Rich Report Recommends: Luxurious Chocolates Are Now Available For Valentine's Day
A unique tasting kit has been created in partnership with To'ak, pioneers in rare, luxury chocolate.
Almost everyone has a favorite type of fine chocolate, so they know that different types have distinct tastes. You love Teuscher Champagne truffles, your BFF loves anything from La Maison du Chocolat, etc. Generally, we expect a brand's flavor profile to remain the same year after year. And that's the strategy they use.
Your favorite sweet treat can also be enjoyed in a similar manner to fine wine or whiskey, by tasting multiple vintages of one varietal in order to gain a better understanding of how terroir and weather affect flavor or by observing how a single cask can alter flavor dramatically.
The To'ak (pronounced Toe-Ack) chocolates were particularly impressive to us, and so we collaborated with To'ak to create a limited-edition tasting experience for their single-origin chocolates.
We already knew that aging wine, whiskey, and even tequila in casks creates some remarkable taste profiles: how oak can change the flavor of the liquid within, or how the aroma of nuts and fruits can be imparted to a whiskey made with zero nuts and fruits from a cask that once held sherry.
If you age chocolate in a cask, it does not naturally mix with age, think expired candy bars covered in a strange white bloom. The good stuff, though, is high-cacao, dark chocolate made in small batches from rare and nearly extinct trees. Age can actually improve chocolate; we're talking about the good stuff here. One little dark square can be brought to entirely new levels of flavor by barrel-aging in unusual casks. To'ak has pioneered this process of aging pedigreed chocolate in unusual casks.
Ancient Nacional, a grove of ancient cacao trees that once produced the finest cacao in the world in Ecuadorian forests, was discovered by To'ak's founders. It was this cacao fruit that inspired Ecuadoran culture and the global elite in the past, when a tree virus spread across the country and nearly killed the variety.
For botanists and chocolate lovers, the discovery of the Ancient Nacional trees by To’ak founder James Le Compte and his partners was a major boon. Additionally, the company produces its own luxurious chocolate brand and supports the repopulation of native cacao forests.
We've included a few signature To'ak mini bars in our shared tasting kit: three from three different harvest years as well as three aged in whiskey casks. Sullivans Cove whiskey barrels previously aging old tawny port and Sullivans Cove barrels once aging Chardonnay make up two of these cask-aged samples in this kit. If you don't know it, Sullivan's Cove whiskey is one of Australia's most prized spirits.
A few trial runs of paired and comparative tastings allowed us to get a sense of what the fuss was about. You can taste through the six different chocolates, change up pairings or share with friends with the three mini bars included in the tasting kit. The samples are dark chocolates, with varying percentages of cacao, and include instructions on how to taste as well as tools for making it an adventure. One thing to note, if you have tried high-cacao chocolate in the past and found it to be sticky, this dark chocolate is creamy.
There are six samples in this article. The 2015 Rain Harvest is the most intense of the harvest chocolates, weighing in at 80.5 percent cacao. It is the most bitter of the samples, and also the one with the most grassy, herbal notes, and with a coffee-like aftertaste.
The sweetness of a dessert wine such as a Dolce 2006 from California's Far Niente Winery helps temper the bitterness of the chocolate while bringing out raisin-like flavors from the whiskey. Glenfiddich Project XX whiskey, part of the experimental series, bears notes of tropical fruit and nuttiness.
A 74 percent cacao content makes the 2018 Rain Harvest chocolate creamy to the touch. It's surprisingly fruity with a mocha finish from all that cacao butterfat. In contrast to the 2015, this 12 year-old Rye whiskey shows a delicious fruitiness that is accentuated by a sip of the Spanish Brandy Cask finish 12-year-old Rye. In my opinion, that whiskey proved to be quite versatile, and it made a perfect pairing with several of the chocolates included in the tasting kit. Also, we tried combining it with Hochstadter's Family Reserve 16 Year rye, but it did not quite make a match between the subtle flavors and the powerful characteristics of the whiskey.
This sample of the Rain Harvest batch of tequila was almost as intense as the 2015 and almost as creamy as the 2018, however its flavor profile is more earthy with a mushroom-like finish. It was well paired with Casa Noble Extra Añejo Single-Barrel tequila.
We loved the darker and more layered chocolates, so they paired well with multiple kinds of spirits. The Islay Cask, a 73 percent cacao bar, opened with an interesting note of licorice, which was followed by a hint of smoke and rich mocha, which was followed by a touch of peat.
Initially, I thought this chocolate was meant for Octomore's 10.4 Virgin Oak Scotch whisky, which intensified the smoke and peat, as I would expect. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I used it with Bruichladdich's Black Art 1994, which brought out some fruit notes, and the Dolce also worked remarkably well with this chocolate.
We were intrigued by the sample from a Tasmanian whiskey cask that previously held Chardonnay. A bright, fruity palate gives way to a core of chocolate followed by a winey dessert like finish. As an added bonus, we were able to pair it with the High West Bourbon.
Lastly, we tried the Tasmanian Cask, a whisky that previously aged tawny port, which is rich, creamy, and has notes of nuts and graphite. We tried pairing the Tasmanian Cask with an aged rum, but it didn't work very well. The sweet dessert wine and the WhistlePig rye, however, were delightful.
You can order a limited-edition tasting kit here to begin sampling as soon as you receive it. Enjoy your experience!