By Benjamin Skipper
While Endangered Species may be my favorite brand, Dagoba has become quite the runner-up in my interests. Their product line is so refreshingly inconsistent, with its various offerings differing in hues, aromas, cacao flavor profiles, and textures. Most other chocolate companies are fairly consistent otherwise, such as in what nature their cocoa takes on regardless of any flavor infusions, so this company comes off to me as a grab bag of surprises. My intrigue continued as I tasted Dagoba's 87% cacao Eclipse dark chocolate, their darkest stand-alone offering.
It's not very complex, but it pleases me with its near pure strength. The aroma is extremely floral with strong touches of sweet cacao and spice, but the flavor profile doesn't follow as it's about as pure chocolate as chocolate can get, though mildly fruity, from start to finish with hardly a trace of anything else. It's slightly bitter, but its own mildness almost comes off as a savoriness. Unlike most bars I've tasted there's no vanilla extract or bean scrapings, so obviously there's no notes from that. It has an okay melt, in a lumpy fashion as if you've put chocolate chips in your mouth.
The appearance of the bar itself is very dark with a healthy snap and smooth inward gradient, but it's shine is dull, there are light steaks on the back, and it appears "dusty." Minus points on aesthetics. Nonetheless it is still an enjoyable bar, especially since the cacao dominates the show with only mild assistance from fruit. At this level of darkness and given my breadth of a taste memory, I'd have to say this may be the best chocolate bar for a pure chocolate experience. I still have yet to form an opinion on a 99% variety of course, but that will come soon enough.
Though how does it stand up to its competitors? To date I've reviewed Endangered Species' 88%, Lindt's 90% (omitting the 85%), Chocolove's XOXOX (77%), Green & Black's 85%, and Ghirardelli's 86% Midnight Reverie. Chocolove I view to be an overall terrible producer, as their 77% bar is way too mild, ugly, and has a horrendous mouthfeel, so I'd dismiss them off the bat. G&B and Lindt's both have strong vanilla attributes and a fantastic mouthfeel, only I think G&B's is much more potent and higher quality, as the chocolate tastes stronger and the mouthfeel is heavenly, so I'd take that over Lindt. Endangered Species' is straight chocolaty like Dagoba, but its own bitterness is a littler stronger and not to my liking, so I'd discount that as well.
In truth, I'd actually pick three as all good in their own right: G&B's, Ghirardelli, and Dagoba. They all have different flavor profiles with different emphases, so there's reason to choose between them depending on your preferences. If you like vanilla and a beyond smooth mouthfeel, then go with G&B's; if you like the smokiness of roasted cocao and tart fruit, then choose Ghirardelli; if you want straight up chocolate with few other complexities and have it in the 80% percentile darkness threshold, then go with Dagoba. I myself will be enjoying all three, though enjoy G&B's the most.
In summary, Dagoba continues to please me. I love how significantly different all their bars are and how the packages come in a rainbow assortment, stimulating both the eyes and intellect. They will absolutely continue to be on my watch list. I recommend this variety.