Review: Amano Artisan Chocolate
A lot of things got lost in the shuffle of moving and tonight I’m finally getting around to addressing a pair of them. A while back I got an email from Art Pollard of Amano Artisan Chocolate (followed shortly by the samples I'm reviewing). In it he described how things were falling into place for them and the entire thing impressed me to no end. Amano is one of a small group chocolate companies in the US that make their own chocolate from bean to bar. Normally that would be enough to set them apart from the crowd, but they go that special one step further. They are doing things the old fashioned way with vintage equipment and processes and that speaks volumes to me. There are simpler and cheaper ways to do things but Amano are taking no shortcuts with their chocolate. And it shows in the end product.
Amano currently offers two varieties: Ocumare and Madagascar, both at 70% minimum cacao content. They both have a good temper and a nice snap to them and come in a small, attractive box and a layer of gold foil wrap. Both are nicely smooth (though the Ocumare isn’t quite as smooth as the Madagascar). When it comes to flavor, though, you have two very different bars.
The Madagascar has a slightly fruity and slightly smoky aroma but nothing specific is standing out to my untrained nose. The taste starts with the expected light smoke and gives way to a strong fruity note. It immediately brought berries, raisins, and some sort of citrus to mind. There is some apple in there as well, I think. It makes me think of preserves of some sort, but not overly sweet. The fruit carries through the long lasting close and is joined, interestingly enough, by a hint of anise/licorice flavor (though this may just be me).
The Ocumare has a stronger aroma with a good bit of forest and leather in it and just a hint of cherry. The flavor opens with a good solid chocolate and some of the leather from the aroma. There’s something else strong and dark in there that I can’t put a name to. The initial flavors give way to soft floral hints floating over a ménage of mellow fruit flavors I’m calling black cherry, plum, and possibly dried strawberries. It isn’t a really intense fruit flavor, but a nice companion to the base chocolate flavor. The close is interesting. A lot of the fruit fades to the background bringing out the floral notes.
It’s a really impressive start. In their first offering they have managed to bring to market two world-class bars. I’m really looking forward to seeing what the future holds for them. Both bars get a 9.5 and a spot on my short list. You can get Amano from their own website or from Chocosphere.
One final thing: Joseph Hall took the Ocumare and made ice cream with it! And it sounds excellent.