Red Star confirms their intention to be a full-range chocolate manufacturer with a milk chocolate, to add to a fine collection of dark chocolates. Made from liquor at this point (hence the somewhat inaccurate “made from couverture designation – about as close as the categorisations get at this point), it might not be quite fully bean-to-bar, but such considerations are ultimately not particularly important – and one suspects that a bean-to-bar milk chocolate will soon be forthcoming. Here also with a reasonably high percentage Red Star puts themselves above other British manufacturers who tend to go for a lower – might that also be safer? – figure. Still, inevitably many who are drawn to this chocolate will be those who, while interested in a new and exciting manufacturer, don’t yet feel up to the challenge of high-percentage darks.
Alex Rast: 12-Nov-2010
Red Star ventures into milk chocolate territory but appears to stay with the safe rather than the interesting. This bar offers familiar flavours that will be well-known to those who prefer milk chocolate. Something of a pity, for Red Star in the dark chocolates has been producing consistently excellent, stylistically unique bars that can stand firmly with the world’s best while offering something different. This bar, however, really doesn’t introduce anything fundamentally new, and makes one wish for more. Very few manufacturers seem to put the attention into their milk chocolate that they do into their dark, and this is seemingly yet another confirmation of that reality.
Where Red Star are typically immaculate in presentation and moulding, this bar, out of the wrapper, has a rougher appearance, with clear bubbling and unevenness, even if swirling and temper problems don’t manifest. A nice cinnamon-brown, however, adds some optimism, although already this is looking more hastily made. Aroma doesn’t really hint at anything yet – it’s mostly dominated by a buttery cast, perhaps with a slight cheesiness, along with hints of woods and rubber. Literally, the bar could be almost anything at this point.
Unfortunately, the flavour ends up being typical and uninspired. After a fleeting hint of raspberry, it settles into a resolute toffee/caramel decidedly on the sweet side – a formula we’ve seen countless other times in milk chocolate. Hints of woody and grassy in the finish don’t really add up to much or really lend any character, and in the end this seems to be a bar designed to evoke memories of childhood: sugary, soft stuff whose purpose is mainly to soothe.
Nor is the melt remarkable, being of typical smoothness and creaminess, so on the whole it’s a bar whose keynote is Familiarity. It’s possible to go further than that, indeed: in its flavour profile and sensory experience this bar is almost a literal duplication of a Yorkie, even if clearly the ingredients are of a higher quality. Yes, it’s got a very British style, but here, is this a good thing? Unfortunately, this seems to be the trend in chocolate-maker after maker in the fine chocolate industry: they produce wonderful dark chocolates but their milk chocolates are not only unimpressive but seem to be more or less a straightforward translation of the most popular or iconic mass-market milk chocolate in the country of origin. This seems to suggest that the market for milk chocolate, even among fine chocolate-lovers, is overwhelmingly dominated not by a desire for chocolate flavour but by a desire to relive fond memories of an earlier, more innocent time. Is the position really this bleak? This reviewer, for one, hopes and thinks not. There must be people who can appreciate milk chocolate as a finer expression, and who are neither contemptuous of milk chocolate as a category nor overly influenced by preconceived notions of what a milk chocolate should be like, grounded in the universal experience of cheap, bulk milk chocolate. Let us hope Red Star can rise to the challenge with the next milk chocolate and produce something interesting enough to be worth buying over and above a milk chocolate one can buy at any newsstand.