Hotel Chocolat Saint Lucia Single Cote La Pepiniere 70% 91/100

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The third of Hotel Chocolat’s Single Côtes from their Rabot Estate in St. Lucia, following on from the Marcial and Bord Du Lac, here we have the Pepiniere. Occupying 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, Pepiniere grows in one of these cortès before making 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.

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I’m already aware of what to expect here, I’ve tried this bar a number of times now and while there has been subtle differences, the core flavour set has remained fairly similar. All the St Lucian cacao tends to express a darker set of flavours, leathers, tobaccos, tar and dark sugars, but most of Hotel Chocolat’s bars tend to express something subtle and elegant to go with it. My previous experiences tend to have brought out spice, the odd floral, white fruit and delicate acidities and so I’m expecting that to be the case again here, what I’m hoping is that the processing has been of high quality and this comes out in areas like the mouthfeel and the balance. Opening the bar there’s the familiar tree bark Rabot 1745 mould, this time looking pretty glossy, breaking off a piece there’s the familiar aromas of cocoa, leather and spice, with a hint of elderflower. To taste the mouthfeel is notably better than it’s been before, the chocolate work has produced a smooth and even mouthfeel, which feels rich and buttery, as it melts it gives way to rich earthy flavours and dark primal sugars. These St Lucian flavours are accented by notes of burnt raisins and spice that feel reminiscent of German Lebkuchen or spiced gingerbreads, rich and dimensioned there’s a mellow but noticeable acidity coming through that’s delicate in profile, but just tart enough to make a point with notes of grape, elderflower and mulberry. I’ve tried this cocoa a number of times now, but this has to be the best version that I’ve tried, the flavours are as good as before but matched by the chocolate work it encourages richness, balance and smooth stability. If you’re a fan of the darker side of things, of rich dark sugars and spiced biscuits, then this warming bar will offer you long deep waves of satisfaction, best enjoyed when it’s cold outside.

Ingredients: Cocoa solids (cocoa mass, cocoa butter), sugar

Appearance 9/10

Colour: Medium brown
Texture: Sanded rough clay
Mould: Hotel Chocolat Rabot 1745 tablet mould
Snap: Crisp
Temp/Shine: Glossy

Aroma 8.5/10

Intensity(0-10): 7.5
Notes: Intense cocoa, leather, spice, grape/elderflower
Quality: Earthy, rich

Melt/Mouthfeel 9.5/10

Length: Long, structured
Evenness: Even
Texture: Smooth, butter toffee
Quality: Rich, full, firm

Acidity 9/10

Intensity(0-10): 3
Notes: Sweet grape, elderflower, dried mulberry
Quality: Balancing, complementary

Sweetness 9/10

Intensity(0-10): 7.5
Notes: Molasses, treacle, dark caramel, burnt sugar
Quality: Honest, developed

Flavour 9/10

Intensity(0-10): 8
Type: Sweet
Notes: Rich earth, molasses, burnt raisin, gingerbread, cinnamon, spice
Quality: Rich, earthy, dimensioned

Length 9.5/10

Flavours are deep but subtle, last an age over the melt, while remaining consistently rounded

Finish 9/10

Notes: Caramel, molasses, spice
Quality: Bar smooths out towards the end with lighter buttery caramel notes in amongst the dark sugars and spice, before lingering cocoa and cinnamon stay on after the finish

Balance 9/10

This isn’t an overt balance, more a great coming together of attributes, which balance each other out nicely. Dense structure helps to provide strong base and anchoring

Overall 9.5/10


Bar has a good degree of both depth and dimension, depth at its base and dimension in its high notes, complexities are particularly well balanced and structure is consistent, expression is true of origin and processing is much improved on previous versions adding smooth balance to the flavours of terroir


Hotel Chocolat’s Tasting Notes: Rockstar with ego. A lick of roasted cocoa jumps into driving riffs of tart red fruits and lemon before stage-diving into nuts, tobacco and caramel.

Bonus Review
Hotel Chocolat Saint Lucia Single Cote La Pepiniere 70% 86.5/100

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Having tried this bar a number of times, here is a set of my previous notes on Pepiniere. This bar is a little bit of opposing extremes, on the one hand there’s some earthy flavours and some dark sugars at play here, but they’re contrasted by some bright and light tones including a fairly laissez faire structure. Earthy and robust treacles and ginger biscuits see out the back end, while the middle is dominated by floral cane sugar and the light and quiet acidity of mulberries. It reminds me a little of well-dressed 18th century English woman visiting a sugar plantation abroad, a mix of elegant refinery, in amongst the robust industry of agriculture. This contrast plays out nicely though and the bar is complementary, with both sets of flavours combining to make something altogether more complex and pleasurable. If this bar lacks anything, it lacks a wow factor or something that stands out to set it apart from other bars, in the end it becomes a respectable good quality chocolate bar, rather than an excellent bar, it won’t disappoint you, but it won’t set your world on fire either. I suspect this bar might pair particularly well with white rums and cachaça.

Ingredients: Cocoa solids (cocoa mass, cocoa butter), sugar

Appearance 9/10

Colour: Medium dark brown
Texture: Smooth, a little grain
Mould: Hotel Chocolat Rabot 1745 tablet mould
Snap: Very crisp, thick
Temp/Shine: Glossy matte

Aroma 9/10

Intensity(0-10): 7.5
Notes: Slightly floral intense cocoa, violets, some sweet orange citrus in the background
Quality: Refined, delicate, elegant

Melt/Mouthfeel 8.5/10

Length: Medium long, malleable
Evenness: Speeds up a little towards the end
Texture: Smooth, silky
Quality: Light, pleasurable

Acidity 8.5/10

Intensity(0-10): 2
Notes: Mulberry, lime
Quality: Rounded, quiet

Sweetness 8.5/10

Intensity(0-10): 8.5
Notes: Cane sugar, cachaça, floral honey
Quality: Distinctive, bright

Flavour 8.5/10

Intensity(0-10): 8
Type: Sweet
Notes: Cane sugar, violets, mulberry, ginger biscuits, treacle
Quality: Earthy but light, fragrant

Length 9/10

Flavours get longer in the middle, but remain lengthy throughout with a nice round to them

Finish 8.5/10

Notes: Cane sugar juice, mulberry, ginger biscuits, treacle
Quality: High notes of cane sugar and mulberry peak just before a lightly bitter finish of ginger biscuits and treacle, which leaves a little warmth and toasted notes to linger

Balance 8.5/10

While sweetness dominates in some areas, bar remains pretty complimentary and pretty balanced, medium to light structure gives flavours some breathing room

Overall 8.5/10


There is some depth and dimension of flavour here, minor complexity is well balanced, structure is light but uniform and expression seems true to origin, with flavours that suggest a lighter or softer roast


Hotel Chocolat’s Tasting Notes: Quite the character, behaves like an 80%. A subtle earthy aroma cleverly translates into the opening flavour notes, before transforming into bold notes of burnt sugar and treacle.

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