Matured 3 Years | 73% | $ 375 USD
|Appellation||Piedra de Plata|
|Aging||Don Julio Tequila Cask matured, 3 years|
|Ingredients||Cacao beans, cane sugar|
|Release date||December 2018|
|Strength||73% cacao beans|
|Fermentation||4 days in Spanish Elm|
NOSE: Fruity caramel with a citric zest.
PALATE: Soft fruit and butterscotch with a sweet agave twang, touch of vanilla and nutmeg.
FINISH: Sweet buttery caramel, slightly smokey wood, honey.
In 1942, a man named Don Julio González set out on a course that would revolutionize the tequila industry. Up until then, tequila was primarily made and consumed as a basic alcoholic spirit, with almost no emphasis on quality—analogous to the consumption of chocolate as mere candy. As a true innovator, Don Julio set about improving every single element of the tequila production process, from harvesting and aging to bottling and tasting. Ultimately, he was responsible for elevating tequila to the level of a fine spirit, on par with the finest whiskies and cognacs.
We believe that Don Julio’s pioneering work in the craft of tequila has much in common with our work in the craft of chocolate. It also just so happens that Don Julio’s añejo tequila is generally one of our favorite pairings with To’ak chocolate. In partnership with its parent company Diageo, Don Julio offered to send us three of their barrels to age our chocolate in.
In one barrel, we inserted our 2015 “Light” edition (73%), in another barrel we inserted our 2015 “Dark” edition (80.5%), and in the third barrel we inserted cacao nibs. We discovered that both chocolate editions proved to be far more absorptive of the barrels’ aromas than the nibs were. We attribute this to the fact that the natural oil present in both cacao and chocolate (i.e., the “cacao butter”) is more readily accessible in well-refined and tempered chocolate, whereas the harder surface texture of the nibs renders it less accessible. The natural oil within the chocolate is responsible for absorbing delectable external aromas, such as exist inside an ex-Don Julio tequila barrel.
Both 2015 editions of chocolate—the 73% and the 80.5%—were coming along very nicely, barrel-imparted aromas at this current stage were more persuasive in the 73% edition, seemed to acquire the tequila aromas more quickly, and could likewise be felt more powerfully. This could merely be a question of perception. Ever since these two editions were first produced in 2015, the 73% was inherently smoother and more mild, whereas the 80.5% was considerably bolder. This was a function of cacao percentage as well as certain key production variables. Namely, we conched the 73% for 23.5 hours, compared to only nine hours for the 80.5%.
The process known as “conching” refers to the mechanical churning of the chocolate when heated in liquid form, which expels volatile acids and gives final shape to the flavor profile. With our 73% chocolate, the extended conch time produced a softer chocolate, with subtle fruit notes overlaid with honeyed caramel. Interestingly, honey and caramel are two of the signature flavor notes of Don Julio’s añejo tequila. These common flavor characteristics came together to create a lovely chocolate with a smooth butterscotchy tone and a sweet agave twang.
Another reason we’re particularly drawn to this edition of tequila-aged chocolate is because of the commonalities we see in the crafts of chocolate and tequila. During much of the 20th century, tequila had the reputation of something cheap that people drank in the form of a shot, often with the sole objective of getting drunk. During that same era, chocolate had the reputation as a cheap piece of candy that people consumed mostly for the quick spike of sugar that came with it. This, of course, was a rude departure from chocolate’s ancient history, in which it was considered sacred by almost every culture it touched.
OUR TOP PAIRING RECOMMENDATIONS
Dark chocolate, when tasted on its own, offers a fascinating ride of sensory impressions. Pairing dark chocolate with certain wines and spirits or cheeses can offer yet another level of pleasure and complexity to the experience. In the best of cases, a perfect pairing can elevate dark chocolate onto a higher realm altogether.