Back again with another round of Hotel Chocolat’s Tasting Collection. So far we have looked at the Classic, Mellow, and High Cocoa; now it is time to move on to the Fortified Tasting Box, which provides a selection of truffles all containing a boozy treat of some kind.
Apart from a slightly darker tonal shift, the red box looks pretty much the same as the classic version. On a shelf they might be a bit difficult to tell apart, but since the tasting collections are usually sent out in the post, it does not really matter.
The menu for the Fortified box not only describes the truffles, but also features one of the spirits used. It explains the origins of Five Kings Brandy, such as how it got its name, how and where it is made, as well as the flavours it produces. These added details are always interesting, especially if you eat chocolate with a connoisseur’s hat.
1. Appleton Estate Rum
Jamaica is the father of rum and, on the country’s Appleton estate, they use sugar cane, spring water, and oak aged barrels to bring out all its subtle flavours, including toffee and vanilla. The scent of vanilla comes through the truffle’s mellow 70% chocolate shell, which is filled with a smooth 40% milk ganache. Although described as ‘knock your socks off’ in strength, I found the rum very gentle: lovely and warming. 8/10.
2. After Dinner Armagnac
The After Dinner Armagnac gives off sweet vanilla notes and is decorated with creamy white chocolate dots. Individually, each of these dots has a lot of flavour, but they do get lost in the overall experience of the truffle. The Armagnac truffle is meant to also contain coffee, but I could not detect any. Despite this, it tastes delicious and still gets 8/10.
3. Penderyn Whisky Caramel
This Welsh whisky truffle was a bit perplexing given that I could not find any of the flavour notes described (rich fruit, raisins, vanilla, toffee, caramel). It tasted fine, but it was ultimately very forgettable. 6.5/10
4. Penderyn Whisky Dark
When you change the base, you change everything. Although using the same whisky, the switch to 50% ‘Supermilk’ shell and dark chocolate ganache turned it into something completely different. Here you get smoky notes and a much deeper flavour. 7/10
5. Ruby Port Truffle
This truffle smells of red berries and is full of rich deep red wine flavours. The port goes very well with the 62% dark chocolate ganache, which uses cacao from Brazil. 9/10
6. Cointreau Ingot
If you are looking for something with a lighter flavour, this Cointreau Ingot has soft citrus notes of orange. It is very juicy and delicate alcoholic notes. 10/10
7. Sipsmith Sipping Vodka
According to chocolatier, Kiri Kalenko, she chose white chocolate as the base so that the vodka could shine through, undiluted by other flavours. It works. The vodka has a sweetness to it, which is enhanced by notes of vanilla from the creamy white ganache. 10/10
8. Sidecar Cocktail
While the Cointreau Ingot was a light delight, the Cointreau in the Sidecar Cocktail is much stronger. This is because you get a double helping, mixed with cognac. The alcohol, however, overpowered the other ingredients, which apparently includes lemon oil and orange. For that I can only take their word, because I was only able to taste the booze – nice as that was. 7/10
9. Five Kings Brandy
Five Kings Brandy is named after an historic banquet held in London in 1361. Among the guests were five kings including England’s Edward III, John II of France, David II of Scotland, Valdemar IV of Denmark, and Cyprus’s Peter I. They were served a similar spirit to what the Five Kings Brandy is today, which is made from Cypriot xynisteri grapes. The grapes are turned into white wine, which is then distilled and aged in French Limousin oak for at least fifteen years. Here the brandy is infused into a milk chocolate ganache, and has a sweet mellow flavour. 8/10
10. Amaretto and Frangelico
Amaretto and Frangelico are both nut liqueurs with notes of almonds and hazelnuts, respectively. Here you get the taste of a praline without the thick richness. Instead the filling is a light white ganache, which provides subtle hints of marzipan. 7/10
11. Eagle Rare Bourbon
At first, the Eagle Rare Bourbon looks like it has everything going for it, with its thick outer supermilk shell, and dense truffle filling. Sadly, it does not live up to expectations. The bourbon is crafted in Kentucky and aged for ten years in oak barrels, which is supposed to give it ‘warm notes of raisins, toffee, cocoa, and candied almonds’. I must not have been paying attention, because these elements were lost on me. All I got was strong whisky and a slightly sickly feeling. If there were no bourbon, it would have been a beautiful truffle, but that would also take way the whole point. 6/10
12. Gin Truffle
After biting through its 70% dark chocolate shell with a satisfying crack, you will be immediately hit with strong notes of juniper. Floral and slightly fruity, it has a light aromatic flavour that I found pleasing, but may not be to everyone’s taste. 7/10
13. Raspberry Liqueur
I had high expectations for this Raspberry liqueur, but it failed to deliver and ended up being my least favourite of the collection. The truffle lacks any zest, zing, and raspberry for that matter. It has a very high volume of alcohol, which just gave me a headache. 5/10
. Black Cat Martini
Fortunately, we can end the review on a high as the Black Cat Martini more than made up for previous disappointment. Its juicy ganache is a combination of blackcurrant and liquorice blended with grey goose vodka and is both warming and revitalising. 8/10
Hotel Chocolat’s Fortified Collection provides a great variety of different liqueurs, spirits, and wine. In some instances the alcohol can be too strong and drowns out the chocolate flavours, but in most instance, there is a good complimentary balance.