February 21, 2011

Mast Brothers – Grand Cru 81%

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Written by: Stuart Robson

The first thing that grabs you upon peeling back the gold foil is the colour- a beautiful soft red-brown with a pleasing sheen. The mould on this example is very uneven however, with one side being at least double the thickness of the other.  A little rustic variation is fine but this is a bit much. The temper is very fine with a sharp high-pitched snap and a good shine to the unbranded moulding.

On the nose this is instantly Venezuelan in the broadest sense, all on dried spices of cinnamon and nutmeg with star anise and fresh leather lifting the profile a little. While this initial impression may be a little sharp and austere, there are also touches of fresh cream building alongside bitter almond, walnuts and a hint of strawberry that seems to grow over time.

On the palette there is a brief suggestion of sweet strawberry before, as with the aroma, the spices take hold; though now a little clove has been added to the cinnamon and nutmeg while the anise takes a step into the background. The nuttiness comes forward in the mid palette with a curious mix of mild pecan and bitter walnut. A brisk acidity is present but the flavours remain at once elegant and yet somehow forceful and robust which could, perhaps, be attributed to the mixture of the high percentage alongside such fine beans.  In the finish a cedary and slightly earthy completion takes control with firm tannins, while faint hints of distant strawberry jam return.

The mouth-feel is noticeably creamier and more refined than the other Mast Brothers’ bars I have tried, with the melt being very even and flowing and with very little graininess or fudginess to speak of.

This is one of the finest eighty percent plus bars I have tasted and much of this must be attributed to the delicate handling of what are high quality Criollo-heavy beans from Puerto Cabello. It would certainly be interesting to taste such a bar at a percentage closer to seventy but at this strength the interplay between elegance and power is very intriguing, balanced, and leaves the bar disappearing at an alarming rate.

About the Author

Stuart Robson
Stuart Robson is a passionate foodie born in Scotland and based in Hertfordshire whose main expertise lies in the world of whisky and chocolate. He first began tasting fine chocolate in 2005 with Valrhona Manjari and has since developed a particular interest in single origin bars and a desire to highlight skilled cacao farmers and artisan producers all over the world. Stuart previously trained in Paris while working for a fine chocolatier, and has since become a reviewer for Seventypercent. He is still involved in freelance consultation for small companies working with bean-to-bar chocolate producers and chocolatiers.



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