Kamakura chocolatier teams up with distiller as Japan enters its chocolate-crazy season.
Ever year at about this time, Japan starts going crazy for chocolate. It started because women in Japan give chocolate to their boyfriends and husbands for Valentine’s Day, and the tradition soon expanded to include chocolate for male coworkers and platonic friends. Then women started buying chocolate for themselves and to give to female friends too, and now basically the whole month leading up to February 14 is prime chocolate season.
Because of that, right now is also when Japanese chocolatiers offer their most intriguing products. Kamakura-based confectioner Maison Cacao’s sweets, which it bills as “aroma chocolates,” are always fancy foods to tempt the sweet tooth, but they’re really going above and beyond this month with the release of two special chocolates that use premium Japanese whisky from Suntory.
Both fall into the category Japan calls nama chocolate (meaning “raw chocolate”), a kind of creamy ganache. The first, Aroma Chocolate Maison Legacy, uses Suntory’s single-malt Yamazaki, one of Japan’s most prized and respected whisky varieties. The dark chocolate base, with its mix of bitter, tart, and spicy notes, also delivers the scent of Yamazaki as it melts in your mouth, Maison Cacao promises.
The second type, Aroma Nama Chocolate Maison Artisan, uses Suntory’s Hibiki Japanese Harmony. Compared with Yamazaki, Hibiki Japanese Harmony is a younger blended whiskey with a lighter, smoother taste, and so it’s paired with Maison Cacao’s milk chocolate for less bitterness and to allow the whisky’s floral aroma to come through.
Maison Cacao offered both Suntory whisky chocolates last January as well, and their return suggests that they’re not mere novelties but genuinely tasty sweets. As with many things in Japan, their prices have gone up, with a box of either now 4,320 yen (US$33), but their limited-time release means that they’re meant as special-occasion indulgence anyway, and in that light they’re not exorbitantly expensive by Japanese premium chocolate (or whisky) standards.
Both are on sale from January 18 at Maison Cacao specialty stores in Tokyo, Kanagawa Prefecture, and Nagoya. Meanwhile, if you’re also looking for some special chocolates to appeal to the kid in you, there’s Godiva Japan’s current team-up with Nintendo.