Monday, April 11, 2016

Chocolate Tasting

In the early days of this blog, which were also the early days of bean to bar chocolate, I tasted some of the first bean to bar chocolates being made, including chocolate from DeVriesPatric and Askinose. Since then, the artisanal chocolate world, like the craft whiskey world, has exploded.

I dipped my head back into chocolate with a blind tasting of nine bean to bar chocolates which were were asked to give notes for and score on a 100 point scale. Here is how I rated them from the one I liked least to the one I liked best.

9. Nathan Miller Papau New Guinea, 75%, Chambersburg, PA

The aroma is very fruity but with some off notes like spoiled vegetables. The palate kicks off with a really strong chemical solvent or industrial chemical type note, maybe furniture polish or floor wax; magic markers also come to mind. That dies down, and it develops a nicer dark chocolate note, but it's still got that weird note in the back. The finish is pretty bitter with more of those chemical notes. The bitterness on the finish is long and unpleasant. This one was weird and a bit off. 50

I learned after the tasting that the beans for this Nathan Miller Papua New Guinea bar are dried over an open fire which infuses them with smoke. Several tasters found the flavor reminiscent of peated Scotch.  I did not.

8. Amano Ocumore Venezuela, 70%, Orem, UT

This has an aroma of musty straw, like inside a Cost Plus store, with some berry notes. The palate is very light and sweet, almost like cheap imitation chocolate, followed by artificial fruit notes. It tastes fairly low in cacao, and high in sugar. The finish has fruit and malty notes. I'm not a fan of this one. It was too sweet without enough chocolate flavor. 73

7. Castronova Sierra Nevada Colombia, 72%, Stuart, FL.

The aroma is very herbal with oregano notes. On the palate, the chocolate taste is dull at first; the texture seems to have crystals in it. Midway through, there are some acidic notes but without any real flavor. The finish has very muted chocolate notes. Overall, this is unbalanced and has weak flavor. 77

6. Dick Taylor Limited Release Bolivia Alto Beni, 70%, Eureka, CA.

The aroma is well balanced with lighter chocolate and fruit notes. On the palate, it's sweet with grainy notes, like a sugary breakfast cereal or maybe Ovaltine. There's not a huge amount of chocolate character. The finish is hot cocoa.  This one was a bit too sweet and lacking in chocolateyness. 78

I should note that most tasters loved this one. I was an exception.

5. Ritual Chocolate Ecuador Balao, 85%, Park City, UT

The aroma is pretty straightforward chocolate. On the palate, it has a very creamy mouthfeel with a less pronounced chocolate taste; it is only lightly sweet. The finish is dull and a touch bitter. This one had a nice mouthfeel but was lacking in flavor. 82

4. Ritual Chocolate Belize Toledo, 75%, Park City, UT

The aroma is light and fruity. The palate has lots of fruit with a high acid content and some citrus notes (tangerine, lemon rind, citron). The finish is a bit less fruity with darker chocolate notes. Okay, but not well balanced. 83 

3. Fruition Maranon, Peru, 76%, Shokan, NY

This begins with an aroma of Dutch process cocoa, then moves on to darker chocolate and red wine type notes. The palate is rich with a very creamy mouthfeel, light fruit notes and a touch of acid toward the end. On the finish, there are fresh currants (though not overly acidic) and chocolate milk. I liked this one. It had a good balance of rich chocolate and light acidic notes. 87

2. Dick Taylor Belize Toledo, 72%, Eureka, CA

This has an aroma that's floral with cocoa notes. On the palate, it starts dark with a light fruity/acid note which grows throughout the palate until it reaches a cherry like note toward the end. It tastes almost as if it's fruit filled, and you don't get the fruit until you bite into the center. In the finish, the fruit recedes and you are left with a nice strong chocolate flavor.  This one had Good composition and was nicely balanced. 88

1. Dandelion Mantuano Venezuela, 70%, San Francisco, CA

The aroma is grassy with wild flowers. The palate has rich chocolate with coffee notes, some vanilla and some very light acid toward the end. The finish is bold and rich like dark chocolate mousse. This has great flavor and is very even from nose to finish. Great stuff! 90

Thanks to Nick Hamilton for putting together this tasting.

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