‘Vintage chocolate’ aged in whisky and Cognac barrels on sale for almost $400

Ecuador-based To’ak is attempting to elevate chocolate “to the level of vintage wine” and has recently released two chocolate bars aged in Cognac and whisky barrels for $385 and $355 respectively.

The chocolate bars, which form part of the producer’s ‘vintage’ collection, arrive packaged in a Spanish elm box complete with wooden tasting utensils.

The company sources its cacao beans from just 322 trees belonging to the ancient Nacional species, which was thought to be extinct until 2009, when To’ak co-founders, Jerry Toth and Carl Schweizer, and harvest master Servio Pachard, found a grove of the trees in Ecuador’s Piedra de Plata valley.

On its website, the brands states: “Piedra de Plata is to cacao what the Côte de Nuits in the French province of Burgundy is to wine”.

Each vintage of chocolate is aged in wood for at least two years and is produced in a limited-edition, 100-bar run.

The chocolate is aged in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, prior to tempering and formation into bars. According to To’ak, Quito’s “high mountain climate”, with average indoor temperatures of 18- 19°C with 50-60% relative humidity, “provides optimal conditions for the long-term ageing of dark chocolate”.

According to the website, the co-founders wish “to transform the way that the world experiences dark chocolate, elevating its making and tasting to the level of vintage wine and aged whisky”.

The name To’ak is derived from the ancient dialects of Ecuador, meaning “earth” and “tree”.

The co-founders say that they “liken this name to the French term terroir, which describes how the taste of an artisanal produce expresses specific soil and climatic conditions of the lane on which it was grown”.

The newly-released bars include the 2014 Cognac barrel edition, priced at $385. Aged for four years in a 50-year-old Cognac barrel, To’ak sourced its barrel with the aid of Nicolas Palazzi after they were put in touch via a connection with Wine Spectator.

Palazzi sourced them a cask, which contained Cognac that was distilled in the mid-1970s and was emptied in 2013 for a limited bottling sold to private collectors.

Co-founder Toth describes the resulting chocolate: “The fragrance of this edition exceeds even our loftiest expectations. On the palette, dark fruit notes (black mission fig, raisins) continue to deepen while the peaks and edges of acidity have softened considerably, giving way to a silky, winey undertone and long sumptuous finish”.

Also newly unveiled is the 2015 single malt Islay 73% cacao cask aged chocolate, priced at $355. Aged for two years in a Laphroaig cask, the chocolate is described as “unmistakably, yet delicately, infused with the peat and smoke of an Islay single malt”. The brand continues that “hints of kelp and sea water from the whisky” help to balance the “acidity of our Ecuadorian cacao”. The taste is described as having “caramel and fruit notes” which are “imbued with a savoury breath of fresh air” which is “unexpectedly seductive”.

To’ak donates 5% of its profits to Third Millennium Alliance, a conservation foundation dedicated to preserving the Pacific Forest in Ecuador. In 2014, it also sponsored the planting of over 7,000 trees in the area.

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