Depsite Chuao’s rather poor 2003 performance, the gap its departure created was still large, but Valrhona quickly found a replacement with Palmira. This debut performance showcases a chocolate that is still young in years and requires much maturing before it can blossom into a strong contender.
Although Palmira displays many of the characteristics indicative of its Criollo pedigree, it does not utilize them efficiently. In other words, Palmira is like an architect who possesses all the necessary building blocks, but does not know how to assemble them to create a uniform structure capable of standing on its own.
Still, this chocolate is a grower and once you get used to its light style, interest is to be found. As our reviews reflect, this is a bar that will seem ordinary to some, but will have a pleasant slow charm for others.
Alex Rast: 11-Oct-2005
One of the most elusive chocolates from Valrhona. It leaves you struggling to grasp its flavour fully, a puzzling, yet very interesting mix, quite atypical for them and in fact for virtually any manufacturer. With a flavour progression that seems to defy “”normal”" laws of chocolate flavour, this will shake up your ideas on chocolate tasting.
This chocolate on unwrapping looks like it has real problems – indeed, it looked bloomed, with a light whitish cast on the surface, superimposed, it seems, on a very dark brown base. Others, however, have confirmed this appearance, so in fact it would seem that it is not a bloom problem, but rather simply a poor finish, or at least an odd style choice. Not at all like Valrhona’s usual, mirror finish.
The aroma is like a spice closet, with a strong currant or raisin body and with hints of teak. There’s something of the profile of Madagascar here, although it’s not as bright and fresh. Upon first taste, one immediately suspects the length is going to be short because it comes out with a soft, creamy vanilla note, soothing like caramel. But in a complete surprise turn, it starts to move to a cocoa and mahogany flavour, and then turns sharply fruity, cherry and sour. The fruitiness is common for Valrhona, but one expects it at the beginning – indeed, the flavour progression is virtually in reverse order from how it almost invariably goes in chocolate.
Texture is not at all like Valrhona – it’s dry and dusty, and indeed somewhat rough. Is this low cocoa butter? Probably that contributes. Again, the texture would all but give away bloom but for the fact that this experience with this bar seems to be general. It’s possible that Valrhona had a major storage disaster at the factory, but then I suspect they’d have pulled all the bars. Meanwhile the flavour continues to be the true surprise in its inverted nature. It’s like eating a meal starting with the nuts and working back to soup.
Hans-Peter Rot: 2-Sep-2005
Palmira looks great in its rookie year, showing off a rusty color that is especially light for a dark chocolate. Aroma, too, continues the momentum, delivering what is in essence herbal overkill with strong licorice peaks. ItĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s light as a feather, suggesting high acid in the flavor and perhaps some orange as well. So far, so good, but Valrhona has clearly delivered something new and different.
Almonds and cinnamon appear almost immediately, and then the acidity follows as well, mounting quickly to an almost abrasive tone of orange and pineapple in the fore. Vanilla then approaches to lighten things up, eventually joining with malt and an increase in the nuttiness, making the flavor resemble an orange creamsicle but with less emphasis on the dairy. Rising high and fast, the tartness and lightness of the chocolate are amazing but in some ways disconcerting since this is essentially all that transpires until darker tones of coffee close off the length.
The texture is definitely more detrimental than fitting, melting with considerable dryness and graininess that for Valrhona seems entirely out of place and more comparable to El ReyĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s Gran Saman. More importantly, though, itĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s a horrible match to the flavor, making the chocolate very chiding and difficult to inspire confidence that Palmira is indeed the right replacement for Chuao. ItĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s like a young puppy, untrained and full of wild energy that hopefully over time will mellow out and mature into an obedient adult.
Anne Bramley: 28-May-2005
Valrhona’s Palmira shows off its delicious Venezualan criollo composition in a lighter color and the occasional bubble often found in this rarer chocolate variety. But it is the slightly sandy texture that truly reveals this as a signature criollo.
At first the aroma seems quite straightforward: a warm cup of milky cocoa. But you wonder if this is just the power of suggestion, that you expect a more milk chocolate scent and taste in a criollo bar. Indeed, this is a much more playful bar. Looking more closely, rather than having to actively detect a series of complex tastes under that overarching milk chocolate scent, each bite revealed a new taste growing from tobacco to Port to a strong climax of toasted almonds. Absent, however, are any citrus or plant notes. Until the bite is all but gone and you’re left with a lingering apple essence.
Though perhaps this bar didn’t live up to all the expectations placed on it as Valrhona sought a replacement to its Chuao, it is another to certainly be placed in the category of bars to interest those who are perhaps wary of high cocoa butter bars and need the gentler tones of criollo to persuade them to come over to the dark side.