I admit it. I had to move heaven and earth to finally get some Castronovo bars in my hands again. Denise Castronovo is one of the most talented chocolate makers out there. Based in Florida, USA, Denise makes chocolate from bean to bar. She takes pride in only working with the best of the best cocoa available. But she also makes sure that by buying the cocoa she uses, the rain forests and indigenous cultures are protected and benefit from their crops. Denise is not an entrepreneur, but an ecopreneur and ecologist – looking to create a lasting impact in ways far beyond making a profit.
But today we will focus on her work as a chocolate maker. Denise is renowned in the American bean-to-bar chocolate world, yet many people won’t even have heard of her or Castronovo Chocolates. Starting out really small but now employing several people, Denise remained very humble and doesn’t look to be in the spotlight at all. Her work with heirloom cocoa’s has to speak for itself and should learn people how real chocolate tastes and how important cocoa can be in supporting the ecology in the regions it is grown.
I had the chance to experience Denise’s work before, when I received her Sierra Nevada bar as part of a chocolate subscription box. Splendid as the chocolate was, It is hard to get here in Belgium (Europe). When I saw online that Denise visited the Salon du Chocolat in Paris this year, and even better, the specialized origin chocolate shop Kosak – who also offered Denise’s bars for a limited time, I knew I could not hesitate. An order was placed and here we are. Once more I can review a Castronovo bar. So let us not hesitate and dig in!
The chocolate bar, part of the signature collection of Denise Castronovo, comes in a nice sleeve with green as a main color scheme. It shows Colombian tropical plants and a Toucan bird. As usual, the origin and percentage of the chocolate is show. The 2019 Chocolate Awards world gold winner logo tickles the expectations.
In this case, the bar was made with cocoa grown in Colombia. More specific in the Tumaco region on the Pacific coast. The beans from this South American origin, offer high quality and clear flavor notes. It will be exciting to discover how this translates into the bar itself.
On the back, the batch, ingredients and a short insight on the origin as given by Denise.
Flip open the sleeve and you will find a golden foil. Inside, the chocolate bar itself. The design is more generic than the ones many ofther chocolate makers use, yet to me this isn’t overly important. Sure, a dazzling bar design will make heads turn, but if the flavor isn’t there, it will loose it’s appeal quickly. The execution of the bar is simply perfect. Straight sharp lines and no air bubbles or swirls whatsoever. It shines nicely and has a surprising nice snap, considering this is a milk chocolate.
Bean: Not mentioned
Origin: Tumaco – Colombia
Maker: Castronovo Chocolate – United States of America
Ingredients: Cocoa beans, cane sugar, milk, cocoa butter
Price: € – 62g (Kosak – Paris, France)
Batch: 1188 – best before 12/2023
Harvest: Not mentioned
Color: A lighter shade of brown with a golden hue
Aroma: Roasted cocoa beans, hazelnut spread,
Taste: instant caramel goodness, lush and seductive. The well controlled sweetness builds in momentum and reveals toffee and a hint of coffee and cream , joined by dense chocolate notes, roasted hazelnut spread and a dash of dripping honey. As if this isn’t enough to dazzle your senses, suddenly, a light and playful fruitiness cuts through the main flavor and lifts the flavor to new heights. Orange peel and mandarin twirls around with the coffee notes. The flavor meanders along pleasantly and lets the toffee and honey make a come back for a moment. Near the end, a darker wood note appears and sadly marks the end of the melt. The after flavor is less pronounced as with dark chocolate, but lingers for an extended period on the palate. It becomes more lively if you take in some air in your mouth. And it reminds me again of roasted cocoa, toffee and once more, coffee and cream.
There is so much going on flavor wise, it is hard to believe this is actually a milk chocolate. The cocoa flavors are present in abundance and are fresh and lively. The milk only seems to highlight the flavors of the beans, rather than subduing them as happens so often in regular milk chocolate. It seems to be only slightly sweeter than high percentage dark chocolate and has an amazing melt. Not clingy or mouth covering, yet lusciously releasing the chocolate flavors at just the right pace to enjoy it fully. This is certainly among the best milk chocolate I ever tasted. Even more, it is amongst the best chocolates over all.
This bar strengthens my opinion on Castronovo Chocolate. Denise is a real chocolate maker, who spends lots of time bringing us the tantalizing flavors cocoa can bring. Each bar is tailored to showcase just what the beans have to offer. In a delicate, pure and honest way. It is a pity that these bars are not more widely available, but perhaps this is also why they are so good. If you look around online, you sure can find a webshop which delivers these gems to your door. Or perhaps you stumble across them by accident. Either way, don’t hesitate to try them. You won’t be disappointed!
General final evaluation:
Visual appeal: 4/5
Melt and mouth feel: 5/5
Flavor profile : 5/5
Overall: 23/25 (*****)