This is the first in what I hope will be a monthly series of Group Reviews, a new feature for 2014 here on TheChocolateLife.
The idea behind the reviews is to get members to contribute their opinions about chocolates that are either very popular, have been heavily hyped, and/or that have received strong positive reviews from rating and reviewing web sites and/or awards programs.
The inspiration for the feature comes from José Ortega y Gasset’s 1929 book, The Revolt of the Masses [ Amazon affiliate link ]. In this book, Gasset predicts that future generations will come to rely more heavily on the recommendations of friends, colleagues, and even strangers over those of experts. If asked to choose between the advice of "experts" and the impressions of "regular" people, the majority will turn to the latter. This helps explain why many people tend to trust crowd-sourced aggregate reviews over those from reviewers in established media outlets.
This month's chocolate - Fortunato #4
Fortunato #4 is made by Felchlin (Switzerland) from beans sourced in Peru by Marañon chocolate.
While it hasn't received a lot of love from international chocolate awards (though this might be be because it was not entered, not that judges did not like it), few chocolates have been more overhyped in the media in the past five years than Fortunato #4. Some of the claims made are true (a distinct genetic variety of Nacional thought to have disappeared in the early 1900s) while others clearly are not (the rarest chocolate in the world).
Think about your response in three parts.
Part 1 :: Present your sensory impressions - Aroma, Taste, and Texture - of the chocolate.
Part 2 :: Give a rating of the chocolate on whatever scale you want (or that you use for your own purposes) - 1 (low) through 10 (high), 1 through 100, or an impressionistic scale from low (This chocolate is so bad that if I were gifted it I would not even regift it to someone I did not care about); to high (This chocolate is so good that I would have to think three times before sharing any, or This is a desert island chocolate).
Part 3 :: This part is optional and can include a discussion about other aspects of the chocolate - including your thoughts on packaging, marketing -- topics that are not central to the chocolate itself.
French Broad 2011
Rating = 6, Above Average
See Review notes attached below.
Profile: hard to pin down, but I'll go with Earth. My very first tasting was noticeably acidic and kind of burnt, but I never got that again subsequently. Red wine undertones, but not too strong. There's a persistent "off" note in the undertone that reduces my enjoyment, but it's hard to nail down. Maybe like something green or unripe, maybe like faint red wine. It rather overpowers other flavors, though.
For a first attempt with these beans this is above average. Knowing the French Broad Chocolate's Lounge high standards I expect them to work out the kinks, so I believe that this bar will get even better over time. One reason for my lower rating is because the bar is expensive. I know the beans are expensive, but when I pay more I expect more.
Hi Choco, this Brian Horsley, the bean guy for Marañon Chocolate, writing from Peru. I never comment on anyone's perception of our beans or chocolate, its subjective and everyone has their own opinion which is by definition right for them. I only wanted to comment that our marketing budget is zero. All our PR ( on the Marañon Chocolate side, not our retail clients ) comes from free press. We have never bought an ad, paid for a stand at a trade show, etc. We are a small company - albeit growing due to positive market acceptance of our product - and don't have the budget for any expensive marketing of any kind. The beans are truly difficult and expensive to source, buy, process, transport, and make into chocolate. Those factors, and as with every other product in the world, retail margin, are the basis for the cost, not marketing.
I deleted the message that you replied to because I didn't want to give out information that was not correct. I was making assumptions based on the PR that I have seen, so I apologize if my comments created any negative repercussions. (Some day I may learn that making assumptions so often gets one in trouble!!)
Very decent of you to be so considerate Choco, I think it speaks to your integrity. I didn't feel like you went anywhere near out of bounds in your comment, but thank you for not simply trolling.
Other brands making chocolate from those beans: Ritual, Naïve, The Chocolate Tree and Bar au Chocolat.
I tasted Felchlin, French Broad and Naïve. I definitely prefer Felchlin. I love their style. The long conch creates a sublime texture and melting. The flavours are very delicate and nice layered. Flavours I tasted: cassis, blackcurrant, nuts, a little spicy, burned sugar, cream, butter, liquorice. So on a scale of 10 that will be a 10 for texture and melting and a 9 for taste :-)
Hi Vera, this Brian Horsley, the bean guy for Marañon Chocolate, writing from Peru. I'm so glad you enjoyed the chocolate, i really love the swiss style and slow conch too. when I visited the Felchlin factory in Schwyz last year i was overwhelmed by the care and attention to detail given to the beans by the Felchlin team. Sepp Schoenbachler, the chocolate boss at Felchlin, is truly a master in my opinion at bringing out balanced and rounded flavors from what are considered to be difficult and temperamental bans to work with. Thanks again for your patronage!