There are two of us in the company coming up with ideas for new flavours. While you may think that two is better than one, it also means that it can be more difficult for us to get a new flavour to market, because we would only release a new flavour if we are both happy with it. So this can be tricky when Russell and I don’t see eye-to-eye on certain food and drinks (simply due to personal preference) - one such drink is whisky.
We have been asked by many people over the years why we don’t have a whisky chocolate. I don’t like whisky and would usually avoid it simply because I don’t appreciate the taste and the burning sensation down my throat. While Russell loves his whiskies, he preferred to enjoy whisky and chocolate separately. For these reasons, it has not been high on our priority list of flavour development.
Last year we were lucky enough to spend a few weeks travelling to the Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica. During the trip, we started joking about what flavour we could come up with from the 7th continent – after all, we already have flavours from the other 6 continents, and it’s only the white continent that hasn’t been featured on our journey of flavour. The difficulties are that there’s no settlement, let alone cities, in Antarctica, and there isn’t really any ingredients we can use from there.
If you ask us where would be one of the most beautiful places we have ever been to, we would both say South Georgia - it is an island belonging to the British Overseas Territory in the South Atlantic, and it’s considered as an Antarctic island. There’s something magical about seeing this lonely piece of land jutted out of the Southern Ocean, after travelling several days at sea. The main settlement in South Georgia is Grytviken – it’s an old whaling station, but is the main settlement for scientists now. This is also where the great Antarctic explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton is buried.
Apparently one of Shackleton’s favourite drinks was Scotch whisky, and if you ever have a chance to visit his grave in Grytviken, you would experience an unforgettable ceremony: raise a glass of whisky and toast his life – you would drink half of it and then pour the rest of the alcohol on his grave. As we visited the cemetery and his grave, we joined in this ritual, just like all visitors would do.
Afterwards Russell and I took a stroll up the hill in Grytviken, and while we looked down at the whaling station and cemetery, we both said at the same time “wouldn’t it be nice to do a whisky chocolate and call it Grytviken?” – The picture below is where the first idea of this chocolate was born.
Then a few days later, when we were just off the coast of Antarctica, the expedition leader picked up a block of crystal-clear ice from the sea, and he said that the ice would be at least 10,000 years old. That evening, many of us on the ship enjoyed a drink served with ice from this amazing ancient ice block. And over the drinks, Russell and I started talking about our Grytviken chocolate again, and we discussed the possibility of creating it without the use of cream. Usually one of the components in chocolate ganache is cream, to give the velvety smoothness in texture. However, there’s another type of ganache called water ganache which eliminates the use of cream (and butter) and thus making it dairy-free. We decided that we would not deliberately try to create a water ganache if the flavour is not right, but if our recipe lends itself to a version that’s free from dairy, then we wouldn't object to it.
In the last few months, we have tried several whiskies from Scotland and Ireland to pair with several different dark chocolates, including a few new couvertures that we haven’t used. This is an eye-opener for me – while I found that some whiskies were still too smoky or too strong for me, some of them were very smooth and mellow, and even I could drink it straight. Perhaps due to my stubbornness over the years, I have deprived myself in exploring the world of whiskies and did not know what I have missed out on. As Sir Ernest Shackleton has said: “I believe it is in our nature to explore, to reach out into the unknown. The only true failure would be not to explore at all.”
While both the whisky and the dark chocolates we use have interesting flavour profiles on their own, combining them doesn’t always work. However, after a lot of tasting, we identified two possible combinations in the end which we were both very excited about, and one of them ends up as our Grytviken. It’s made with a whisky from the Dalwhinnie Distillery in the Scottish Highland – it’s a very smooth mellow whisky with a hint of sweetness. It pairs very well with the Wild Bolivian dark chocolate. Every time I taste this, I find that the whisky really brings out the flavour notes of the dark chocolate, and both ingredients complements each other so well - imagine that different flavours would light up different parts of the sky, and this chocolate is a bit like the Northern Lights (or the Southern LIghts in this case?) dancing across the sky!
We have chosen a blue and white shade for the design of this chocolate, to reflect the icebergs in the backdrop of the deep blue Southern Ocean. It has taken us several iterations to get to this design also, so we hope you’d like it!