Patricia Noonan pairs artisan chocolate with premium rum…

Katie Wilson of Soul Chocolate inspects drying cacao. Drying will halt the fermentation process and reduce moisture content. Having the appropriate moisture is important for preventing mould growth (too much) or breakage during transport (too little).

I love chocolate. I love rum. As the song goes, these are a few of my favourite things, only my chocolate rum tasting is happening while I listen to the John Coltrane version of the famed song by Richard Rodgers.

Soul Chocolate, artisanal chocolate sourced from cacao and made by Katie and Kyle Wilson in Toronto, is my go-to brand. (I also go to Soul Chocolate for their coffee, especially the mocha, because of the chocolate, and insanely delicious cookies, but I digress…) The cacao is sourced from many chocolate producing countries and organic cane sugar is used in all production, a perfect match to the Demerara sugar cane of the rum.

The cacao fruit is what chocolate is made of. The farmers are responsible for proper growth and harvest of these pods. Inside there is a lychee like pulp and seeds, which we call cacao.

I have a selection of El Dorado rums from 12, 15 and 21 years to play with, courtesy of Woodman Wines & Spirits.

The El Dorado 12 Year Old has vibrant notes of orange peel, dried dark fruit and butterscotch with flavour replays of fruit, and spice from the oak aging. The youthful but sophisticated 12 year old paired up with a 77 percent cacao from Papua New Guinea, with vibrant fruitiness yet a contrasting smokiness. I like it with the prowling sweet and smokey sax of legendary horn player, John Coltrane.

The El Dorado 15 Year Old expression picks up more spice notes from longer oak aging so I choose the 70% Madagascar, with forward fruitiness and lovely creaminess on the palate to match the chocolate, nutty and orange peel aromas. The contrast of fruit and spicy oak are as smooth and sophisticated as McCoy Tyner playing the piano.

The El Dorado 21 Year Old Special Reserve, all spicy cinnamon intensity and rich creme brulee burnt sugar on the palate with lush, fruity top notes gets the 75% Venezualan chocolate, with cinnamon, almond and brightly flavoured dark fruitiness. This pairing is like  Elvin Jones on drums; controlled but with a wild exotic side. Go for it.

When Soul Chocolate receive cacao, they sort it to remove any remaining defects and roast in their oven. This part of the process gives them control – they can choose to roast to bring out flavour or hide it completely.

I asked Kyle Wilson about the  production at Soul Chocolate. So what are the steps in artisanal chocolate production? Selection, fermenting and drying, followed by roasting the cacao. Winnowing is next, which is a process of cracking the cacao and separating the chocolate nib, from the shell. Next come refining and tempering the chocolate, followed by the creative packaging their chocolate bars are known for.

Cheers and Happy New Year!

Photos courtesy of Kyle Wilson, Soul Chocolate.