November 19, 2004
What a wonderful chocolate! I am on a quest to find the best of the best in the 85% range and I must say that this is one of my favorites so far. I agree heartily with Alex’s review – this really is comfort food. In addition to the strong (but well balanced and not overly bitter) chocolate taste, I taste coffee and burnt caramel, with a wonderfully smooth melt and a slight sensation of coolness. The flavor lingers for a long time and though the aftertaste is a little bitter, it’s very pleasant.
August 1, 2006
July 31, 2006
I have to wholeheartedly disagree and point you at Marcolini’s top of the pack Fleur de Cacao 85%, or failing that the ever reliable Cluizel 85%. I can never see Lindt 85% as a serious chocolate! (And I’m sure it’s current rating is a temporary affiar )
August 1, 2006
Ouch, such bold words [;)] I find Cluizel’s 85% droningly flat. I will admit that it has good flavor and a wonderful intensity, but it simply lacks the roundness that’s so crucial for fine chocolate. If you read my review, it reminds me of Noir Infini, minus the flavor profile and roundness. That’s its greatest flaw; so admittedly, Cluizel has still done a fine job, but perhaps not good enough to send it to the top of the class. The 72%, otoh, is superb, as is Noir Infini. These are two chocolates that are very hard to beat at any level from any company.
Why can’t you take Lindt’s 85% seriously? Is it because Lindt produced it? [;)] But this is where you and I differ. At this level, I look for a baseline chocolatiness and intensity, in addition to a round profile, and then whatever flavor happens to evolve is merely a bonus, something extra to heighten the experience. For me, it’s not so much about complexity but more so about how the chocolatier was able to overcome the challenges that this class presents and then produce a bar that’s round and intense, not overly bitter or flat. If you really think about it, this is a real challenge, especially when you consider all the other 85%s on the market today. Valrhona and Venchi have failed miserably, and even Hachez has floundered here, in addition to Cluizel himself. It’s a real challenge, and Lindt has surprisingly bested everyone else. I am just giving credit to where it’s due.
This is not to say that Marcolini’s isn’t good either. I gave it a positive review, but for me, it doesn’t necessarily define what this class should deliver in terms of intensity. Fleur de Cacao still ranks high, and is indeed an exception to the rule (for me anyway), but in this respect, it’s something I can’t take seriously. Conversely, I find it too light-hearted and subtle, perhaps the gentle giant among high percentage chocolates. It’s extraordinary with its mildness and is wonderful for anyone’s palate, but it fails to connect the taster to what I believe should be the ultimate sensation of an 85%.
January 3, 2006
I agree and disagree on the statement about the cluizel 85%, mostly because I enjoy it. The flavor is definitely there although the one i tasted today at the store in NYC was very dry and had a somewhat mineral taste. I guess the best description for me is that the chocolate stops, if you will. Once it become creamy, as Montegrano pointed out, the flavor doesn’t reach other areas, it is intense, and a good intensity and flavor at that, but the chocolate doesn’t really expand on its inital experience. I will say that I enjoy the 85 cluizel, mostly because i am still new and haven’t tasted many others but now that I am tasting more, I am slowly realizing the lack of its depth. Going to try the Jacques Torres today, 60 house blend and 72 ghana, we’ll see how that goes[:p]
March 17, 2005
Have to say that I’m still on the quest to find good 85%. Why it turns out to be such a trying strengh to get right?
Plainly speaking – Have to agree with Monte that Cluizel’s has too diluted taste for me, drowning in deodorized (testeless) butter. Guess it’s better then exess of sugar in Marcolini’s, though. Lindt got the strengh right, but starts,imho, with cocoa beans initially appalling. After eating it sides of my toungue start to burn and loose sensitivity, like after nothing else. What do they do to beans?
You’ve probably see by now how frustrated i feel about this potentially most ballanced food group.
Come to think of it, the closest to being a good one is Pralus Fortissimo, even at 80% and quite roasted habit.
Very curious what Alex would’ve said now.
August 1, 2006
November 19, 2004
Gotta say no to Lindt 85%. I’ll eat it if nothing else is available, but it is so, SO tart, all I taste is lime and red fruit and I never really feel like I’m eating chocolate. I know what ellie is talking about with that tongue burning sensation – eek! Cote d’Or 85% is quite similar to Lindt 85% in my opinion, though it’s a little sweeter and much less intense (no tongue curling here). Valrhona 85% is a huge disappointment, as are the Dagoba 87% bar and especially the Plantation 90% (I still need to try the 05 batch, the bar I had was a nearly inedible 04).
I really like the Cluizel 85% (though it can be a little dry and bitter) and I’m a big fan of Dolfin 88% as well (though the flavor isn’t as interesting as others, it’s very chocolate-y and great to munch on). I think this Galler bar is my favorite so far – however, the search continues (of course!). Marcolini is next – just have to get over to the NY shop! Also eager to taste the Pralus 80% and Castelain 85%.
August 1, 2006
Tart, eh? Can’t say I experienced it as harshly or intensely as you did. Perhaps I am just acclimated to such a sensation that I can simply taste past it and focus on the flavor and other characteristics. It’s important to give a chocolate multiple tastings in order to fully appreciate it and to see if initial impressions can be changed according to experience.
I recently tried Dagoba’s Eclipse 87%, but unfortunately it was one year past expiration and most likely stored in less-than-ideal conditions. Needless to say, Dagoba doesn’t “age” well (whereas Domori does), so the bar ended up flat and flavorless. I need to acquire another for a review because I remember it being very decent when I first encountered it.
Keep in mind that Plantations’ more recent batches still do not reach the level of sophistication of other companies, but in contrast to their first runs, these shine like the North Star in a pitch black sky. Actually, on their own – in isolation – they’re really good and are quite unique in their own respect, and after finishing one bar of each percentage, I found myself wanting another. Good job Plantations! I still have yet to try the new versions of the 38% milk bar, though, but I hope it’s still near the level of excellence as it had been previously.
Glad to see that consensus has been reached regarding Valrhona’s 85%. A total disaster, imo. I have an Endangered Species Panther bar (88%) here, which still awaits a trial, but judging from the failure of the Butterfly bar (70%), I am not looking forward to the tasting.
March 17, 2005
Rather strange, i’m staring at the Dolfin 88% wrapper and can not remember it, neither where I got it from, nor how it tasted. No notes as well. Know the feeling, or it’s just me? – haven’t happened before, though.
Can not easily access here Dofin or Castalain. Curious about improving Plantations. Dagoba’s so-so for me, and I wonder, have you noticed, how lightweight their bars are? They have a slight whipped feel in the mouth, like some stuff from my childhood, which was actually airated.
And talking of multiple tastings, have to say, that with a big grunge I do eat a lot of Lindt85%, most of the times retempering it with equal amount of something better at hand.
Monte, may you’ve got better Lindt over there, by some big industrial miracle?
August 1, 2006
Ellie, I think maybe my Lindt 85% bars underwent some Willie Wonka magic when they were re-distributed in the states (New Hampshire). According to the wrapper, the chocolate was manufactured in France. This is also true of the 70% box I received from Europe, but distribution was conferred to Switzerland.
At any rate, I think the discrepencies among opinions here is more psychological rather than physical since I admittedly tasted some of the same things you guys claimed to as well. There were some brief moments of harshness every once in a while but certainly nothing so disconcerting as to ruin the whole experience. Also, there was definitely a “raw” edge there too, perhaps a degree of indfferent fermentation, which I actually mentioned in my review, but again, it’s nothing alarming. This is practically Domori’s signature flavor anyway, so there’s no big deal.
Dagoba’s bars are 2oz, which is about 56.7g, so they’re quite smaller and lighter than most “average” sized bars anyway. Texture depends upon bar, but generally, they’re not the greatest in that department across the line.
January 3, 2006
I would have to say the 85 Lindt I have is a bit bitter after the initial taste but the flavor itself is much more interesting than cluziel. It seems to me that the 85 Cluziel is just a one note player where the flavor doesn’t move on. Lindt 85 is less chalky and has a stronger chocolate taste that ends decently creamy for an 85. I have ordered the 85 Castletain but am not sure what to expect. How does it compare to the Lindt and Cluziel.
August 1, 2006
Cluizel’s 85% basically dies on the tongue, yeah. It starts off with a good flavor, but unfortunately, you’re left in anticipation, expecting something more to prevent it from going flat. It just idles there, doing nothing and so you’re left empty. My last Castelain 85% was intensely chocolaty, with coffee and spice dominating. Very round and full-bodied, not at all flat or overly bitter either. Keep in mind too that the higher the percentage, the creamier a chocolate will be since, after all, you’re tasting more and more cocoa butter and less granular sugar.
February 14, 2006
I did not realize that this had been discussed on a separate thread. Though, it is difficult to account for every thread at any given time. Anyway, I suppose my criticism of Lindt should be placed here.
I read every single review on this site. I have used the reviews as a guide in developing and training my own tastes for the past year and a half. Now, I can no way pretend that my palate is as developed as yours, but I can say this: Let’s say Hershey’s decides to release what they believe is a fine bar of dark chocolate. Let us imagine them releasing it as ‘new and improved’ dark chocolate, somewhere in the range of 70% To be fair, let us say that they do not use vanillin, thereby making it a candidate for review.
Now, say you come to taste this bar and like it, I mean really really like it (since as you say, you admire a company overcoming challenges). You are now left with a dilemma: do you rate this bar among the elites of Valrhona, Amedei, Domori, etc?
Let us also bear in mind that there are parallels between Lindt and Hershey’s. Both are factory giants, without skilled artisans like Cecilia Tessieri from say Amedei or a “cultish” attitude from the likes of Domori. Hershey’s and Lindt are mass producers. Lindt and Hershey’s know little about fine cocoa in the way Domori understands it…. In the way you understand it.
If we rate the bars of Lindt and Hershey’s second to Alessio’s legendary Chuao, what are we saying?
I guess this is more of a philosophical disagreement if anything.
August 1, 2006
I have trouble agreeing with you. I fail to see the correlation you make where good quality chocolate must be produced by smaller companies and the “bad” chocolate is left for the larger scale industrial giants. True, this is actually the way it is, but why is it so surprising to see these larger companies finally producing something of excellent quality? If they can do a good job, then why would you want to deny them their hardwork? You shouldn’t allow names and size of a company to influence your opinion; if it’s a good chocolate, it’s a good chocolate.
Are you familiar with Guittard? They’re a huge company, larger than you may realize, and they produce some pretty lousy chocolate. Otoh, they also produce magnificent chocolate, so is it unfair to discredit that? Same with Ghirardelli. Their new 60% formulation is really good, but a lot of their other products aren’t. Is it then fair to dishonor it just because they have an association with large scale production of inferior chocolate? I don’t think past associations and current production practices relate to the fact that somebody in these companies has been doing their homework, and as a result, produced some mighty fine chocolate. And according to what you’re saying, is Scharffen Berger automatically bad chocolate since they were bought by Hershey’s?
Besides, not every single chocolate a company such as Amedei makes is going to be fantastic. That name “Amedei” and their smaller scale production does not automatically ensure that EVERY chocolate they produce will be superior. These guys are also more prone to batch variability, which if you’ve noticed with Domori, is something that plagues them to no end. I for one grow tired of highly unpredictable bars, but unfortunately, that’s the nature of the crop. In other words, you take the good with the bad.
These reviews include a number scale, so people can get a grasp of how exactly these chocolates fare in each department. Then, detailed descriptions are provided, both objective and subjective, so that each chocolate can be explained in the fullest detail according to reviewer. But as they stand, these are just numbers, and just because a certain chocolate receives a 9.2 and another earns a 9.1, that doesn’t mean the former is necessarily better than the latter. There could be some slight imperfection, such as texture or appearance, that skewed the numbers, in which case, mention would have been made in the review.
Oddly enough, Hershey’s has produced a dark chocolate bar that I do find in good favor. It’s 60%, though, but it’s strong for its class, and although I wouldn’t say it’s better than Amedei’s Chuao, on an objective field, it’s really good. A number that reaches the same rating as Chuao doesn’t mean it’s AS good, but it means that the flavor and overall impression were very well received. I have a grading scale that I use to rate a chocolate, based on various degrees of like and dislike. It’s a hedonistic system, granted, but it does the job perfectly. For example, if a chocolate receives an 8 in one department, that means “I would eat it very often and that I like it very much,” as opposed to receiving a 7, which means that “I would frequently eat this and that I like it moderately.” So, therefore, it is not uncommon for two chocolates to receive the same number, regardless of manufacturer, origin, bean type, etc.
February 14, 2006
I respect what you are saying, but must disagree rating a chocolate purely based on hedonism. I mean, is chocolate only about pleasure? I mean sure that is a huge part of it. But does not one feel somewhat sentimental when considering the love and passion companies like Amedei and Domori put into their chocolate?
When I think of chocolates produced by Lindt, Hersheys, and other mega-factories, I also think of the faceless people in business suits who produce the chocolate for pure consumer reasons. If you were to ask most employees at a Hersheys factory where they sourced their beans from, you would probably receive a reply like, “what’s a source?”
However, from what I know of Valrhona’s operations, most employees are quite knowledgeable of what they produce and might carry a conversation with you. I read this in Chocolate: A Bittersweet Saga of Dark and Light by Mort Rosenblum. The book is reliable, as Mort’s educator and guide was Chloe Doutre-Roussel.
I think chocolate is also about connecting oneself to the artisan(s) and his/her/their philosophy of chocolate. Does Hershey have a respectable philosophy regarding chocolate? If not, the best way to respect companies like this is to not eat their chocolate at all. If companies like Hershey do not take my passion of chocolate seriously, how can I take their chocolates seriously? Mass production and chocolate seem to be contradictions of one another.
Anyone else feel the way I do?
January 10, 2006
Eshra asked: “Anyone else feel the way I do?”
Yes, I agree that there is much more to the experience of enjoying chocolate than just the sensory experience of taste, smell, and appearance. However, I think that non-sensory factors are totally irrelevant to a sensory assessment. And the reviews on seventypercent are, essentially, just sensory assessments.
For example, I will go out of my way to support and encourage makers of organic and fair trade products, because to me the social responsibility aspect is as important as flavour.
But you know what? I don’t want food reviewers to start telling me which chocolates are socially responsible, or which companies are “acceptably” small, or, pity help us, which manufacturers inject enough “soul” into their chocolate.
On the contrary, I want consumers to be well-informed, and able to make these important and highly subjective decisions for themselves!
I derive real value (and entertainment) from reading seventypercent reviews by people with sophisticated palates. But I don’t think it’s appropriate for food reviewers to become arbiters of corporate goodness (whatever “goodness” may be).
I think what you’re suggesting, Eshra, is an entirely different reviewing system – and one that food reviewers simply aren’t qualified to implement.
August 1, 2006
Well put, ox choc. The reviews here merely reflect sensory attributes of the chocolates and do not take into account social and moral obligations each company might impose onto you through organic or fair trade (capital F and T, eh?) labeling. I’m not going to tell you that you should buy Chocolate A just because it’s organic or because the farmers received 20x the value of the finest Porcelana beans (!!!). I leave that decision up to the reader. You can read the reviews and formulate your own judgments about the chocolate because you have your own preferences, experiences, and expectations that will no doubt reflect your final opinions. No one said you had to agree. This isn’t a choco-evangelist site with a “holier than thine chocolate” attitude. If that were the case, most organic bars would dominate the top 10.
The point of the reviews is to provide detailed analyses so that consumers know exactly what to expect from any given chocolate. This is, of course, meant to reflect an objective point of view, one that doesn’t consider ethical practices or personal sentiments regarding industrial vs. small scale work values, modes of production, or knowledge of the employees. So what if most of Hershey’s employees don’t know what all the technicalities of the chocolate industry. Do you think that every hired hand at a chocolate plant (such as El Rey) knows that too? Try asking one of the production line assistants there what varietal or terroir means.
Also, when writing the review for Lindt Excellence 85%, I knew it could potentially cause some unsettlement among the readers, but I also felt that the excellence Lindt achieved with this bar should not go unnoticed and overlooked, which unfortunately, is still the case even after the rightful recognition it has attained here. This is why the reviews are as detailed as they are; to provide reasons WHY each chocolate received the rating they did. And if you happen to disagree with it, fine. You have your reasons, even if they are personal and unrelated to the actual quality of the product.
July 4, 2006
I have only just begun tasting artisan chocolate, so I admit upfront that my experience is limited.
BUT, how in the world can you mention the Hershey 60% in the same sentence as Amedei? Are you suggesting that in a blind test, you wouldn’t immediately reject the Hershey? I wouldn’t feed it to someone unless it was just to show a most obvious contrast between real chocolate and a fake (and I live in PA!). Even a glance at the ingredients tells the story.
The Hershey 60% is a marketing gimmick attempting to prey on those who stumble across a “healthy dark chocolate” article. This is wrong and this site should serve the public by pointing out the truth. On a 10 scale, this is a 2 or worse. It is a fraud.
I shutter to think what you think of the Hershey “Special”, a “dark” chocolate that is the chief reason why Americans don’t know what chocolate even tastes like.
I’m hopeful that the ranking scale on this site can improve. A 9 is better than an 8. Period. Same with wine or cinema. It doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t like the 8. But a 2, 3 or 4, if liked, shows ignorance. Most in the US are raised on candy. But if we stick to, say, Valrhona, for several weeks straight, the candy will then be rejected.
February 14, 2006
I tend to agree with you in principle. There are several brands of chocolate out in the states that are attempting to ride on the coat-tails of finer chocolate’s success. Hershey is, of course, one of them. But another brand, Choxie, is attempting to market itself as a type of ‘new wave’ chocolate. Dove chocolate is trying to propogate an image of perfect chocolate, as well.
Many people who have debated with me here know my reservations of even considering Hershey’s chocolate up for review. It is a fact that they work with inferior, fumigated, rotted, cocoa “beans”. Giving Hershey chocolate any notice whatsoever only throws a wrench into the revolutionary progress chocolate is making.
The aim of the website ought to be to help foster the development of fine chocolate, not set it back by eating (and liking) inferior confections of mass production.
Reviewing Hershey’s chocolate on this website is like an expert on Burgundy wine all of a sudden saying how Franzia wine is great or saying wine coolers are the way to go.
Don’t do it. Looks bad.