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Bourbon Cask Aged

by Raaka
Info Details
Country USA   
Type Dark   (82%; Batch 38)
Strain Beniano   (mainly, with foreign hybrids on the mix)
Source Bolivia   (Alto Bení; Palos Blancos)
Flavor Crossover   
Style New School      
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med
hi
CQ
Sweetness
Acidity
Bitterness
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Possibly no one in boutique chocolate accomplishes more with less square footage than Raaka. Enter its small workshop in Brooklyn & the crammed quarters somehow manage to fit the cottage chocolate equipment of latter day barsmiths: Aether winnower, Cocoatown universal (grinder / refiner / conch), & Selmi temperer.

Asked where the capacity-limiter or bottleneck in the operations lies & the surprising answer comes back that it's neither the cracking nor conching but the wrapper station. Star wrappers for the label fold 150 bars / hour, but there's no room for more than a couple of them at a time. At any rate, best to insure those hands like Jo-Lo her ass.

It helps that, being "raw" (though Raaka wisely drops the pretense of spurious "raw chocolate" in favor of the olive oil-like "virgin chocolate"), requires no drum roaster, or any roaster at all. Instead, bourbon casks dot the place. Raaka employs them to age the cocoa nuts ultimately ground into this bar, imparting flavors otherwise contributed by added vanilla, as well as its own wooded character.

Over the years, & well before it became vogue, the C-spot® took many among the cluelessly confused "raw chocolate" cult to task. Given Raaka's gen'l M.O. (despite the altered tag line of virginity, the company's name means 'raw' in Finnish) & its proximity to Plum Island Animal Disease Center located just off the coast of nearby Long Island, NY, some may suspect that its facility could serve as a fitting headquarters of sorts for "raw". Plum Island, after all, houses no discernible civilian population because, as a federal research center that investigates animal diseases such as foot-and-mouth disease & swine fever, who'd want to live there? It is therefore safe for "raw chocolate" quarantine considering that "raw" contains probable higher platelet counts of pathogens which normally are killed off in the high heat of the roasting step.

In this case, however, that would be misleading. For Raaka solves the raw-choc puzzle of maintaining the healthy benefits of cacáo while delivering supreme taste.

(Sidebar note to the Sterilization Council who believe that eating a lick of "raw chocolate" will result in sudden death: humans ably digest this stuff daily & to date there exists no reports of anyone dropping dead from it. "Oh", they say, "but it only takes one". Well, tell that to the lettuce, spinach, beef, & peanut industries that survive quite profitably after their pathogen-borne fatalities.)

Scratch any talk about ‘American as apple pie’ or almonds in the ‘Great American Chocolate bar’. Neither apples nor almonds are indigenous to the Americas. They both come from the East. Bourbon & chocolate? Now they’re both American as… well, bourbon & chocolate.

Raaka's Bourbon bar... traditional yet innovative; &, when it comes to matters of good taste, add in 'substantive'.
Appearance   3.6 / 5
Color: aubergine brown
Surface: monster release mark
Temper: polished fudge
Snap: a bender
Aroma   7.9 / 10
not your beauty sister's "raw chocolate"
funkatosis (ferment sweat & hard cheese) tempered by young barrel wood
aerates vanilla (none added) with a green cocoa edge & that perfect whiskey mate -- cigar
Mouthfeel   14 / 15
Texture: thick & voluptuous...
Melt: .... as a fin-de-siècle bordello in Nawlins
Flavor   45.1 / 50
ornate like the early opera houses lit by candles combined with perspiration, perfume, & little ventilation which made a night at the opera "ripe"
opens on caramel cheese cake (hinted at in the Aroma) -> flash wine to cognac then straight onto the bourbon barrel... oak & maple woods... goes really high on the upper respiratory passages of the nasals -> heavy cream cheese (more Textural than actual Flavor) seals the olfactory chamber to lock it in -> dried fruit (candied morello & figs + sugar plum -- exceptional) -> gingerbread cookie -> dry tannin scrapes the mouth walls... the totality reverberates for ages... raw cocoa chaser
Quality   18 / 20
Ornate only begins to tell the story.

Some choc-talkers in this field think that the only "fine" "raw chocolate" to date comes from Pacari out of Ecuador. Where have they been? Bali, Brazil, & now this from Bolivia dispatch the thought.

A daring 82% sourced from the CIAAB co-op (Central Integral Agroecológica de Alto Beni) in the beautiful valley centered around the village of Palos Blancos, Bolivia as part of the same seed allotment as Taza's 87% Dark.

Where Taza omits conching, Raaka skips roasting so crucial to flavor development via heated Maillard reactions (hence the company's Finnish name). In this trade off, the two barsmiths almost arrive at the same net result. But Raaka then compensates for its non-roasting method by a) adding 5% extra sugar & b) aging cracked cocoa Nibs in bourbon casks.

Realizing the limits of "raw chocolate", Ryan Cheney & Co. at Raaka brilliantly subject the base material (cocoa) to what amounts to an additional "fermentation" sequence, so to speak, by way of those barrels to steep Nibs in 2 essential ingredients for gastronomic heights: environment & time. A sort of encapsulated & measured terroir lab.

As expected for the un-roasted "raw" category, very little core chocolate flavor, compounded here by perhaps a genotype, or at least seed mix, that's rather vacant in this one aspect anyways, as evidenced in Taza's roasted version. Therefore this bar lacks some bottom underside.

But deft deployment of maple sugar sap replaces a portion of those missing Maillards with some caramelization / candied FXs of its own attained in its boiling process.

Both the casks & the maple catalyze reactions in this base cocoa that otherwise hardly exist.

As the palate of chocolate flavor expands exponentially -- from Corallo's cacáo pulp marinade, to Dos Rios' "advanced incubation", Camino Verde's various pre-sets employing starter cultures -- expect more of such cured treatments & wild Infusions

Plain old ordinary straight-chocolate then may go the way of the missionary position & vanilla sex. Or in another words, a quaint fall back position. With results like this Bourbon bar, few will mind.

And an idea of what Rogue's bourbon-inflected Balao could've / would've / should've & still might become if it thinks more similarly: among the greatest bars ever.

INGREDIENTS: cocoa mass, evaporated cane sugar, maple sugar, cocoa butter, vanilla; CBS (Cocoa mass / Butter / Sugar ratio): ~4::4:3

Reviewed July 19, 2013

  

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