Mast Brothers – Grand Cru 81%

A chance to see how the Mast Brothers approach beans that clearly display strong Criollo characteristics, particularly interesting given that they have chosen a much higher percentage than is more often applied with such stock. What with the comparatively delicate nature of the Mast treatment, the strength they have chosen and the use of minimal ingredients, this is a bar that gets very close to the beans indeed.


Reviews

Alex Rast: 27-Mar-2011

Posted: March 27, 2011 by
SCORES Score/10 Weight
Aroma: 8.5 10%
Look/snap: 8 5%
Taste: 8.5 35%
Melt: 7 5%
Length: 5 15%
Opinion: 8 30%
Total/100: 77.25 100%
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Mast Brothers have an unmistakeable style that certainly makes its appearance here, but unfortunately also accompanied by the same stylistic characteristic that seems bizarrely to plague many extra-bitter chocolates: dark, flat finish. Not a bad effort no doubt, but still one wishes for more. What is it about the extra bitter category that seems to convince manufacturers that a very dark, coffee-like flavour is necessarily desirable? This point aside, however, there’s plenty of intererest in this bar which displays great complexity NOT necessarily typical of extra-bitter chocolates in general. A fine effort, but one would have wished Mast had done more to distance themselves from the “industry standard” interpretation.

Out of the wrapper Mast does a good job with finish, this bar having an obviously fine temper, with some unevenness in moulding, yes, but no major problems. A darkish colour is to be expected at this percentage, and this one doesn’t veer too close to the ebony side of the spectrum, raising expectations. From Mast, fruitiness is perhaps to be expected, and certainly present here in currant and winey notes, but there is also something darker going on, with coffee, woody, and earthy suggestions. On its own, this is a good thing, creating a balanced overall aroma profile that keeps expectations high.

The flavour progression is impressively complex. Initially, chocolatey body competes with blackberry, almost like a typical Ecuador, and then creamy and cheesey hints reminiscent of Domori arrive carrying with them flashes of fascinating tropical fruits and raisins. Unfortunately, that’s where it all comes to a crashing halt: the flavour suddenly flattens into a very earthy, coffee character that kills any length. The start was so promising – and now this, as if to say “Party’s over, time to go home”.

Mast don’t seem to put much effort into texture and so it goes here. The melt is reasonably smooth but vey dry; there is a crying need for more cocoa butter. On the other hand, with the finish being so flat perhaps that’s the last thing the bar needs. If the bar could have sustained the flavours of the start and middle length, it would be a strong candidate for one of the best ever, but as things stand it seems all-too-reminiscent of many of the other extra-bitter chocolates: interesting flavours but depressing finish flatness. Here Mast ought to roast less, and perhaps conche less too, in order to bring out the livelier notes that seem too obviously to be present in the Patanemo origin. With such a modification it might leap from not-bad to world-class.

Stuart Robson: 21-Feb-2011

Posted: February 21, 2011 by
SCORES Score/10 Weight
Aroma: 8.5 10%
Look/snap: 8.5 5%
Taste: 9 35%
Melt: 8.5 5%
Length: 8 15%
Opinion: 9 30%
Total/100: 87.50 100%
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Source: Own purchase
Supplied by: The Chocolate Society
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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.