July 19th: Hotel Chocolat Purist Range 2010

Back in September 2008, some of the first ever Hotel Chocolat reviews I wrote were about bars from one of their ranges named 'The Purist'. The original Purist range consisted of seven different single origin chocolates. If you wish to remind yourself of some of those reviews, I would suggest looking at the 52% Salt & Caramel and 72% Rabot Estate which were both certainly highlights.

Here we are now in 2010 and the Purist range has had somewhat of makeover. The range has now been expanded with several more variants (See HERE on the Hotel Chocolat site) and thanks to my chums at Hotel Chocolat HQ I today got the chance to try several of the new chocolates they have to offer. On their website, Hotel Chocolat describe these chocolates as being formed of the 'rarest, most sought after cocoa'. Having tasted some of their superb chocolates from their specialist cocoa plantations before, I was very excited when these arrived on my doorstep.

If you have read any of my previous 'Purist' reviews you will have noticed that I frequently commented on how enjoyable it was reading the 'bean to bar story' that came detailed on the inside of the packaging of each of the chocolates. As you can see in my photo below these new 2010 Purist bars came not only with the stories of how each of the chocolates came to be made, but also some pretty pictures to look at. The presentation was nothing short of first class, and the chocolates themselves came uniquely encased in a layer of greaseproof material giving each a very rustic look, and kept them all smelling very fresh.

Below are the tasting notes and scores of each of the four different variants of the new varieties I tried. Apologies if my descriptions sound a little pretentious - trust me I don't believe I'm a cocoa connoisseur :D

65% Island Growers (96 hour conch) - The chocolate was slow paced in melt and took a while to generate a substantial flavour base. The mid point of transition was where the taste peaked with the cocoa flavours striking me as earthy, and with notes of soil. The aftertaste wasn't particularly strong but had a touch more sweetness to it than the flavours generated at the peak of the melt. 8.3 out of 10.

70% Rabot Estate - This was the least enjoyable from the selection. I found that the chocolate felt instantly chalky and dry in the mouth, and the start of the melt felt delayed and lazy. Once the melt of the chocolate begun the chocolate still felt overwhelmingly dry in the mouth, which certainly hampered my enjoyment of the taste. The notes of smokey tobacco amongst the cocoa base flavours made for an edgier taste than some of the others, but the texture very much hampered my enjoyment of this one. 7.5 out of 10.

70% Chuao - This was nowhere near as chalky feeling in the mouth as the 70% Rabot Estate, though it was still a little dry when it came to the melt. In comparison to the aforementioned there wasn't so much cloying or stickiness, but the flavour delivery was again hampered by the quality of the mouth feel. The taste wasn't as bitter as Rabot, and had a kinder focus of flavours with hints of toffee and sweet dried fruits. This was the most mellow of all four - perhaps suited for someone who doesn't like intensely flavoured dark chocolates. 7.9 out of 10

65% Island Growers (120 hour conch) - Behold ... my favourite of the lot. Whereas I felt some of the other varieties struggled in their pace and quality of melt, this chocolate was almost spot on and the smoother transition certainly helped the delivery of the taste. The flavours were of course similar to the 96 hour conch bar above, with strong earthy notes. The smoother flow of flavours meant I could detect additional layers of cream and red fruits which further added intrigue. The taste was long lasting and finished strongly with a suggestion of creamy cocoa. 8.9 out of 10

Overall these bars provided a wonderful flavour experience and I enjoyed trying each and every one of them in at least some manner. As you will have seen above there were bars in the range that I rated more highly than others, but to be honest you guys needn't bother looking at my own scores as it is probably more down to personal preference. Some of the chocolates that I have showcased today may not have perhaps scored as well as some of the variants in 2008, but one thing that is for sure is that Hotel Chocolat have kept the quality of this range supremely high. The presentation of these chocolates is nothing short of fantastic and I can assure you they make you feel like a professional chocolate tasting expert once you have clued yourself up on the information that the each of the packaging contains. Suffice to say Hotel Chocolat's updated Purist range gets a ChocolateMission thumbs up.