Review: Benoit Nihant – Madagascar 72% (***1/2)

Finally. FINALLY. I can’t stress it enough. Finally I’ve found a true bean-to-bar producer in Belgium. In the so-called land of chocolate. One of two BTB producers. Ok, i’ll let it go now, but I’m still appalled by the idea we still see ourselves as THE chocolate country.

Benoit Nihant who has his workshop in Embourg – Belgium, produces a line of true bean-to-bar chocolates. I was fortunate enough to attend a little tasting session during the Salon Du Chocolat in Brussels and was charmed by this Origin, so I purchased a bar on the spot.

Now, during this Sunday morning’s calm, I explored this promising bar.

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It comes in a simple, yet stylish white cardboard box. The sleeve gives plenty of info on the origin, being the Somia Plantation in the Sambirano Valley in Madagascar. Some research revealed that this particular plantation is owned by the Akesson family. A name I became to love, because the stand for absolute quality. This bar is made from Trinitario cacao beans, another good sign.

Inside the sleeve, a transparent foil protects the bar from the elements. Opening it, reveals a nice and deep aroma.

The bar has a clean-cut design with rectangular pieces stacked neatly next to each other. Great for breaking of the desired amount of pieces.

And how does it taste?

Benoit Nihant – Madagascar 72%

Bean: Trinitario
Origin: Somia Plantation – Sambirano Valley – Madagascar
Production: Ben et Chocolats SPRL, Embourg
Price paid: 4,50 – 50g (direct for the Benoit Nihant stand at the Salon Du Chocolat – Brussels)

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Color: in the darker brown part of chocolate colors, with a distinct purple/red accent.

Aroma: Earthy, lots of chocolate and some nutty tones when broken.

Taste: The chocolate starts a bit slow with tempered earthy tones, before a sweeter rush kicks in and the beautiful red fruit aroma’s so linked to the Madagascan region start stealing the show. The texture is slightly grainy, but the melt is smooth and long. Amongst the abundant fruits, some sweet bourbon vanilla notes mingle in. At the very end tannins pop up gently and give the bar a bit more power, while not becoming too much.
The aftertaste is subtle and brings a more toasted profile, wherein the chocolate comes to the front and a slight acidity and coffee notes join up. Overall this is a really nice bar coming from one of just two bean-to-bar producers in Belgium. While it doesn’t offer any wild or exotic taste changing ride, the Madagascan style aromas which I became to love so much are clearly present and abundant. The stone ground texture may not appeal to everyone, but it does the trick for me. I love a bit of variation when tasting different bars.

However, I do find it lack just that bit of “je ne sais quoi” to make it really stand out. Maybe it is a bit to gentle and less complex than other examples of Madagascan chocolate. Almost like Mr. Nihant doesn’t want to offend the classic chocolate lovers in Belgium with a little twist. But without any doubt the best Belgian made chocolate bar I had so far! A producer worth to follow in the future!

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