Michel Cluizel is probably my favorite maker of chocolate. The French chocolatier's dark chocolate bars have a richness and smoothness that is really amazing and hard to beat.
Of late, Cluizel has introduced a group of single-origin bars. Often, I like blended origin bars better than single origin, though I really enjoyed the Amedei and DeVries bars I've reviewed here. In general, blended bars seem to have more balance and smoothness than single origin bars. If anyone could make me appreciate single origins, though, it would be Michel Cluizel. On a recent trip to Surfas, I picked up a $10 single origin sample pack, which included 16 little 2.8 oz. bars representing all five of different lines of single origins.
It's amazing how different these chocolates taste. All of them contain the same simple ingredients (cacao, sugar, cocoa butter and vanilla), but the difference in flavor demonstrates that origin matters.
Los Ancones, Dominican Republic, 67% Cacao
Los Ancones is one of Cluizel's most heralded chocolates and probably my favorite of this very good bunch. The chocolate is dark and edgy, with some strong flavors like olive and salt (in a good way). The finish is silky smooth and exhibits the deep darkness that I've come to expect from Dominican chocolate.
Concepcion, Venezuela, 66% Cacao
Venezuelan chocolate is some of the most sought after in the world. This is a very fruity and aromatic chocolate. The flavor is bright and so full of fruit, it almost makes you wonder if it has added fruit (which it does not).
Vila Gracinda, Sao Tome, 67% Cacao
The island of Sao Tome, situated near the equator off the west coast of central Africa, was one of the first places in Africa to grow cacao. The Vila Gracinda was smooth and balanced, similar to a blend but not quite as distinctive as the other bars reviewed here.
Mangaro, Madagascar, 65% Cacao
They call this chocolate Mangaro because the plantation sits on land previously occupied by mango trees. Despite the mango connection, the biggest flavor I get from this is a strong coffee bean taste, with some fruit as well.
Maralumi, Papua New Guinea, 64% Cacao
Maralumi is another fruit monster, strong tastes of raisins and dried fruit turning to port or sweet red wine.
As I noted above, the Dominican Los Ancones was my favorite of the bunch, but none of these were slackers. Michel Cluizel chocolates are available at Surfas or on-line at Chocosphere.com.