November 2, 2011

Red Star Chocolate – Nicaragua Chuno

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Written by: Alex Rast

A first-rate chocolate from Red Star and a close rival to its Indio Rojo for the best bar in the line. This really exposes the care and attention to detail of the source, Xoco, as much as the manufacturer, Red Star. Inevitably this bar will invite comparisons to Friis-Holm’s similar product from the identical source. Overall, it would seem that where Friis-Holm does a better job with the Nicaliso, Red Star is better with the Chuno, in a good example of how different beans match different styles. With its expressive dark treacley boldness, this Chuno is about as serious as one can get, and a very masculine chocolate indeed. One to get to be bowled over.

Red Star as always makes a good if intimidating show of the visual finish, with superb tempering married to a rather dark, smooth bar to produce something sinister but compelling. However, it’s the aroma that really dominates, entirely without precedent with its initial baffling combination of cherry and mushroom. All ordinary rational sense would say this cannot work, yet somehow it does, and seems a natural introduction to further aromas of chocolatey woods, tobacco, and smoke. A very dark experience is clearly in store.

Sure enough, the flavour immediately hints at darkness, with a sweet fruity wave of grape and dried currant, powerful enough already to envelop the senses. Next it moves to chocolatey and then to very dark molasses, with the same woody and smoky notes the aroma promises. Raisin and cocoa in the finish are not unexpected but what does surprise is how long they linger, for minutes, even hours. This is power on a level seen only in a few chocolates ever.

Duffy does a good job with the texture, although it’s not even in the same category as Friis-Holm. It is nonetheless very creamy and reasonably smooth, not really a distraction – as if that were possible given this chocolate’s strength of flavour. Perhaps, indeed, that strength is paradoxically its only weakness: at times it gets perilously close to heavy-handed, as though one were drinking a cup of pure molasses at a go. But for anyone who likes their chocolate strong and uncompromising, this bar will satisfy completely.

About the Author

Alex Rast
Alex Rast is a long-time chocolate experimenter, taster and part-time consultant to chocolate companies. Starting in 1990 with early experiments himself in making chocolate, he quickly moved into evaluating chocolates in commercial production and assisting other companies in improving process. Over the course of many years he has evaluated over 700 distinct chocolate bars. He is one of the earliest reviewers for SeventyPercent and has helped to define and systematise the ratings system. In addition to bar chocolate, he also experiments with chocolate baking and the formulation of "canonical" recipes for classic chocolate items.



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