The Mast Brothers have become infamous to me. Back when I wrote for Chocablog, there were often reviews of Mast Brothers chocolate, and I regretted the great distance between me and New York. So to finally find this brand before me, that was exciting. But as I gaze at this infamous chocolate, I want only to forget everything I know about the company and all the positive reviews I've read about their products. I want to taste it for myself, in complete isolation from everything else. (But by all means, do go and read about the company if you've never heard of them before.)
You know what this bar, on the outside, is? It's beauty. Thick paper, decorated in black and white, enfolds the gold foil-wrapped chocolate. The look is simple, catchy, handmade, and artisan all at once. You feel special buying it for yourself and very thoughtful giving it as a gift. On the inside, the bar is standard. No markings grace the smooth faces of the 28 small squares. It is, by the way, a 2.5 oz bar that was priced originally at $11.95 but that I got on sale for $5.99. Pricey, but not the absolute highest price I've come across.
When encountering an infamous chocolate company, one would like to try first a plain bar. But there were only three flavored selections available, so I tried to get the least flavored of them. That turned out to be the Dark Chocolate Vanilla & Smoke, which contains only cacao, cane sugar, and vanilla bean. Most chocolate has vanilla, so you could almost look at this as a plain bar, anyway. The description runs thus: "Smoked cacao from Papua New Guinea and bourbon vanilla bean from Madagascar are slowly stone-ground over the course of days and then aged." It's a 71% cacao.
On tasting, there is a definite smokiness. It's combined with that light bitter tinge of the dark chocolate, but it quickly becomes accompanied by the sugary vanilla flavor. Then the chocolate notes come in to coax the bitter and sweet elements back together into a warm and rich embrace. Ever so slightly dusty mouthfeel towards the finish. It's what I would call a silvery taste, putting in mind Guittard's Quevedo Bittersweet bar. Then comes the best part. Once the chocolate is gone, you're left with a brownie taste, intensely warm and red and rich. At first bite, I wasn't quite sure how thrilled I was--once I'd gone through the whole tasting, however, I was converted. This is a lovely bar of chocolate. The flavors feel fresh and good quality, and there is just the right amount of whimsy and sweetness added against a darker, smoky background. I like being alone with this chocolate.