January 2, 2012

Michel Cluizel – Hacienda ‘Los Anconès’

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Written by: Alex Rast

Michel Cluizel finally does what has been long expected and gets organic certification for his flagship bar. This follows the trend established by Pralus and is yet another encouraging sign that organic chocolate is now accepted not just as a viable alternative, but a positive choice among the very finest chocolates to be had in the world. Will a change of label bring about a change of flavour, though? This year’s (2011) edition proves that little changes, although it is perhaps marginally less satisfying in the length than previous years. However, this is simply a reminder, perhaps, that vintages change, and on the whole Cluizel is to be commended for being able to achieve such a record of consistent excellence, over many years, from the same single source. This reflects equally positively on the efforts of Rizek to produce consistent, excellent cacao; surely the best the Dominican Republic has to offer, which in a land already brimming with excellent cacaos, is likewise no mean feat.

So how does this vintage break down in detail? The first, noticeable change is a format tweak – gone are the thick 100g bars with the Cluizel signature; in are thinner 70g bars with a cocoa bean logo. It will be conceded that this doesn’t give the awesome, sleek appearance the old bars did, and the new, less chunky format is marginally less convenient to eat and break into pieces, but the downsizing reflects a more realistic perspective on an appropriate size for one; 50g would be even better. Colour seems alarmingly darkish, but certainly not out of line.

The aroma is if anything even more impressive than ever, with an awesome, bold note of prune and cherry wood which conveys instant nobility. Brighter hints of cedar and balsamic assure that the bar won’t be one-sidededly heavy, either, an impression immediately confirmed by the extraordinary delicacy of the opening flavour: pure strawberries and cream. Suddenly a much more powerful wave of woody and chocolatey surges through – so this bar has both strength and grace. In a bit of a disappointment, it then tapers off into rather flatter earthy with blackberry hints – a more balanced sustain here would be appreciated.

Texture is per Cluizel normal, that is to say virtually flawless, the definition of smoothness and silkiness. In this batch Cluizel has again wrung out probably everything there is to reveal in an already impressive origin. The finish flatness is a bit disconcerting, and on this it must be said that older vintages really came into their own with respect to length, but there is nothing here to indicate that this is some sort of a long-term problem, rather, the suspicion is that this is just inevitable batch variation. Cluizel continues to have a worthy chocolate to lead his line.

About the Author

Alex Rast
Alex Rast is a long-time chocolate experimenter, taster and part-time consultant to chocolate companies. Starting in 1990 with early experiments himself in making chocolate, he quickly moved into evaluating chocolates in commercial production and assisting other companies in improving process. Over the course of many years he has evaluated over 700 distinct chocolate bars. He is one of the earliest reviewers for SeventyPercent and has helped to define and systematise the ratings system. In addition to bar chocolate, he also experiments with chocolate baking and the formulation of "canonical" recipes for classic chocolate items.



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