Valrhona Guanaja Noir 70% 86/100

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This bar is made from a blend of criollo, trinitario and forastero cacao and named after the island where Christopher Colombus landed. Once harvested these beans are shipped to Le Harve and then driven to Tain-l’Hermitage, part of the Rhone Valley, an area particularly famous for growing wine, where Valrhona turn them into one of their Grand Cru chocolate bars.  

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I’ve not spent much time trying premium cocoa blends, most of the blended chocolate I’ve tried has been from cheap blends and alternatively most of the ‘premium’ chocolate I’ve tried has been of the single farm, single estate variety. Although I am well aware of the concept of blends in both wine and coffee, used to create something that is often cheaper, but done in the right way exhibits the skill of the blender in improving various beans by finding perfect partners to help improve the individual parts. My hope is that this bar offers a good all round experience, with the blend helping to assess all the various attributes in a chocolate bar and provide something worth while in each field. Opening the bar it’s the familiar crazy paving slab of Valrhona’s, but in a slightly darker hue than usual, owing to a clear darker roast. Breaking off a piece reveals some floral and roasted cocoa aromas, that while refined are fairly simple and easily attributed to the roast. Placing a piece in my mouth, there’s a viscosity from the roast, but otherwise syrupy and glossy textures that offer a refined mouthfeel. To taste this bar is predominantly a display of subtly complex and well developed sugars, with honeycomb being the dominant flavour, surrounded by other sugar notes that make their way through some roasted tones, before some light white fruit notes that make themselves known just before the finish. This bar is as well rounded as I’d hoped and suspected, it’s very stable and balanced in terms of its overall profile. It’s pleasurable and accessible, but it lacks anything significantly interesting or individual, this is a display of quality archetypal flavours, not one of an unusual terroir. Here there’s a good likelihood that individual beans were improved by combining them together, having brought them all to the same level through the roasting and processing. A good beginning display of what’s required to produce a flavourful blend of cocoa with an appropriate balance. Best enjoyed alongside pink lady apples.

Ingredients: Cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter, emulsifier: soya lecithin, natural vanilla extract

Appearance 8.5/10

Colour: Darker roasted brown
Texture: Fudgey, light flake
Mould: Valrhona crazy paving segments
Snap: crisp
Temp/Shine: Matte gloss, consistent

Aroma 8.5/10

Intensity(0-10): 8
Notes: Sweet floral cocoa, roasted coffee, cobnuts, honey
Quality: Refined, roasted, dark

Melt/Mouthfeel 9/10

Length: Long
Evenness: Even, malleable
Texture: Syrupy, glossy, malleable
Quality: Refined, roasted, slick viscosity

Acidity 8.5/10

Intensity(0-10): 2
Notes: Mulberry, white grape
Quality: Light, balancing, uplifting

Sweetness 9/10

Intensity(0-10): 8
Notes: Honeycomb, burnt toffee, caramel
Quality: Developed, subtly complex, light

Flavour 8.5/10

Intensity(0-10): 8
Type: Sweet
Notes: Honeycomb, roasted hazelnuts, burnt toffee, mulberry, white grape
Quality: Sweet, light, simple

Length 8.5/10

Flavours gain length and are longest in the middle, gaining a subtle round from peaks of soft acidity

Finish 8.5/10

Notes: White grape, caramel
Quality: Complex sugars make their way to the end where soft white grape tones and caramel fill the finish, leaving a light sweet cocoa to linger

Balance 8.5/10

The bars balance and structure seem to be provided by the roast, developing a balance within the viscosity, complementary sweet and white tones work within a seamless but rigid boundary with plenty of stability

Overall 8.5/10

Bar has a small amount of depth and a small amount of complexity, but not lots of either, small amount of complexity is well balanced, structure is highly consistent and expression seems distinctive, but mostly indicative of roast, with processing providing mouthfeel attributes


Valrhona’s Tasting Notes: Bittersweet and elegant: Named after the now-famous island where Christopher Colombus landed in 1502, Guanaja offers a completely original blend of cocoa, with subtle criollo, and powerfully fragrant trinitario and forastero. This Grand Cru has a high cocoa content and is surprisingly bitter, but the range is full of warm notes. The recipe, of course, remains a closely guarded secret.

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