Interesting, conceptually and maybe morally a nice thing, but expensive and rather specialized
Notes: It’s not often we have a totally new product from an entirely new fermentable. Indeed we had to add a bunch of modifications to our categories to do this review properly. Made from Cacao FRUIT (not the bitter beans we all know and love as chocolate), in an almost direct reversal from usual harvesting (and distilling ) where the pulp and fruits are used and the seeds and pits thrown away, chocolate production uses the beans and tosses the fruit. The reasons for this were numerous, first, the cacao beans are worth a lot more and easy to transport, the beans are fairly stable when dried, third, cacao is grown in small batches in jungle/tropical areas where transport is slow, expensive, and usually problematical. While cacao fruit was fermented in Mesoamerica into a mead like drink, this practice died out with the coming of colonists from Europe (who suppressed many native drinks as part of their colonization of the area). The techniques and traditions died out and are lost over time…. This is where Thomas Higbee comes in – while traveling through Tingo María, located in the highlands of northern Peru, Mr Higbee was trying to source cacao beans and saw that about 70% f the cacao fruit was discarded during the harvesting/processing of cacao beans. The fruit itself as I stated above, had a number of logistical problems to be of much use to anyone, despite the fact it is delicious, natural, and essentially considered a byproduct of harvesting (always great opportunities for entrepreneurs ). The fruit is somewhat like Paw Paws- only the size of football. A delicate citrusy fruit pulp the fruit has a short window of about 6 to 8 hours maximum after opening to harvest the cacao beans before it is unusable – meaning that speed and efficiency are required to get it prepped for distillation and distilling ( and also why few people ever bothered with it before)
Appearance: Silvery clear, and slightly oily appearance, with a nice coating on the glass when swirled with a distinct edge line and legs forming
First Impression: Fruity, citrus like notes
Taste: If you stuck it in front of me with no clues I would say a Pisco or possibly an Amarone grappa of some sort. Very grape brandy like with pleasant citrus , pineapple and rambutan notes with hints of chocolate alkali notes, earth, minerality, touch of sweetness and a grape and woody notes that spin it toward a grappa type classification in my mind
Drinks: Pisco punches and Pisco Sours of course, ( with chocolate bitters used instead of Angostura bitters or also a few bits of shaved or grated chocolate
Bottle: Beautiful package overall, Wooden Box with slide up cover/door some straw-like material which opens to reveal a bottle of somewhat unusual design. Bottle is clear glass at top with gold foot (square with a heavy base and slightly pinched in foot which then gently bows out to a squarish shape which goes up to an inward sloping apex to a medium-long neck topped with a synthetic black cork and a plastic ( but looks like glass) stopper top with a clear plastic neck wrap. Labels are clear Plastic with a metallic ink and black lettering for the Solbeso graphic with a bronze on black neck label. Altogether an attractive and distinctive package.
Other: A very interesting product but probably doomed by lack of market . Not all good ideas win without a lot of money behind them. Also it seems like even if it did take off the question of scaling up production could be a major hurdle.
Final Thoughts: While I applaud the idea and aims of Solbeso, It’s a bit of a hard sell, or should a say an uphill battle….. It’s really a fruit eau de vie or unaged brandy which relegates it to a specialty type category. A further problem is the mention of Cacao, maybe if the changed it to the fruit of cacao or cacao fruit (fruit pulp), something – the whole cacao thing makes people think chocolate – which this only has the merest hints of ( in a slightly alkaline way). My overall suggestion is to treat it like a Pisco both for people who want to be more socially conscious. fair trade, trendy etc., and for cocktail ideas on. But frankly there are a lot of good piscos out there for that kind of money too, not fair trade, organic, etc., but unless these guys get some major social media buzz going and the granolas suddenly drink a lot more cocktails …
Placeholder website at the moment. They really need to get some cocktail recipes and green stories going or this spirit is doomed.