Succeeding where others have merely striven in vain, the frustratingly erratic Marcolini produces a masterpiece from an uncommon source. It’s not exactly making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, in that the source is still reasonable, but it so clearly overshadows all other Cuba origins as to stand alone. Finally someone manages to deliver the characteristic cherry flavour of the Cuba bean without the all-too-common harshness. Could this be a matter of a match-fit in style? If so, Marcolini would do well to seek out more sources like this, and to the exclusion of other sources where his talents, it seem are wasted.
Out of the wrapper the bar is already very attractive, deep red-brown and with an excellent smooth finish. Just a few hints of bubbling and uneven moulding show that this is a bar made at small volumes. Meanwhile, the aroma is very accessible – sweet, and with a prevailing note of cherries, as one would expect out of Cuba. Mixed in with the cherry is a good deal of mild almond, and then other, mellow notes appear: tobacco and wood, along with a slight cedar edge, although disturbingly underpinned with perhaps a little too much vanilla.
Any vanilla doesn’t prevent the powerful cherry from shining right from the start, really bursting forward in a fresh wave. Next the almond arrives, to a degree that hasn’t been seen since Amedei’s early Madagascars, as Marcolini’s wrapper proclaims, “nutty”. Then a very unusual modulation of raspberry and smoke appears, which sounds bizarre but somehow works, along with some hints of olive and woods. It’s these components that in other chocolates appear to contribute the harsh, clashing qualities that undermine the Cuba flavour, but here they seem to have been transformed into interesting personality traits that don’t interfere or shout but merely attract admiration. The vanilla does come through in the finish, and it’s clear that Marcolini has been somewhat heavy-handed here, but after what’s come, it’s not unpleasant, nor does one get the feel that he’s allowed it to wash out the basic flavours of the bean.
Texture is very nice, showing as usual for Marcolini heavy reliance on cocoa butter, with a dense creaminess, even if it is slightly rough. In fact, it may the the cocoa butter that elevates this chocolate to greatness: the Cuba has very strong, aggressive flavours that might need some taming in order to come through. And with this we might have a formula for Marcolini’s success. Why is Marcolini so erratic? In large part it must be said it’s because of his preference for extreme cocoa butter contents, which as here works wonders with unruly beans that need to be subdued, but is a disaster with delicate, gentle beans that need to be shown the light of day. Perhaps Marcolini could focus his efforts on sources like this, where other masters have been repulsed? It’s tempting to work with renowned sources but sometimes that’s not what a chocolatier should do. And in the end, it reflects more credit on a manufacturer to achieve a first-rate result out of second-tier sources, than to get a splendid chocolate out of equally noble origins.