Alex Rast: 5-Dec-2005
A very good, archetypal semisweet from Guittard, undisputed champions in the mid percentages. It’s hard to argue with the basic flavour, although there is something slightly disappointing to it. Might it not be lively enough? Is it missing character? This is one of those chocolates whose objective credentials are impeccable but yet which fails to thrill. None of this means the chocolate is unworthy, however – this is a semisweet any manufacturer should be proud of. If in the end it’s a tad bit generic that’s not enough to overcome the chocolate’s many positives.
Compared to most of Guittard’s chocolates, the appearance of this one, while exhibiting excellent finish, isn’t perhaps quite so appealing. It’s considerably darker, and bears some hint of purple. Forastero beans, perhaps? All will be revealed…
The aroma with this one mirrors the appearance – it’s very dark, with a strong, roasty characteristic. Coffee is the predominant note, along with earthy suggestions. Guittard is definitely setting this one up as though it’s a relatively cheap-grade Forastero chocolate. However, for all the ominous setup, the flavour itself is magnificent. At first there’s a mild taste of sweet blackberries, which fall back to reveal a brief hint of woodiness. Then powerful waves of driving, intense chocolatey flavour take over everything and last through the finish. It’s a bit sweet, relative to what might have been ideal, but the intensity of the flavour mitigates any tendency to sugariness. It’s pretty definitive for a semisweet class.
Texture is very smooth, indeed, above Guittard’s usual average, although it is somewhat waxy. Normally this suggests high cocoa butter but the strength of flavour provides evidence that this is not the case here. Its profile clearly reveals where the Forastero-like traits are coming from: without doubt this chocolate is heavy on the Ecuador Arriba. There might be a little Madagascar thrown in there but it seems as though there’s some other cocoa not part of the Guittard varietal line, in the mix. And this is probably the source of any lingering discontent – that third source which just doesn’t quite work. It’d be easy enough to change – just add some Sur Del Lago. However, then you end up with L’Harmonie, which is every bit as great as the suggested modifications to this one imply it would be.
Hans-Peter Rot: 11-Nov-2005
At visual appeal, Guittard is among the best, showing excellent sheen and no irregularities on the surface whatsoever, while the color is more like a milk chocolate in its extreme lightness. Aroma is also excellent but just a little too one dimensional. Mildly acidic with dates leading the way, buttery almonds and wood also sneak in for a very light yet caramelized scent that suggests great complexity in the flavor.
Sure enough, it arrives. Caramelized in flavor with a brown sugar sweetness, the profile is decisively tan in nature yet more complex as well, including licorice and blueberry accents and then flowers, with dates and golden raisins following to finish things off. Texturally, though, the bar is nowhere as refined as the flavor and melts with considerable grain that really should be worked out.
Overall, though, the bar is simply astonishing for a semisweet, achieving a level of complexity not typically associated with this class. In many ways, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s similar to AmedeiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s 66% but this bar lacks the same whirlwind of flavors of AmedeiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s and settles for a profile a bit more linear and even, perhaps lacking in additional panache to propel the chocolate even higher. Still, for those seeking a quality semisweet that can compete with the bittersweet crowd, or for those desiring a bar to ease into stronger chocolates, this is the one to try.