September 21, 2012

Red Star – Ocumare 55%

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Written by: Alex Rast

The best milk chocolate that has ever been produced. Nothing can approach the complete mastery by which Red Star has created the definitive interpretation of a classic bean in a milk format. Here is a bar that shows both flavour complexities and astonishing balance. On the one hand it tastes intensely chocolatey and on the other the milk characteristic is still notable, the essence of what a milk chocolate should be like. With this chocolate Red Star takes a leap from good to elite among world manufacturers.

Out of the wrapper, the chocolate doesn’t yet hint at its greatness if one is to judge on appearance, although it certainly doesn’t look bad. A terra-cotta colour not too dissimilar from some very light Madagascans is certainly considerably darker and more pleasant that many pale milk chocolates, and the moulding is clean and well-done, if not specifically beautiful. However, appearance seems entirely beside the point, for the moment the wrapper is opened an intense fruity flood flows out in the aroma, smelling of fresh strawberries. Indeed, there is a fruit-and-nut play going on here, as hazelnuts are next revealed before darker hints of coffee and woody bring balance. A buttery hint at the end reassures that this is a milk chocolate, from its intensity and depth one would think it a dark.

The flavour confirms and indeed surpasses the aroma, starting out with a rich mix of raspberry and raisin, just as it says on the label, before moving into hazelnut. The evolution next reaches a mild, mocha/coffee point with hints of smooth woods, before a wave of milk and cream arrives – and not just any milk, but rather the lovely fresh dairy that was the hallmark of the days when we still had bottles delivered to our doors. Hints of treacle and even a little spice appear in a finish that doesn’t want to end, completing a flavour circle of incredible balance. Everything is in such intensity and clear resolution that it could almost be a fine dark chocolate, and with such a clean exposition this flavour must be considered the perfect milk chocolate.

Although with this fine of a flavour the texture is almost beside the point – it could be truly rough and not seriously detract – in truth the melt doesn’t let the side down either, very smooth and creamy in a way that lets you focus entirely on that magnificent flavour. Never has a milk chocolate so completely exposed its underlying beans while remaining true to the milk chocolate genre; it won’t be mistaken as such for a dark chocolate but it has all the flavour characteristics one would expect of one. Here is a chocolate for the ages, a reference standard for years to come on the heights milk chocolate can achieve, and a decisive argument that milk chocolate shouldn’t be considered the poor cousin of dark.

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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