The second batch of Amano’s Madagascar takes a huge leap on from the earlier – but promising – batches.
With this bar Amano make the move from promising upstart to fully fledged premier league bean to bar maker.
Don’t be fooled by the slick presentation, this is still pretty much a two-man band when it comes to the chocolate making, with just a little extra help on sales and distribution.
Somehow though Amano are up there along with European makers who have been doing it a lot longer, raising the stakes for the US challenge as the home of bean-to-bar artisanal chocolate making.
Highly tart like earlier batches, but now with a twist towards strawberry sweetness and still interestingly complex. The chocolate also features a balsamic undertone for unique depth. If the rest of Amano’s range can live up to this level of quality, they will be hard to beat in years to come.
Georg Bernardini: 6-Jan-2012
|Supplied by:||The Meadow New York|
First I tasted Amano chocolates was in 2007. I was not very happy withÂ any chocolate. TheyÂ had far too much vanilla added and I don’ t liked them at all, even ifÂ Amano was proud to use the very expensive vanilla from Tahiti. What a waste in my opinion…
I have followed the development of the company over the years and in 2010 and 2011Â I tasted a lot of chocolates from Amano. I was curious to see if the chocolate was still over perfumed with vanilla.
The chocolate from this reviewÂ I tasted in November 2010.
According to Amano I should taste citrus, raspberry, balsamico vinegar and raisins.Â Mostly thatÂ I taste is vanilla. This chocolate is hopeless over flavoured. In contrast to other dark chocolates from Amano, this one is still as horrible as in 2007.
Light dark colour as typical for a chocolate made with beans from Madagascar. Very nice look and snap.
Here the chocolate could be a winner. It starts with the typical citurs flavour, a little bit tobacco, earthy. But after a few seconds the vanilla taste overshadowedÂ too much theÂ other flavours of the cocoa. At the end, theÂ main tasteÂ that remains is… vanilla.
I really don’ t understand why so much chocolatiers add vanilla to chocolate, especially to single origin chocolate. Where is the sense to produce a single origin chocolate, if I falsify the aroma and taste with vanilla? When I buy a single origin chocolate I want to taste the pure cocoa of the origin and not any other flavours of added ingredients. Already added cocoa butter can change very much the original taste of the cocoa, but vanilla really change the original taste. Particularly when they add so much vanilla as Amano.
The cocoa content of 70% is good. I think that Amano add a lot of cocoa butter to control the acid of the Madagascar-cocoa.
But even with this the chocolate isÂ sour and has a light tannin/adstringence. Both are ok, because they are not too much and representative for Madagascar-cocoa.
The melt is very good and I suppose that this comes mostly from the added cocoa butter. But I like this kind of melt.
Nobody will be surprise; The length is almost only vanilla taste, but in total ok.
This chocolate is a dissapointment in aroma and taste, because over flavoured with added vanilla. In total it is not at all a bad chocolate, but only if you are a vanilla junkie you can enjoy this bar.
Amano does not learned about making (Madagascar) chocolate in the last years and I fear that I will never be a supporter of his products.
I am very confused to see how much awards Amano wins with his chocolates. What a mysterium…
Stuart Robson: 2-Apr-2011
|Source:||Sample direct from maker|
Amano have been building an enviable reputation over the last few years and there can be little doubt that it is well deserved. The previous batch of their Madagascar I tasted was, at the time, the best of their range and offered a blend of the regionâ€™s typical vibrant, often quite acidic citrus characters and some more unusual notes for the region. If one thing can be said of Amano it is that they seem to have largely succeeded in building on the early batches of their bars, consistently improving overall quality and refining their chocolate; if this trend continues, the latest batch of their Madagascan should be remarkable.
The finish inspires confidence; the light colour often associated with the origin is on full display, with a very fine temper and a clean, high pitched snap. This might be the best looking bar I have had from Amano. The surface offers a good shine with few blemishes aside from the odd tiny bubble and some swirling that can be expected where there is no addition of soy lecithin.
On the nose there is an immediate and strikingly balanced complexity in the form of refined high notes of raspberry/strawberry and lime on a bed of fresh tobacco leaves, subtle mint, tarragon and other fresh herbs. With time and upon snapping some deeper notes of blueberry, plumb and a light woodiness also begin to show themselves. This is a carefully handled and beautifully weighted aromatic profile with little of the prominent vanilla sometimes found in Amanoâ€™s work.
Taken onto the palette there is a fresh, creamy softness at first, the strawberry sits at the fore surrounded by a mix of herbs/tobacco that flirts with becoming mildly floral and heathery for just a moment, before a wave of citrus begins to take centre stage. There is acidity now to be sure but it remains delicate enough to avoid dominating proceedings; lime, hints of sweet tangerine mixed with fresh cream, a sprig of mint, strawberry and subtle touches of sweet balsamic find a near enough perfect union in the mid palette. The finish is quite light and fresh with restrained tannins, hints of cedar, an unexpected touch of pecan and faint echoes of fruit.
The mouth-feel is as good as I have come across with Amano. The flavour delivery is clearly excellent, taking advantage of a medium paced melt that while it is perhaps just a little grainier than some, is only a shade away from the very best.
Amano seem to have produced the definitive benchmark for a Madagascan bar then; the real genius of this take on the origin, aside from the undoubted quality of the beans, being in the handling of the sheer intensity this origin can so often display. I personally adore the raw, bracing and deeply intense Madagascans offered by some other producers but there can little doubt that they are frequently a little unrefined and can be anything but subtle. What Amano have done here is to retain much of the citrus and a perfectly weighted level of acidity but twinned that with a contrasting, balanced softness that succeeds in showing a high degree of complexity in both aroma and flavour. Quite an achievement indeed, and a masterpiece of chocolate making.
Martin Christy: 9-Feb-2011
|Source:||Sample direct from maker|
A few biases to declare here before I get going. I’m fond of the Amano style of chocolate and also their general philosophy – that if a particular cacao tastes good, it will make good tasting chocolate.
Chocolate making should be about bringing out the flavour of good cacao, not a transformative process that starts with one flavour and ends with another. (I also confess that I know Amano fairly well. Mostly because I like what they do, and also because Art Pollard is a funny guy!)
Another bias for me is the bean source. My palate is really towards acid/citrus, and this is one of the typical notes of Madagascan cacao (along with a darker note base, eg tobacco). This can be especially present where there’s a high proportion of criollo genetics involved, which often comes with the better cacao from the plantations in the north of the island, around the Sambirano valley. In a good year, for example, Valrhona’s Ampamakia can have an intensely full lime/cream burst, which is a flavour I love.
I’d also like to add in a more general note about reviewing. Almost all chocolate has flaws. I don’t think any of our reviewers or any others have ever tried a chocolate and concluded that it is perfect. Even the very best chocolate, though it might have a fantastic flavour profile or be supremely balanced, usually has something that we could identify as ‘could be better’. Often these are small, small points that don’t detract from the overall quality, but nonetheless should be identified in a detailed review.
I’m pre-empting my review because, Amano Madagscar for me comes close, very close to being my perfect chocolate. As a chocolate, I find it a huge move on and step up from Amano’s previous batch of Madagascar – which in itself was an award winning chocolate.
Aroma - Pleasant tobacco, balanced cinnamon and light herbs, delicate strawberry and blueberries, raisins. Like a beautiful strawberry cream pudding has just been placed on your table after a great meal.
Look/snap – Light, milk chocolate colour with an ochre tinge, almost translucent. Near perfect moulding with the odd bubble. The surface has a half Â sheen rather than being shiny, which is perhaps a slight flaw. Very high-pitchedÂ clicky snap.
Taste - This is where the bar starts to amaze. After a few seconds on the tongue, a high, tangy citrus starts do develop, followed by tobacco, strawberries in cream, vanilla, spices. At the end it’s as if you’ve had a finely spiced but not too sweet pudding with a dollop of cream with mashed up fresh strawberries mixed in. And chocolate of course. And this just lingers and hangs tantalisingly on the tongue afterwards.
Well, that’s what usually happens.
AÂ characteristicÂ ofÂ Amano chocolate, some might say flaw – seems to be its sensitivity in different environments and conditions. Time of day, relation to other food, the weather or perhaps even mood can at times produce radically different flavour profiles. This is true of all chocolate, but seems even more so of Amano – andÂ this bar in particular.
I’ve tried the same exact bar at different times and had startlingly different results. And this is not just me being crazy, I’ve had this experience in the companies of others too. (Collective insanity, perhaps?) On one occasion the bar tasted as above, but about three hours later in a different location (and not long after coffee), tasted of lemon pie!
Other times I’ve enthusiastically given this chocolate to a friend, expecting strawberry citrus fireworks, but all that’s come out is a rather flat liquorice – good, but not stunning.
I suspect that this is a risk that comes from trying to preserve bean flavour, rather than a more traditional approach of roasting higher and perhaps producing something more stable. Its part of the mystery and complexity of good, small batch chocolate, and also part of its delight.
Melt - The Amano melt typically seems ‘cool’ on the tongue – perhaps a combination of the processing and cocoa butter used (most chocolate makers add some extra into their recipe).
We can have almost no complaint here, as the flavour is delivered to so well. Possibly the feel is a little grainy, and at the end it’s a little glutinous, but there’s not the slightest hint of waxiness at the end, the chocolateÂ disappearsÂ very correctly and leaves the mouth very clean.
Occasionally though, there is a particle of unrefined cacao or shell, which is something to be worked on, though perhaps inevitable with small scale batch chocolate making.
Length – Full, full flavour carries on, a little warmer, a little more towards chocolate. There are slight tannins, but so in balance with the fruit they are almost enjoyable. I can well see that some people might find this sour at the very end. It is, but only in the way that strawberries can be without added sugar, and personally it’s an experience I enjoy.
Opinion – I think that by now my opinion of this chocolate will be fairly clear. To saythere are niggles would be nitpicking. For me it’s almost perfect, and I could easily eat it every day, save for the disappointment of having none left. (And well, I’m not always in the mood for such a tart chocolate, I’m often asked what my favourite chocolate is – the truth is I like variation.)
I think after that it comes down to taste. If you like the citrus side of Madagascan, moved a little towards strawberry, then this is for you. If your palate is more into darker notes like spice or treacle, then the appeal might not be there.
For me so far this is the pinnacle of the Amano range, and the point at which they’ve really come of age in the fine chocolate world.
Oh, on an added note, this matches divinely with Berry Bros & Rudd’s own 35 year old Demerara rum. The notes that appear in that combination deserver a whole review of their own, but let’s just say that for a for a couple of moments there, I was transported to pure chocolate rum heaven. Now, how do I get back?
Alex Rast: 30-Jun-2007
Amano doesn’t gain any praise in the packaging-originality area, plagiarising Amedei and in particular Chuao shamelessly. One can’t criticise them for their choice of model, but imitating the best unfortunately invites comparison as well – a challenging model to emulate. Nonetheless, Amano puts its best foot forward in the visuals department, with a beautiful very light-coloured bar, well moulded, although with some detectable unevenness.
Things look even more promising with the aroma, which is spectacular, and very convincingly Madagascar. The opening note is the classic citrus, and accompanying it cinnamon emerges. A delightful waft of cardamom – perhaps indeed the spice that bridges the two worlds of fruits and spices – appears, and the finish moves towards bolder balsamic and currant hints. All in all it looks as though this will be a bar to reckon with.
The flavour starts out very promisingly as well, with fruity, tropical flavours that are refreshing and cool – just what one hopes for in a Madagascar. Disappointingly, though, it then becomes excessively sour and sharp, vinegar mixed with cinnamon. A bit of cream does its best to smooth things out but that middle is genuinely biting and suggests tuning issues with ferment and conche. Surprisingly, the finish displays an entirely unexpected earthy component, rather out of place in a Madagascar. So this is a bar that goes from strength to weakness, good overall but not rising to the heights the aroma might have suggested.
Texture is excellent, very smooth and lusciously creamy. It might be detectably less smooth than the ultimate, but at the limits of detection. One may say overall, then, that the bar is a success. Not an unqualified one, to be sure: the aggressiveness of the flavour, particularly in counterpoint to the complexity and balance of the aroma, shows that Amano still needs to experiment with the process, but it’s a good introduction for a new company. Amano has made a fine first showing and may be put firmly in the category of promising newcomers.
Hans-Peter Rot: 27-Jun-2007
Unlike the minimalist packaging, the bar itself conveys plenty of action such as swirling, air bubbling, and even cracking, but the color, however, is pretty and highly typical for the origin: light and orange, highlighting bright rust. Aroma too seems a bit feral and wild, predominantly vinegary in its constituency but also fruity with prunes and dates and perhaps a suggestion of molasses. ItĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s also quite intense, hurling itself at you with high velocity.
A sweet yet savory tone of balsamic vinegar underscores the profile and remains constant throughout, while an intense level of acidity rises above to highlight various fruits. Most notably prunes and raisins come to the fore, but they are eventually paired with quiet notes of oranges and raspberries, in addition to a beef-like subtleness, which is probably the result of the chocolateĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s balsamic wanderings. The overall effect is as inferred, sweet and savory, but the combination is arresting and gorgeous, perhaps beautiful in its contrast. In light of this great flavor, the texture isnĂ˘â‚¬â„˘t really much of a concern. ItĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s not completely smooth, marred by a scant amount of grain and dryness, but the general consistency is thick and highly unusual for an origin associated with exceptional creaminess.
Considering all other Madagascans on the market, Amano seems to have redefined all previous notions of what this origin should deliver. TheyĂ˘â‚¬â„˘ve captured many diametric characteristics of Madagascar that most makers usually emphasize or deliver exclusively, while at the same time offered new ones as well. In a sense, Amano has exploded onto the market, shouting and hollering, making their rookie performance not easily unnoticed. And how could this bar not raise a few eyebrows? ItĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s a unique and interesting interpretation, one that could help solidify AmanoĂ˘â‚¬â„˘s stance as a serious contender.