The first of Hotel Chocolat’s Single Côte range, their Marcial is not just single origin, nor is it even single estate, rather it is a single isolated spot on the cacao plantation. A single spot on Hotel Chocolat’s 140 acre Rabot estate in the South West of St. Lucia near Soufriere, which has 16 separate cortès or areas of terroir and Marcial is lucky enough to be the first from one of these cortès to make its way into bar form as a single côte. All the beans currently growing on the Rabot Estate are of the trinitario variety, which are more commonly aligned with fruity flavours, although in St. Lucia the terroir tends to express a darker tone.
I’ve tried single côte chocolate from Hotel Chocolat before, briefly admittedly, but I have been fortunate to have the pleasure of tasting a couple of different bars from St. Lucia that they produce as well, so I’m aware of some of the terroir qualities that come with St. Lucia cacao. From the best that I can remember there was a lot of darker tones in St. Lucia cacao, notes like leather, tobacco with a slightly darker than its percentage kind of feel, not earthy or bitter exactly, but definitely dark. I’ve also tried quite a few bars from Hotel Chocolat’s Rabot 1745 range (and enjoyed them) and if I had any general criticisms it would usually be with the processing, while the flavour has always been great there are times when the processing and refinement of the cacao hasn’t been as good as I’d hoped, which has reflected badly in the mouthfeel. With this bar in particular however, I seemed to have gotten the best of both worlds, not only was the mouthfeel better than usual in this bar, it was very, very good. Smooth, velvety and long it was a pleasure to eat texturally and the best mouthfeel I’ve experienced in a bar from Hotel Chocolat. In terms of the aroma I was reminded of Hotel Chocolat’s award winning whiskey truffles, beneath the intense cocoa notes were some complex whiskey notes with golden hay and tobacco finished with the elegant white notes of pear. The flavours reminded me more of an oak aged white wine instead, with this oaky vanilla tone and poached pear coming through after the deep roasted cocoa base. In the end this reminded me most of some coffees I’ve had from El Salvador, this atypical nature at the heart of the experience, in this case the deep roasted cocoa, before these elegant white fruit notes of soft pear and vanilla that carry the experience off in a lighter direction.
Ingredients: Cocoa solids, sugar
Colour: Medium brown
Texture: Smooth, slight grain
Mould: Hotel Chocolat Rabot 1745 tablet mould
Snap: Crisp, thick
Temp/Shine: Matte sheen, consistent
Notes: Intense cocoa, whiskey, pear, tobacco, hay
Quality: Pleasant, elegant
Evenness: Very even
Texture: Smooth, velvety
Quality: Consistent pleasurable mouthfeel, complementary
Quality: Lightly uplifting
Notes: White sugar, icing sugar
Type: Sweet, bitter
Notes: Roasted cocoa, oak, vanilla, poached white pear
Quality: Refined, elegant, rounded
Flavours are subtle but last long in the round
Notes: Roasted cocoa, white pear
Quality: as sweetness fades and white pear disappears, roasted cocoa stays on for a while leaving pure chocolate sensation
Oaky vanilla and icing sugar can come to dominate certain moments, but otherwise it remains well balanced, structure remains light and floaty, held together by the initial roast
Bar is simple and elegant rather than complex, with a good degree of depth and dimension, expression of individual characteristics overcomes any lack of balance
Hotel Chocolat’s Tasting Notes: Broodingly powerful under a veneer of respectability. Shiraz wine, antique oak, roasted cocoa, with a flourish of citrus.