Chocolate tasting

Last night I attended a terrific chocolate tasting hosted by my dear friend Steve. Steve obtained eleven different origins of cocoa bean, serially roasted them, then presented either his favorite roast or two roasts which he thinks bracketed the sweet-spot. Each bean was then winnowed and ground in a coffee grinder with sugar. The purpose was to create blends with which to create confections from the finished, tempered chocolate. My notes on the individual roasts are below, I didn’t take notes on the blending, that’ll just have to be a surprise.

DRC 15 minute roast (Dom. Republic): Clover hay, raspberry, toasted chashew, sasparilla, creosote

DRC 20 minute roast: deeper, plum, brandy, molasses, water chesnuts, actually less creosote than the 15 minute.

DRC 25 minute roast: the flavor is more complete and integrated, though a little duller. Nut shells, carmelied damsons and walnuts.

DRC 30 minute roast: Lots of tar, heavy creosote, rather dead.


PC (Peru) 15 minute roast: pistachios, apricots, bourbon, rosemary, and a light savory note. High-toned and estery, difficult to blend with.


EC 25 minute roast (Ecuador): olive oil, whole wheat bread, lightly floral, and a juicy coconut oil note.


PNG 20 minute roast (Papua New Guinea): Black cherries, more sharply acidic but still with some fiberous green woody notes.

PNG 30 minute roast: MUCH more acidic, too loud and heavy handed, big notes of popcorn and current juice.


Gha 25 minute roast (Ghana): nothing bright happening but a good good broad mud notes and dried grass

Gha 30 minute roast: Dry black dirt, white flowers, freshly inked newspaper


Hon 20 minute roast (Honduras): fatty coconut, dulce de lece, light bacon note

Hon 25 minute roast: The same but with a rich baking spice overlay. very fun.


Bct 20 minute roast (Bolivia): clean and richly honeyed, a lovely top-dresser

BCT 25 minute roast: more deeply fruited on dates soaked in honey with broader coffee notes


Vcs 20 minute roast (Venezuala): bright and floral on geranium tea, yunan black tea and a light grapiness.

Vcs: 25 minute roast: over roasted


Gua 20 minute roast (Guatamala): nose is muted, palate is very green and woody with a fruity, candy quality

Gua 25 minute roast: heavy cream, cinnamon hearts, and nutmeg.


Drr 20 minute roast (Dom. Republic again): molasses, chesnuts, but a light estery broad floral note.


Vsl 25 minute roast (venezuala): precise and fruity on sugar plums, papaya, and a bit of lime.

Vsl 30 minute roast: pushed a little too far. Maybe 27 minutes would give it the complexity without burning?


I made this on a whim (a several-hours-of-grocery-shopping whim) and it was unbelievably good. I’ve made several other recipes out of this book and the ones I’ve picked have been good but this is best.

I’ll post the original recipe then my modification.

From The Punch Bowl by Dan Searing (published without permission)

Tradewinds Punch

From Jon Harris, The Gibson, Washington D. C.

24-36 servings

2 1/8 c. El Dorado 151 Rum

1 c. Gabriel Boudier Saffron Gin

2 Vanilla Beans, split

Grated Zest of Half a Grapefruit

3 Fresh, Ripe Guavas, thinly sliced

1 T. Chinese Five Spice Powder

1 Stalk Lemongrass, sliced

1 c. Fresh Lime Juice (~8 Limes)

2 1/4 c. Simple Syrup

4 1/4 c. Water

7 12-oz Bottles India Pale Ale


Mix the first 7 ingredients, cover tightly, let stand over night.

Then strain, add lime juice, simple, and water, mix then add IPA, followed by Ice.

Garnish and serve.

I didn’t have saffron gin, so I used a soda syphon to pressure-infuse some Beefeater with saffron, grapefruit zest, some dried lemongrass, and the vanilla beans. I made the simple syrup fresh with the requisite spices involved with chinese five spice powder in their unpowdered form boiled in it. I then strained and combined the two with Lemon Hart 151, the lime juice, 2 cups of Goya Guava Nectar, and maybe a couple cups of water (I forget) and poured over a giant ice block (made by putting carton of OJ filled with water into the freezer) and added 7 bottles of Avery IPA.

Truly sensational.

Color: Real dark, beautiful mahogony

Nose: What a monster! Moist brown sugar. Maple sap and pine pitch. Orange blossom honey and old orange liqueurs. Walnut skins. At last, some stewed prunes arrive with a touch of lemon balm. Elvoves further on big, beautiful dark chocolate, and further on raisins and menthol, some cocoa or shea butter and aloe. Coffee, soft cinnamon, apple butter, and a hint of heather. Wood notes growing now on birch bark and bit of sawdust.

Palate: Demerera rum and coffee, cola, gentian, more chocolate, tons of orange pith, birch syrup, orange liqueur, walnut liqueur, every damn root, herbs, woods and spicy english pipe tobacco and the leather pouch it’s held in. It’s lively, too, almost effervescent.

Worth every penny and worth buying several. Love that rich old extracted sherry-monster.

I wasn’t in peak condition for doing notes as I was in the process of falling terribly ill, as it appears that drinking and jet-lag evidently is something my body is incapable of handling. Well, here we go:

Benromach 30: Actually good! (I’m not a huge Benromach fan, but I like this a lot) Apricot compote, a thread of smoke, some vanilla, roasted peanuts, a touch of sumac. The sherry is a rather bass note sort without being earthy or too nutty. Raspberries, polished oak, bramble. A bit of plum comes through eventually with some licorice and anise on the finish. Some lemon oil comes late to the party.

G&M Glen Albyn 1975: Very nutty and spicy as hell on the palate. Very strong. Palate is quite bready like cornmeal crused pizza crust (not pizza-y mind you). Toasted corn kernels. Kiwi is suggested and I must say I agree along with a touch of grapefruit and juniper. Very Gin-like actually with very big botanicals. Blackberry seeds develop on the nose.

G&M Strathisla 1963 43% First-fill sherry: Reasonably stick with honey and birch sap, broken branches, some dates, leather, cherry cordial, and chocolates. Gains touches of buttercups and coffee.

G&M Glen Grant 1953 40%: Ahh lovely. Despite feeling hellish this is truly beautiful. Brown sugar, candied orange peel, old rum, virginia tobacco, some char, antique wood, cloves, menthol and some bitter cough syrup.

G&M Glen Livet 1940 70 YO 45.9%: Very unusual, hot nose and funky with earth and mushrooms and beef demi-glass. All such dark notes that have little to do with the fragile, light color of the whisky. Brittle notes of pistachio and almonds, as well as gold rum rise up from the glass. On the palate it’s quite different from the nose. Green notes of eucalyptus leaves, cucumber, pine needles, great icing sugar. The nose develops peach melba, some freshly cut green apples, and orange pulp. The palate is now showing a delicious, mouth-watering bitterness, perfectly in balance and quite fresh. Water shows cherry cordial, some cola, gentian and more apple. A mouthful held is hot and hard at first but develops into syrupy goodness and finishes on hardwoods, walnuts, vanilla, honey, and cinnamon. Whoah.

More Glenury Royal

Glenury Royal 12 YO OB 40% Pre-diageo, so… late 80’s bottling maybe?

Light nose on banana, dates, fresh bread, pineapple, dried oranges, patchouli, and cream ale. Alright, the cream ale hits first and was a little off-putting but not bad. Some raspberry, bramble, whole wheat, and more beer, though it’s more akin to a saison now. Quite sime pineapple liqueur, and pears. It’s a shame water kills it.


G&M Glenury Royal 1972-2002 40%

Opens pretty intensely on pineapple, honey, tangerines, coconut cream, subtle milk chocolate, some aged rum, yellow cake, teak, some light cherry cordial. Water brings out myriad oils, shea butter, cocoa butter, a little paraffin, mineral oil, almond oil, sunflower seed oil, salt, wet dogs, dried hay, and a touch of fruit punch. This malt has pretty much everything that made 1972 a miraculous year in the highlands. I bought 4 of them.

Laphroaig 10 YO bottled >/= 1968 OB 91.4 US Proof imported through Baltimore

Wow, what a palate! Smoke, peat is more vivid than I’ve ever tasted. gritty damp soil, salt, graphite, wet slate, tar, sea spray, damp coffee grounds, tons of rocks but also a touch of black raisins and prunes. Nose shows vanilla cookies, french herbs, dried flowers, potpourri, iodine, linseed oil.


Laphroaig 10 YO bottled </= 1968 OB 91.4 US proof imported through Baltimore.

note: these are from the same collector both purchased upon their US release, but bottled perhaps a year apart as the bottles are slightly different (only in the sense that one has raised lettering on the glass)

Nose starts on chalk, slate, old woolens, salted butter, teak, wood polish, leather, soft white pepper, light creosote, linseed oil, slightly mentholated, nettle tea, vanilla, salt-water toffee, soft tar, talc, turmeric, freshly plucked wild mint, damp coffee grounds. Water brings out tons of dried flowers, hot red rocks, black pepper, brown butter, sweet cream, those same dried french herbs, and light brown sugar.

A couple ’60s Balblairs

G&M Balblair 1966: Boozy nose with notes of gold rum, grape preserves, papaya, coconut oil, star fruit, vanilla, white oak, and tangerine. Palate starts on white rum and oats, the coconut oil, grain, some macadamia nuts. A retaste of a sample from a fresh bottle yields a more bourbony whisky. Big Caramel and wood, some dried satsuma oranges. Otherwise quite resembling my original notes.

OB Balblair 1965: A great deal of vanilla on this baby with a soft, vegitality (not a real word) underneath. Sweet honey, sticky toffee, white peonies, heather, lavendar and apricots with just a tiny bit of chocolate fudge.