016 Silver
- Rum Raisin Twist: Academy of Chocolate Awards 2016 Silver
- Porridge & Honey: Academy of Chocolate Awards 2016 Silver
- Yuki: Academy of Chocolate Awards 2015 Bronze; International Chocolate Awards 2015 Gold, Overall Winner Trophy
- Salty Fennel: International Chocolate Awards 2015 Silver
- Indochine 105: Academy of Chocolate Awards 2015 Bronze; International Chocolate Awards 2015 Bronze
- Sweet Peat: Best in Show at the London Chocolate Festival 2014, voted by Gregg Wallace
Which recipes are you currently experimenting with?
Oh dear! I never stop – I drive my friends and business advisers round the bend. My latest development is working with fruits macerated in whisky or other booze; my way of contributing to the 5-a-day. I am also experimenting with other eau de vies, and even a hot sauce. I just love developing new flavours to make people happy.
Your ‘wish list’ whisky to use in a chocolate?
Glenfarclas Family Cask 1967, the Japanese Chichibu The Peated 2010, and Swedish Mackmyra Moment Ægirs Bior… to name just three out of several hundreds!
- For more information about Gottal Chocolat and to order online, click here
- To read more about Matthieu’s whisky chocolates, click here
- To read about Matthieu’s favourite chocolatiers and makers, click here
- To read about Matthieu’s (& other) chocolates imagined as popular songs, click here