After a long hiatus, during which Red Star was apparently tinkering with their process, Duffy returns with a revised Ocumare dark. A well-known but highly-reputed origin is an obvious place to start after process changes, and this one will suggest comparisons to their earlier version as well as to other bars in the field, even if comparison with the earlier Red Star rendition is only possible for the fortunate few to have an archival bar stored away safely. However, the stunning success of the milk chocolate version is already promising, and here we will see the base chocolate in its unadorned glory – at least we hope! Equally interesting is the examination of style upon bean; Ocumare, for all its fine qualities, has suffered from rather erratic interpretations in the past by several manufacturers and if Red Star’s obsession with process has paid off, perhaps this bar will be a standard-bearer for the bean.
Alex Rast: 17-Oct-2012
One word for this bar: BOLD. For those who like an ultra-powerful, dominating chocolate, this is the one to get, with a power and strength that eclipses even Chuao. Indeed, the flavour profile isn’t too far off Chuao either, being definitely on the treacley side; an evening chocolate, to be sure. It’s a chocolate that speaks both of style and of bean, the Red Star style clearly showing but the typical heavy, somewhat earthy Ocumare nature likewise being felt. It might not appeal to those seeking the utmost in delicacy, but as a strong, forceful chocolate, it’s a first-rate effort.
Rather dark roast is evident immediately upon removing the bar from the wrapper, with its very dark colour, although a dark red-brown rather than a dark purple-brown. Finish is very close to immaculate, even the back side of the bar showing only hints of where a few bubbles might have formed. It has the clean look of a chocolate processed to precision standards.
The aroma is all about blunt force, dense and saturated, with liquorice and raisin prominent in the beginning, then coffee, before very iron notes appear, molasses and even meaty. There’s impressive control despite the power, even if the aroma is quite one-sided in overall characteristics, but this is going to be a bar that explores the extremes of a flavour rather than one that tries to harmonise all flavours. Still, it’s the strength that leaves the lingering impression, and almost gives a sense of trepidation to tasting.
Interestingly, the flavour actually starts out lighter and brighter, with blackberry leading, then raisin. Powerful, yes, but not yet heavy. An interlude follows with a hint of mushroom overlaid on what is a very clean, pure chocolatey flavour, and then the mighty notes of the aroma pound in. Liquorice, coffee, and molasses all pour down in waves, although bizarrely there is somehow room for a slight grassy hint to materialise. But still, this bar is mostly about that powerful, long-lasting finish that never becomes flat or tiresome but just keeps sweeping over you. Texture, meanwhile, is good if workmanlike, smooth, perhaps a bit dry, nothing particularly to get excited about.
It’s that flavour that’s exciting. To this reviewer, at least, flavours in the dark, treacley domain are his favourite within the chocolate spectrum, and with such good exposition, Ocumare 72% will inevitably be received favourably. Others might not be so impressed – time will tell – but here is a bar that’s making a strong statement. It’s exciting to see chocolate makers experiment with extremes of flavour rather than go for a balanced but perhaps unoriginal version, and this bar vindicates Red Star’s patient approach to process. Equally, though, it establishes Duffy’s strength: in powerful, distinctive origins such as this, or the Indio Rojo – this is where he might focus, leaving milder, more retreating beans to a different group. A first-rate job and a good way to introduce a new season of chocolates.