Never before have we experienced a chocolate quite like this.
Japan is known for its unusual KitKats, many of which can’t be purchased anywhere else in the world. Their latest KitKat is one such creation, and it’s made all the more special as it uses chocolate made from cacao nibs aged in whisky barrels for 180 days.
Called Whisky Barrel Aged, the new KitKat has been created by master patissier Yasumasa Takagi, who’s been at the helm for a lot of the brand’s high-end releases, including Ruby and Volcanic Chocolate.
Sold exclusively at Japan’s KitKat Chocolatory boutiques, we were curious to find out more about this very special limited-edition product, so as soon as we got our hands on one of them, we took our time to enjoy every little detail, starting with its evocative packaging.
▼ The design is said to “express the gradual transition of amber whisky to cacao, giving a feeling of relaxation.”
The warm wood-and-chocolate tones extend to the shiny wrapping inside the box, which is cloaked around a single KitKat finger. Priced at 300 yen (US$2.88) each, plus tax, this is a luxury offering sold only in winter, due to the rarity of the cacao nibs sourced from Ghana, and a wealth of masterful attention to detail is evident in its creation.
According to Nestlé, the chocolate inside this shiny wrapping is made from cacao nibs that were stored in barrels on Islay, an island off the west coast of Scotland renowned for its high-quality whisky. These barrels, once used for ageing the spirit, were manually rotated once a week for nearly half a year to ensure all the cacao nibs inside came into contact with the barrel, helping to gradually and evenly shift the aroma and taste of whisky throughout the nibs.
▼ The Islay barrels used for the new KitKat
Image: Nestlé press release
These barrels and the windswept coastal landscape of Islay were in our mind’s eye as we slowly unwrapped the luxury chocolate, and lo and behold, it looked like a regular KitKat from the outside.
▼ However, the aroma of whisky was undeniable, exciting our senses with a distinct smoky peatness.
Snapping the chocolate-covered wafer in half accentuated the smoky woody aromas, and when we bit into the bar, we found ourselves throwing everything we thought we knew about whisky and chocolate combinations out the window.
This was honestly like nothing we’d ever tasted before. We’ve had plenty of whisky chocolates in the past, where the alcoholic bite of whisky was clearly evident, but because this chocolate doesn’t actually contain any whisky, it tasted entirely different to an alcoholic chocolate.
Despite not containing any alcohol, the smoky, peaty flavour of a good Scotch whisky sang out on the palate, filling the nose with intense aromatics. Each bite delivered a wave of different notes, taking us through an initial floral layer before delivering a slight vanilla-tinged heat that came with an increasingly intense combination of wood, smoke, and peat, and finally finishing with a hint of sweet, salty sea air.
▼ If the flavour profile were a photo, it would look something like this, only with a chocolate river flowing alongside it.
Image: Nestlé press release
We were amazed at how much of the whisky flavour had permeated the chocolate merely through barrel-ageing the cacao nibs for a relatively short time. The different textures and components of the KitKat also proved to be the perfect way to deliver such a complex blend of flavours, as the smooth chocolate allowed the earthy woodiness of the whisky barrels to melt on the tongue, while the chewy wafer highlighted the floral, vanilla elements, working in harmony to create a stunning combination on the palate.
The Whisky Barrel Aged KitKat is an absolutely fantastic chocolate that allows you to enjoy the heady aromatics of a good whisky without the harsh throat-burning bite that usually accompanies it. This innovative new way of enjoying whisky through the ageing of cacao nibs is one we’d love to see more chocolatiers and whisky companies experiment with in future, because it truly opens up an exciting new world of flavours and possibilities.
And with Suntory whisky set to bring out a limited-edition Blosssom Harmony Hibiki whisky this year in homage to the country’s beloved cherry blossoms, we’re not ruling out the possibility of a Sakura Whisky KiKat appearing on the horizon soon. Fingers crossed, everyone!