This is one of the earliest of the 85% chocolates, appearing far ahead of the fad and the current wave of “”me-too”" chocolates. As such it set something of a reference standard for the industry – remarkably palatable for its strength, and a fine example of Cluizel’s blending.
It can’t be denied that Cluizel has done a good job, but could he perhaps he could now do better? A chocolatier who is arguably one of the best in the industry inevitably generates high expectations – and this chocolate seems merely to be adequate rather than outstanding.
Alex Rast: 28-May-2005
This is a beautiful bar to look at – dark red-brown with a perfect finish and extremely precise moulding. It’s maybe a shade lighter than most 85% chocolates – and this suggests perhaps a higher Criollo percentage, never a bad thing. Cluizel bars have the best scoring in the industry and always excellent tempering, so that the bar breaks evenly and cleanly right down the score marks.
Aroma is very dark, strongly coffee, with a bit of earthiness, belying the reddish colour. It would seem Cluizel has opted for a darker roast in an 85% – perhaps not a bad plan, because fruitiness easily gets away from you at high percentages. The flavour is almost entirely coffee, extremely one-dimensional. There are interesting but minor hints of blueberry, that hint at high-quality beans, but overall the bar is a little flat, especially as the end draws near and a cocoa taste lingers. It’s quite bitter, but then again one would expect that at this percentage.
Texture, on the other hand, is definitive. It’s super-smooth and creamy, right up there with the best of the Cluizels – which is to say among the best textures anywhere. With the low sugar content, it’s possible to achieve extraordinary things with texture – and Cluizel delivers. However, the overall impression is of a bar that gives you what you expect – nothing more. It’s very good but there are no mystical experiences here.
Hans-Peter Rot: 10-Apr-2005
Grand NoirÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s aroma is similar to Noir InfiniÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s, but missing here is the spiciness and understandably, the deep chocolaty impact. However, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s still strong on the nose and well-rounded, with a heavy coffee overtone and strong tropical influences of coconuts and mangoes. Not overly complex or demanding, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s quite simple and unchallenging, perhaps a bit unusual in its combination. Appearance is above par as always, with a brick red sheen blazing from the near-black bar.
The length begins immediately robust with coffee practically claiming permanent residence on the tongue. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like a French roast whose sole function is to deliver that deep, bold flavor without complexity to stand in its way. Such is Grand Noir. But unfortunately, there is a doleful flatness here, similar to a stale soft drink that has lost its fizz. Later on, variation does occur in the form of subtle tropical inflections, as coconut and maybe bananas introduce themselves for further depth, but the general tone so far is rather flat and monotonous. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s bold in its delivery, yet unexciting in its presentation. A surging bitter spike breaks through towards the end as well and persists as the chocolate slips into a strong and long finish with a lingering chocolaty intensity. Texture is smooth and creamy – and expectedly for this class – slightly thick, but it melts wonderfully and adds a fuller body to the chocolate overall.
In a dense jungle of 85% chocolates, Grand Noir doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t exactly cut its own path with innovation or exciting flavors, which although isn’t a bad thing, certainly deflates its ranks when combined with the relative flatness it possesses. While it may be difficult to create well-balanced chocolate of this class, ultimately most fall victim to the same dismal flatness that strips away all character and renders the finished bar an empty shell. In other words, they lack depth and the well-rounded quality that unifies the entire chocolate. Grand Noir, however, does succeed in delivering a bold chocolaty satisfaction, and serves the heedless taster splendidly to settle a hedonistic craving.
Martin Christy: 2-Feb-2002
An 85% chocolate is a usually a challenge not for the faint hearted. However the excellent blend and smooth creaminess of this offering make it surprisingly mild for its strength. Flavours of coffee, almond, tangerine, lovely vanilla and milk reflect the blend of the beans.
The lack of sweetness is made up for by the finesse of flavour – if you want a full bodied chocolate with not many calories, this is the one to go for – you won’t need to eat much!