Arguably, one of the lightest chocolates to ever come out of Ecuador, Askinosie delivers a bar that has more in common with Madagascar than with Ecuador. Nonetheless, plenty of the origin’s characteristic traits reveal themselves beautifully, just lighter than usual but certainly no less enjoyable.
Alex Rast: 13-Jan-2008
Out of the intricate wrap (outer paper, inner paper, cellophane) the chocolate looks a very sinister dark blackish-brown, perhaps not unexpected for an Ecuador but still forbidding. Moulding is nice and even, albeit with noticeable back swirling. The aroma, on the other hand, is somewhat alarming, suggesting overroasting with a smoky flavour somewhat reminiscent of potato crisps. An earthy body with brown sugar hints reinforces the suggestion that this bar will be dark all the way.
In a refreshing bit of relief, however, the chocolate starts out fruity and light, raspberry and cream. Soon, however, more Forastero-like components kick in: woody and tobacco. The very dark roasting style begins to emerge, things becoming smoky and peaty, with more of the brown sugar. In one bar we get the complete evolution from light to dark, as if literally witnessing the progression of the bean through the roaster.
The bar is smooth and creamy but not necessarily a standout for texture. In some ways, indeed, it might “”feel”" right with a slightly rougher texture along similar lines to Valrhona’s Porcelana. It can’t seem to make up its mind whether to be sophisticated or rustic, and this is very much the impression of the flavour as well, interesting but unclear. Not entirely a complete success, then, but not a crashing failure either: a bar that warrants consideration but one that shows the need for continued improvement on the part of this new chocolatier.
Hans-Peter Rot: 21-Dec-2007
Right from the get-go, Askinosie chooses to convey a certain theme with their packaging, one that is supposed to have grassroots appeal but looks more like a police criminal file, complete with paper bag material, typewriter font, and blurred portrait of a farmer at the top. Jokes aside, though, Askinosie is serious about molding and tempering, showing a polished and very refined bar devoid of any flaw whatsoever. The aroma, too, is impressive and strong, unleashing blackberries and raspberries that scream lightness, oddly enough, but also a distinct crispness like ValrhonaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Manjari.
And like that famous Valrhona bar, the flavor is crisp, refreshing, and overall very unchallenging, bearing more similarity to a Madagascan than an Ecuadorian. Nonetheless, a subtle Arriba darkness is present far in the background while blackberries are prominent, too, as well as raspberries, both giving off a moderate sharpness like a fine sparkling wine or champagne. Texturally, the bar has one of the more refined consistencies for the origin, melting with some thickness as well, and for the most part devoid of dryness at the end that plagues this cacao so incessantly.
After tasting the Soconusco bar, one can make some pretty solid assumptions that Askinosie is treating these two cacaos very differently, with this one in particular dictated (presumably) by conservative roasting. This has got to be one of the lightest Ecuador Nacionals ever produced, defined by delicacy and crispness rather than the stout and bold persuasions that precedence has dictated thus far. Being a new kid on the block, Askinosie has nothing to lose by adopting this approach, and as mentioned in the Soconusco review, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s refreshing to see a chocolate makerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s style guided by cacao type. Not to say that style adherence is bad, but learning and adaptability can be critical measures of success, opening possibilities where others may see obstacles.