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Criollo

by Åkesson's
Info Details
Country Sweden   (via France)
Type Dark   (75%; Lot N 759 500190.2/6)
Strain Criollo   (leaning)
Source Madagascar   (Sambirano Valley; Ambolikapiky Estate)
Flavor Crossover   (Twang x Earthen)
Style Old School      
lo
med
hi
CQ
Sweetness
Acidity
Bitterness
Roast
Intensity
Complexity
Structure
Length
Impact
Symphony No. 6 (“The Pastoral”) in F Major (‘F’ in this particular case here for Furnace) may be the greatest Farmer’s Almanac ever. Beethoven was just listening to the weather; that’s how ingenious he is.

Likewise, this bar feels crafted by a meteorologist (namely, Bertil Åkesson - the ring-accent above the 'A' pronounced long ‘oh’) for it records all the elements that went into cultivating the cacáo for this chocolate & its terroir: wind, rain, sun, soil... storms & stalls, tempests & tranquility... down to the whole root system.
Appearance   4.5 / 5
classic neo-Bauhaus packaging of matte paper, old-school serif-typeface, perfectly square/clean floppy diskette box yields...
Color: ... orange-creamsicle brown
Surface: good mold embossed w/ the proud royal Å; just a few micro-holes & designer swirls on back but, alas, plastic wrapper transfer too
Temper: textbook soft light / smoked hematite glass
Snap: hushed claps & clacks for 72%; restrained & random cleave ala well-crafted grana padano on the break (forget those deep canals on the mold... they’re just visual notes)
Aroma   8.8 / 10
sticky glue scent from that plastic wrapper bleeds over into Aroma; once past the glue… oh baby, taste the sea breezes hydrate the cacáo trees & minerals that make Madagascar an amazing place for chocolate (flora, fauna & gemstones)…. light clam notes -> white pepper drifts off jackfruit, blanched almond, & caramelized long-grain brown rice (enticing) -> followed on by more trad Mad (cocoa sparkling in litchi & clove) -> airs out cinnamon, frangipani, & honey -> oregano leaf, pencil shavings, & Uniroyal™ tire on the rubdown
Mouthfeel   12.9 / 15
Texture: raw silk w/ slight powder (prime T-bone style yield to the icy, sorbitol teeth blast on the tip of the tongue); soft padding... desiccating, of moderate spread
Melt: watery for first few seconds then rapid; even if small dispersion but expansive (lecithin lift) w/ extended tannins left on the palate for 10 minutes; mildly dry / astringent for 20 or so after that
Flavor   43.2 / 50
nice complex w/o being fussy: pie layered (crust on top & bottom w/ filling in between)... roasted cocoa (slightly charred) backed in royal black mulberry -> rolls into almonds, then warmer as pecans -> bittering accompanies endive & battles sour undergirding -> reaches a flash still-point: ylang & poinciana flowers in jackfruit (sensational) -> mounting fruit acidity (classic high-Criollo) detours to invoke grapefruit tonic on the center of palate (classic Mad gin) -> more Mad archetypes by way of minerals (kimberlite, garnet, & carnelian) -> smoothed over by lactic acid for a true-Criollo cream component -> clears on a bristling clean galangal & evergreen -> backs out how it began: cocoa caramel; after-length rice paddy herb + potato chip prepared in olive oil (shades of another Oceania origin -- specifically Adi in Fiji)
Quality   16.8 / 20
Bertil Åkesson’s family owns & operates the 5,000+ acres in Madagascar Sambirano Valley on which this cacáo grows. Hybrids (so-called ‘Trinitarios’) predominate over most of the property. About a tenth, however, are believed to boast Criollo heritage. (The difference between the two being one type favors more brightness while the other delivers more dried brown fruit ‘n chocolate cream.) Genetically testing these trees would solve the puzzle & clarify definitions.

Judging by the Flavor here the Criollo may be the real deal that can trace their lineage to either the originals that crossed the Pacific circa 1670 or from a later introduction via Venezuela.

Though he outsources the final processing, thus negating any all in-country / pure-source designation, Åkesson maintains some input with the parameters of its handling during manufacture, making him virtually a ‘bud-to-bud’™ maker (tree bud to taste bud) in league with Claudio Corallo, Danielo Vestri, & Diego Badaró – an elite class.

True single-estate, seen (though unadvertised) before in many craft bars from Valrhona, Pralus, Coppeneur, Amano, Patric (they all hanker for Åkesson’s beans) &, most particularly with respect to this select Criollo crop, Domori’s Madagared.

Similar to that, this lights the torch up... ever more so. Among the darkest Madagascars (in league with Marcolini's, etc.) - the hallmarks of Francois Pralus who conducted the roasting & molding. Very little let up in the charred undershadow that produces a heavier-toned, almost overbearing bar & burns off some definition in the wake of that delirious beginning that raises expectations to super high levels.

Unlike Domori’s version, this misses the supple chocolate core to keep those anticipations up, & all those browned fruits (the 5% differential in sugar offers some explanation).

Still, Åkesson gets it with passion & respect for the nomenclature, horticulture, species, harvest, light-handed fermentation, skillful drying, & so on… no envelope pushing here, just good, steady work for a quality bar on its own or with dark rum. And don’t waste it on beginners….this is for Emma Peel & John Steede, not Barney Phife….give the kiddies the Chocolove & save this one for yourself with close intimates.

ING: cocoa mass, sugar, cacáo butter, soy lecithin

Reviewed Spring 2010

  

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