Rewind a few days and you will remember that it wasn't long ago that I was revelling in the gloriousness of L'Artisan du Chocolat's No.1 Salted Caramels (HERE). What I failed to mention in that review then was that L'Artisan had also sent me three of their latest Limited Edition dark chocolates, all of which I have been sampling with some fellow dark chocolate lovers.
These Jamaica, Bali and Congo are were all 72% cocoa recipes, and were formed using cocoa that were farmed and and fermented from these locations (more info on the website).
Looking at the net weight of the bars on the packaging I was surprised to see that each of the bars only weighed 45.0g, despite being packaged in boxes big enough to fit your average 100.0g chocolate bar. Given the premium nature of the brand and the chocolate, the size wasn't so much a surprise to me, and that said I did appreciate the clean graphics on the outer cardboard and liked it for it's simplicity. Unfortunately what I didn't think was so great was the style of the inner wrapping and design work on all three of the variants. I thought the plastic packets didn't really carry through the sophisticated brand positioning, and I felt that it cheapened the presentation considerably. Similarly the lack of branding and pattern work on the chocolate was something that was sorely missed and I felt this was also a missed opportunity to add some uniqueness to each bar.
Below are some collective tasting notes on each variant that I sampled with a group of friends. Apologies if the terminology comes across as pretentious, trust me I think I am no expert. It has been written in this manner to try and give you the best understanding of how each tasted.
L'Artisan du Chocolat 72% Bali
This flavour had pretty neutral, yet strong cocoa smell which was nicely indicative of the taste. This variant in particular broke with a wonderful snap sound which suggested that it was as fresh as they come. The taste was very smooth and had strong hints of fruit and banana which gave the cocoa flavours a consistent sweetness. The aftertaste had a little element of spice to it and generated a minor note of chilli in the mouth which further added interest to the overall experience. It was unanimously voted the favourite amongst the group with the main reason cited being it's non-bitterness and moreish sweetened cocoa stance.
8.4 out of 10
L'Artisan du Chocolat 72% Jamaica
Again here the smell was very indicative of the taste, and the bar emanated a smokey set of cocoa scents. The chocolate was similarly fresh to break apart but this chocolate seemed to melt at a slower rate to the others. As the smells suggested the taste was dominated by an undercurrent of tobacco like influences, with hints of woodiness and red fruits also coming through in the latter stages. The aftertaste was noticeably stronger than the other two variants and was the most bitter out of all three. The taste of this chocolate didn't suit everyone in the group and it did really divide opinion more so than the others.
7.2 out of 10
L'Artisan du Chocolat 72% Congo
This smelt similar to the Bali variant, though on balance was just slightly less pungent. In terms of taste this chocolate was screaming out Lindt 72% as soon as I placed the first piece on my tongue. The cocoa taste was less distinctive than the other two variants and maintained a familiar milky undertone throughout the entire experience. Whilst it wasn't quite as sweet or as variable as the Bali, it wasn't as harsh as the Jamaica and had a relatively nice, fresh cocoa taste. Both the feel and the flavours were smooth, whilst the melt was well paced. In all it was a solid, but safe dark chocolate.
7.8 out of 10
Overall these were some good quality dark chocolates, and me and fellow taste testers really enjoyed tasting the different experiences that all three offered. A look at the scores would suggest that probably only the Bali could be deemed as 'better than average' but if you look closely all three were hampered by the average score of 7 for presentation. The reason I gave them that score was because I didn't get the same feel of classiness from these bars as I did from the wonderful presented No.1 Salted Caramels a few days ago. If you compare them like-for-like I think you will agree that those Caramels look a class above these bars, though granted that is more about the quality of presentation of the Caramels. Presentation aside the quality of the chocolate here on the whole pretty good and it was really interesting the way that each offered up a different sort of taste. There was a clear favourite amongst the group in the form of the sweeter Bali variant, though this could be down to our personal preference and it is likely your own opinion would differ. To sum up I think L'Artisan du Chocolat could work a little on the packaging to align themselves in terms of quality with some of their other brand offerings. As far as chocolate quality goes though, they need do very little work there.
On a unrelated note what really surprised about reviewing these chocolates was how fun it was to do it amongst a group. Three of us enjoyed these over a few drinks and it was great comparing thoughts on how we thought the flavours developed. I would seriously suggest you guys grab a few of friends and try something similar in the near future - it is a lot of fun.