December 7, 2011

Friis Holm – Indio Rojo 70

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Written by: Alex Rast

In actual truth a blend of Honduras Indio Rojo and Nicaraguan cacaos (which the newer wrappers state clearly), this is a bar that, taken as a blend, is a clear success. Rarely do chocolates achieve this sort of effortless balance and power. There’s enough interest, meanwhile, to sustain the attention of those seeking more than just a basic chocolatey flavour, even though the latter is there in abundance. This might be one of the only blends to state origins – why should this be? Perhaps this can be the start of a new trend – the “origin blend”, with sources clearly noted but with a focus on balanced, even flavours rather than extreme, characteristic ones.

Out of the wrapper, the large bar looks intimidating, with a rather dark colour and good temper. Somehow, it manages however to look like a chocolate on the warm side, priming the taste for an expected luxurious, enveloping flavour. Nothing in the aroma, furthermore, does anything to dissuade this impression: it’s powerful and rich, starting with a mixture of cherries and woods, then proceeding to sharper, redcurrant notes on a winey, raisin background. Something very exotic – mushroom – appears, a bit reminiscent of some Pralus bars, and while this earthy characteristic might seem like cause for alarm, it actually adds sophistication and depth.

The flavour doesn’t necessarily have the complexities of the aroma, but it makes up for that in exemplary delivery. Three main components stand out: chocolatey, creamy and woody. What delivers the interest here is that instead of a predictable, inexorable progression from one to the other, the flavour cycles between them, something of the flavour equivalent of a Bach fugue; formal but still captivating. There is, it will be admitted, a hint of earthy cardboard, suggesting that the roast and conche might both be reduced slightly, but it is mild enough not to distract from the overall sensation.

Texture, meanwhile, is good enough almost to be a distraction, with its effortless ultra-smoothness and creaminess, something that’s becoming a Friis-Holm “signature”. But the distraction, if any, is of a pleasant form anyway, and it complements the amazing balance that is what truly is memorable about this chocolate. There are plans afoot for Friis Holm to deliver a pure Indio Rojo: surely this will be exciting, but if any possibility exists of manageable supply, perhaps this bar might be kept for its own sake? In the last few years the fine art of blending has, it seemed, been pushed into the background in the excitement over single-origins: this bar makes the case for quality blends as well as quality single-sources.

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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