Info Details
Country UK   
Type Dark   (70%; Lot #13077)
Strain ICS   (Vintage 2012)
Source St. Lucia   (Soufrière; Rabot Estate)
Flavor Crossover   
Style Rustic      
Hotel Chocolat understands, intuitively at least, that cacáo seeds, a key ingredient in every chocolate bar, are jungle-trash spit out by monkeys & other predators who suck on them for their surrounding pulp.

In this particular bar the company chooses the pick of the 'litter', so to speak. Rather than pull cacáo from its 150 or so different partner-groves around the island of St. Lucia, it prunes only the tippy tree tops of its very own property -- Rabot Estate founded in 1745. Further, it selects from an exclusive reserve within the estate, a planting row or block of what it calls Single Côte (similar to Åkesson's Criollo stands, the Franceschi's secluded cultivars, or Corallo's relics of original Amelonados & a growing cadre of bromans who recognize that genetics lie at the root of great chocolate). The best-of-the-best presumably, Hotel Chocolate heirlooming some century-old trees.

Hence the rather Rolls-Royce insignia to its logo (click image upper right to enlarge).

Rare indeed.
Appearance   4.2 / 5
Color: pale brown
Surface: slab mold of a woodcut (or cut tongue?)
Temper: unvarnished
Snap: glove compartment quality
Aroma   8.9 / 10
"Kiss me" says the Sun-Maid® Raisin Girl as she checks out of this Hotel Chocolat wrapper lying on a bed of golden barley 'n oats
planks into oak, then pine, the latter with a citrus fruit element
Mouthfeel   12 / 15
Texture: starts dry & granular...
Melt: ... hydrates well enough but into fractionated globules
Flavor   47.1 / 50
slow attack... palm fronds hanging over bluestone... flickering carob sweetener acts as a sap from oaks & mahogany, their casks segue into a complex of cognac, then bourbon (interlined with requisite vanilla) -> fruit pop... that black raisin in the Aromatics, initially thick gloop, sublimated into what Hotel Chocolat characterizes as a Shiraz (fair enough) outlined (limed?) in some considerable astringency -> citric tamarind -> dark cocoa
in a word, DENSE
Quality   17.9 / 20
1st on several fronts:

-- The aforementioned seed lot from an exclusive triangle of trees buffered by a lake, a pathway, & a steep incline which pools together lots of humidity over some deep rich soil.
-- Rarity also extends to Hotel Chocolat's ("HC") transparency: harvest vintage (2012); 25 minute / 257ºF roast; 70-hour Conche; barsmith Olivier Nicod.
-- Honored with a silver medal by the grand dame of awards -- the Academy of Chocolate. Deservedly so, & possibly merits more, except for the vagaries of tasting-by-committee.

The gold-medal winner went to Amedei's misnomer titled Blanco de Criollo. Admittedly, that strikes with more obvious flavor (bigger CQ or Chocolate Quotient for baseline cocoa flavor), endowed arguably with greater pedigree. This however a more expansive bar, exhibiting broader complexities... but problems too, though those mainly of an ancillary nature. Where Amedei refines to the nth degree, HC leaves some rugged rustic tags intact (in keeping with St. Lucia's terrain & cacáo character). Texture only reinforces the impression, for it lacks the ultra-smoothness of Italian cocoa butter cuts.

Some of that owes to suboptimal post-harvest. But, still, it all works. In contrast to Xoco's recent allotments, the alignment of chemical compounds here harmonize extremely well together.

Sugar, exactingly incorporated, never gushes over with teenage exuberance; stays clearly on one side of the maturity divide -- adulthood. Indeed the tone, or better yet tones, density & profile bear remarkable resemblance to another adult bar: Rogue's Balao.

If HC just evens out the 7-day ferment (already very good, such as it is) & takes corrective measures with Texture (perhaps just slightly increased shear in the conche), Marcial should ascend ever higher.

INGREDIENTS: cocoa solids, sugar; CBS (Cocoa mass / Butter / Sugar ratio): ~1:1:1

Reviewed August 8, 2013


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