THE HERSHEY'S MILK CHOCOLATE VINTAGE PAGE (A record of how different vintages of Hershey's milk chocolate compare.)
Although the term "vintage" is most commonly applied to wines to identify good and bad years, types, and labels; it is also applicable to Hershey's milk chocolate. In this latter case the vintage refers not to the year in which the chocolate was produced but to a particular production batch, many of which occur each year. Why should you care? Because if you eat a lot of Hershey's you need to know that production quality varies enormously from batch to batch. Some taste good and while others are vile. This page will help you avoid the bad batches and focus on the good ones.
Look at the back of any Hershey's product and you will see a production code stamped on it that looks like this:
I called the Hershey's Product Information number (1-800-468-1714) and asked them what the numbers meant. I was told the "5K" refers to the shelf life of the product. In this case the "5" denoted 2005 and the "K" the 11th month. So, this bag of Hershey's (purchased in September of 2004) should be good until November of 2005. I was also told that the other numbers related to the production run for that particular bag of chocolates and the person I was speaking to couldn't, or wasn't allowed to, read to me what they meant.
What I've learned on my own from comparing Hershey's chocolates over the years is that the quality varies from batch to batch. That's the bad news. The good news is that within a particular batch or production run the chocolate is all the same quality. In the case of the production run associated with the batch indicated in the picture above, it wasn't too bad: coarse, grainy (like all Hershey's standard milk chocolates, a little sweet, but a pure uncluttered chocolate flavor. The biggest downside to this batch was that the aftertaste was slightly sour. I've tasted some production runs that were down right vile. The "55" that came out during the summer of 2004 was some of the worst chocolate I've ever tasted: bitter, burnt, and sharp with a disgustingly sour aftertaste.
Once I'd noticed that all of the chocolate within a production run, what I'm choosing to call a "vintage," was of the same quality, it occurred to me that I could put together a vintage page which people could use as a reference to see which vintages were worth purchasing and which were best to avoid. This is that page.
I never judge a vintage by its fist impression. How good a chocolate tastes is strongly influenced by lingering tastes that remain on the palate from the last food eaten. I always wait at least to the third sample with nothing else eaten between to decide on what verdict to give a chocolate.
The list below presents my evaluation of all the Hershey production runs I sample. I plan to look for as many vintages as I can find, evaluate them, and add them to the list. I sincerely hope you find it useful.
34 vintage (available early 2004): Pedestrian. A little bitter with a sour after
46 vintage (available early 2004): Sharper than the 34. Avoid at all costs!
55 vintage (available summer 2004): Harsh burnt flavor. Terrible. Avoid!
61 vintage (available Fall 2004): Sharp chemical note but better than 55.
65 vintage (available Fall 2004): Okay, but still a little sharp
67 vintage (available Fall 2004): Good, but a slightly sour aftertaste.
71 vintage (Available late December, 2004): Better than the 67, smoother and less sour, maybe slightly sweeter. Very good.
74 vintage (Available early February, 2005): Slightly harsher than the 71.
vintage (Available late March, 2005): About the same as the 74 vintage.
.................Maybe a little sweeter.
80 vintage (Available early May, 2005): Much harsher than the 71, 74 and 77 .vintages. This is not a good chocolate in my opinion.
81 vintage (Available late May, 2005): Very harsh, though perhaps not quite as bad as 80.
85 vintage (Available late August, 2005): Not bad, between the 71 and 74 in quality. It seemed a little smoother than most Hershey's.
86 vintage (Available early October, 2005): Slightly grittier and sweeter than usual. Not as good as 85 but still much better than 80 or 81. Ends a little harsh.
89 vintage (Available late October, 2005, as 1/2-pound bars): Slightly smoother and sweeter than the 85 and less harsh. This is one of the best Hershey's I've tasted in a long time, perhaps even better than the 71. Very good.
88 vintage (Available in November, 2005): I've done repeated side-by-side comparisons of the 89 and 88 (oddly available in nuggets after the 89 was available in 1/2-pound bars) and have to admit that they are so close it's hard to tell the difference. I believe the 88 is very slightly better: smoother, sweeter and less harsh. Both are very good.
SUPERB! 91 vintage (Available November, 2005): Outstanding! The best Hersheys I've ever had. A perfect balance of sweet and chocolate. Extremely smooth for Hersheys. I bought 10 pounds of this superior chocolate and plan on rationing it as long a possible. (Update... it only lasted two weeks.)
92 vintage (Available in late November, 2005, in 1/2-pound bars): Very good. Maybe slightly harsher than the great 91 vintage but still well worth the price. I have a difficult time telling them apart.
93 vintage (Available in early December, 2005, in 1/2-pound bars): Harsh. Not a very good vintage.
96 vintage (Available in late December, 2005, in 1/2-pound bars): Harsh, but I don't think it's as bad as the 93.
ONE OF THE GREATEST!!! 98 vintage (Available late January, 2006 in Walmart in 1/2-pound bars): Excellent! Perhaps the best I've ever tasted from Hersheys. The flavor is mild, slightly sweeter than usual, and the texture a little smoother than average. In a side-by-side comparison to the good 88 vintage, the 98 was the clear winner. I believe this vintage even better than the legendary 91.
12 vintage (Available early March, 2006 in Walmart, in 1/2-pound bars) Clearly inferior to the great 98 vintage. The 12 is grittier, harsher and hints at a sour note.
97 vintage (Available in mid-March as Nuggets) I was doubtful that one digit could make much difference in flavor but I was wrong. Repeated side-by-side taste tests of the 98 vintage (1/2-pound bars) and the 97 vintage (nuggets) has convinced me that the 98 is sweeter, smoother and less harsh than the 97. The 97 is average for Hershey's: okay if you really need chocolate but nothing to rave about. The 98 continues to be the reigning king flavor-wise.
13 vintage (Available late May of 2006) Slightly better than the 12 vintage but still a little harsh.
15 vintage (Available late June of 2006 in 1/2-pound bars) Harsh, with a sour after taste.
16 vintage (Available late June of 2006 as Nuggets) Similar to the 15 vintage but grittier.
17 vintage: (Available in 1/2-pound bars in August, 2006 in Walmart) Gritty, with a sour aftertaste.
21 vintage: (Available early July, 2006 as 5-ounce bars in Ralphs and small bars in many stores.) Very good, almost as good as the great 98. The 21 is very smooth, for Hershey's, with just enough edge to let you know you're eating chocolate. It's slightly harsher than the 98, but not by much.
22 vintage: (Available early Sept, 2006) Too sweet with a harsh after taste.
(A side-by-side taste test between the 21 and 22 vintages again confirmed that there can be obvious differences between vintages even when they are separated by only one number.)
23 vintage: (Available Sept, 2006) Better than 22 but still a little harsh.
24 vintage: (Available early Sept, 2006) Another improvement, almost good.
25 vintage: (Available early Oct, 2006) Bad, very harsh and sour.
26 vintage: (Available late Oct, 2006) Not as bad but it still had a harsh after taste.
21 vintage: (Retest - I found a single bar late in October and used it against the 25 and 26. It stills rates as one of the best vintages: sweet and mellow with a smooth after taste.)
27 vintage: (Available November,2006) Sweeter, but with a harsh aftertaste.
28 vintage: (Available November, 2006) Smoother texture than normal with an initial mellow flavor. Unfortunately this vintage has a sour finish ruining what would have otherwise been a great chocolate.
(Note: By December the very good 21 vintage had disappeared. Then I discovered several six-packs of small bars from this vintage. Because the six-packs sell more slowly than individual bars they remain on the shelf longer. In this way a good vintage may be available a long time if it's released in multi-packs.)
30 vintage: (Available December, 2006) Grittier and harsher than most vintages. I recommend avoiding this one.
31 vintage: (Available late December, 2006, in 1/2-pound bars in Wal-mart) A slightly bitter edge.
ONE OF THE BEST! 33 vintage: (Available late December, 2006, as 1/2-pound bars in Smart and Final grocery warehouse stores.) Outstanding! I found this vintage to be slightly less harsh, if that's possible, and mellower than the excellent 21 vintage in side-by-side taste comparisons. This isn't just good Hershey's, this is excellent chocolate by almost any standards. It's also slightly less gritty than most Hersheys. I'm willing to go out on a limb and proclaim that this vintage might be as good as, or even better, than the legiondary 91. (If supply patterns hold this vintage should start showing up in Wal-mart in early 2007.)
The 33 vintage showed up as 1/2-pound bars in Walmart in late February, 2007. It also showed up as Nuggets, but to my surprise the Nuggets tasted much harsher in repeated side-by-side comparisons. This was disappointing because I prefer the nugget form. I have no explanation for why the quality between the two forms should be different, except that the cooling rates between the two shapes might be different.
ONE OF THE GREATEST!!! 35 vintage: (Available in King Size bars in Stator Brothers stores in early April, 2007.) So close to the 33 that repeated side-by-side taste tests fail to seperate them. I think the 35 might be a little milder and sweeter.
36 vintage: (Available as 1/2-pound bars in Walmart in late June, 2007.) Harsh with a bitter/sour aftertaste.
39 vintage: (Available in Albertson's stores in early April, 2007.) Very harsh with a long lasting vile aftertaste.
40 vintage: (Available in Albertson's stores in early July, 2007.) A little sour with a bitter aftertaste.
54 vintage: (Available as small bars in Albertsons in April, 2007) a little sour but I've tasted worse.
55 vintage: (Available as small bars in Walmart in April, 2007) Sharp and sour. This is one to avoid.
All of the following vintages were purchased in late August, 2007
19 vintage: Nuggets, harsh and gritty with a smokey note. (I don't know if this is a new 19 or a very old 19 from a previous year.)
30 vintage: 2.6-ounce king size bar. Very good but not quite up to the greats like 98 or 35.
36 vintage: A little harsher than 30.
37 vintage: Smooth and initially good but the aftertaste burns a little.
42 vintage: Okay, but the finish is a little sharp.
43 vintage: Not bad and has a hint of caramel. 30 is better.
45 vintage: Sweet, with a faint hint of aromatic fruitiness. Very interesting.
53 vintage: Edgy with a slight coffee overtone. Something about it made me think of bittersweet chocolate.
of August vintages
38 vintage: Late September, 2007, (Nuggets) Harsh.
46 vintage: Slightly better than the 30 vintage. Not as good as the legendary 91 but still quite nice. Available in 5-ounce bars in Albertsons in late Septemebr, 2007.
44 vintage: (Available as 1.55-ounce bars in Albertsons in early October, 2007) Very good, perhaps almost as good as the recent 35. However, the after taste has a slight edge to it.
47 vintage: (Available as 1/2-pound bars in Walmart in early August, 2007.) Excellent. Better than the 44 vintage. The aftertaste is particularly mild. It does have a very slight edge to it but you have to pay close attention to catch it. This may not be great chocolate on an absolute level but it's outstanding for Hershey's, though still not quite up with the greats like 91, 21 and the best-of-all 98 vintage of 2006. (I sure wish I'd stock piled a ton of that vintage.)
50 vintage: (Available as 1/2-pound bars in Walmart in late August, 2007.) Good. A little harsher than the 47 vintage but better than 70-percent of Hershey's offerings.
55 vintage: (Available as 1/2-pound bars in Walmart in mid December, 2007.) Harsher than the 50 vintage. (I suspect this may be a second release of the 55 available earlier in the year.)
56 vintage: (Available late December, 2006, in 1/2-pound bars in Wal-mart) Sour.
60 vintage: (Available as 1/2-pound bars in Walmart in late February, 2008.) Harsh.
61 vintage: (Available as small bars in Albertson's in April, 2008.) Harsher than the 60 vintage with a sour aftertaste. This vintage was almost as foul as the infamous 39 vintage of 2007.
63 vintage: (Available as 5-ounce bars in RiteAid in late March, 2008.) Smoother and sweeter than usual but a little too sour to recommend. Still, it's better than most Hershey's.
64 vintage: (Available as 5-ounce bars in Stator Bros' in May, 2008.) Just a slight harshness prevents this from being a great vintage. Much better than average and a good one to try.
vintage: (Available as 5-ounce bars in Stator Bros' in June, 2008.)
Maybe a little too sweet, which gives it a slight sharpness but still
64 and 65 vintage comparison: I managed to obtain 5-ounce bars of both the 64 and 65 vintages for a side-by-side comparison. The 64 was the clear winner because it wasn't as harsh, was smoother, had a richer chocolate flavor and milder after taste. I also tested a 64 in a 5-ounce bar and it was sharper than the 1/2-pound bar.
66 vintage: (Available as 1/2-pound bars in Walmart in late June, 2008.) Slightly edgier than the 64 vintage but better than the 65.
67 vintage: (Available as 1/2-pound bars in Walmart in early July, 2008.) A little harsh but better than average.
69 vintage: (Available as 5-ounce bars in Rite-Aid in mid-August, 2008.) Good. Better than the 64 in 5-ounce bars but not as good as the 64 in 1/2-pound bars. (Proof that size matters.)
70 vintage: (Available as 1/2-pound bars in Walmart in late July, 2008.) Texture-wise this is the smoothest Hershey's I've ever tried. Unfortunately it's flavor leaves much to be desired. It had a nasty edge to it and a sour aftertaste.
71 vintage: (Available as 1/2-pound bars in Walmart in mid-August, 2008.) Extremely sour.
72 vintage: (Available as 1/2-pound bars in Walmart in mid-August, 2008.) Edgy, leaves a bitter after taste.
73 vintage: (Available as 1/2-pound bars in Walmart in mid-August, 2008.) Slightly harsh in the after taste but considerably better than the average Hershey's. Note: I had several of these bars over the last month and have decided to upgrade the 73 vintage to "very good." It may even be better than the 64.
75 vintage: (Available as 1/2-pound bars in Walmart in mid-September, 2008.) This was a very strange vintage. While the initial flavor was very harsh the aftertaste was mild. I have no explanation for this odd combination. Usually the aftertaste is worse than the initial taste.
76 vintage: (Available as 1/2-pound bars in Walmart in early-November, 2008.) Intital taste is very good but ruined by a very sour aftertaste.
78 vintage: (Available as giant bars in Walmart in mid-November, 2008.) This was similar to the 75 vintage in that the aftertaste was mild while the intitial taste was harsh. I think what may be happening is that the intital flavor deadens taste buds on the tongue so much that the flavor of the aftertaste is muted.
79 vintage: (Available as giant bars in Walmart in mid-December, 2008.) Good but not great. I'd rank this one as inferior to the 73 vintage but better than the 76 and 78 vintages.
Important note: I recently discovered that the large bars of Hershey's sold as "1/2-pound" bars have be downsized to 7-ouncers. The bars no longer claim to be 1/2-pound but in all other respects are identical in packaging to the originals. I do not know when this change took place, if it was really a downsize or if Wal-mart just switched from the larger to the smaller size.
vintage: (Available as giant bars mid-December, 2008.) Burnt notes
ruin this vintage.
80 vintage: (Available as giant bars in Wal-mart in mid-January, 2009.) This is the sweetest Hershey's I've ever tasted. All that sweetness made it a little edgy but that didn't stop me from finishing the entire bar. I'd rate this vintage as tolerable, but not really all that good.
vintage: (Available as giant bars in Wal-mart in mid-March, 2009.)
Doesn't start off too bad but ends with a bitter after taste.
83 vintage: (Available in Target in mid-March, 2009.) This vintage is a little sweet and has a hint of maltiness or milkiness. The aftertaste doesn't sour so I'm rating this a better than average.
vintage: (Available in Stator Bros. in mid-May, 2009, as 4.4-ounce
bars.) This was an odd one. The chocolate was definitely harsh, yet I
thoroughly enjoyed it. It may be that having my taste buds assaulted
by the lamentable 84 vintage made them receptive to any improvement.
I'd rate it better than 84 but not as good as 83.
vintage: (Available in Stator Bros. early June, 2009, as 4.4-ounce
bars.) Too sharp to recommend. Slightly worse than the 87 vintage.
vintage: (Available in Stator Bros. in mid-June, 2009, as giant
bars.) Harsh. I rate this vintage as worse than the 87 but better
than the 90.
vintage: (Available in CVS Pharmacy early August, 2009, as 4.4-ounce
bars.) Average chocolate flavor follwed by a burning aftertaste.
93 vintage: (Available in Stator Bros. late July, 2009, as 4.4-ounce bars.) Strong malty note with a harsh aftertaste.
95 vintage: (Available in Walmart in early August, 2009, as giant bars.) Very sour with a sharp after taste.
96 vintage: (Available in Walmart in late August, 2009, as giant bars.) Lingering, bitter after taste.
97 vintage: (Available in Walmart in early September, 2009, as giant bars.) Initially okay but it ends harshly.
98 vintage: (Available in Walmart in mid October, 2009, as giant bars.) Sharp notes spoil this one.
1 vintage: (Available in Walmart in early November, 2009, as giant bars.) Starts off pretty good but the after taste is too harsh. I'd hoped the first of the new series would better after so many of the 80s and 90s were bad.
11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 vintages: (Available in Walmart in from November, 2009, March, 2010.) All of these vintages were equally bad with obvious harsh flavors and bitter after tastes. The 19 was particularly vile while 18 was the best. They're grouped together to save space.
I must confess that I'm loosing hope of there ever being a good vintage again. It's been a year and a half since the last acceptable vintage (#73) and a full three years since we've had a really outstanding vintage (the great #98 of 2006.)
20 vintage: (Available in Stator Bros markets and Walmart mid-March, 2010, as 4.4-ounce bars) Not great but slightly smoother, sweeter and less harsh than the the last 19 vintages so it might be worth giving it a try. The aftertaste is a little too sharp to earn it a whole-hearted endorsement.
21 vintage: (Available early April, 2010 in Wal-mart) Very harsh.
23 and 24 vintages (Available in Walmart early May) Both were sharp with a sour aftertaste.
25 vintage (Available in Walmart late May) Very good. The aftertaste is slightly milder than the 20 vintage, still too harsh to rate this as a great vintage but it's the best I've tasted in quite awhile.
26 vintage (Available in Walmart late May) Very good. This vintage starts out a little sweeter than usual but also a little more bitter. The aftertaste was so harsh I had to brush my teeth to get rid of it.
OUTSTANDING! 28 vintage (Available in Walmart early July as 4.4-ounce bars) Excellent! Almost certainly the best in over a year. It's smooth, just sweet enough and has a solid chocolate flavor. The after taste is just the slightest bit edgy, but you really have to concentrate to detect it. It's better than March's 20 vintage and may be as good as to 2006 33 vintage. This is one I'm going to stock up on to use as a standard for future comparisons.
29 vintage (Available in Alberton's late May as 4.4-ounce bars) Very good but it has a slightly sour note and isn't as smooth as the outstanding 28 vintage.
30 vintage (Available in Walmart late August, 2010, as 4.4-ounce bars) As good as the 28 vintage yet different. The 28's main fault is that it is just a little harsh. The 30's problem is that it's a touch on the sharp side hinting at burnt notes. Comparing both vintages is an interesting study in training a palate to detect subtle differences.
31 vintage (Available in Ralph's late October, 2010, as 4.4-ounce bars) Very odd. This bar starts off with very little chocolate flavor yet ends with a sharp, harsh after taste. Not very good.
33 vintage (Available in Walmart mid September, 2010, as 4.4-ounce bars) Almost as good as the 28 vintage, but a little harsher with a hint of a fruity note. I rate 33 as better than 30.
34 vintage (Available in Stator Bros.' late October, 2010, as GIANT bars) Excellent. It starts off with a deep rich flavor that's as good as I've ever tasted. The after taste has a slightly harsh edge to it that's only noticeable if compared to a great chocolate like the following 35 vintage. This is as good and maybe better than the recent 28 vintage.
ONE OF THE GREATEST!!! 35 vintage (Available in Albertson's in mid October, 2010, as 4.4-ounce bars) A TOP WINNER! Better than the excellent 28 vintage because it's slightly smoother and has a much better aftertaste that doesn't have any of the 28's harsh edge. I'd rate this vintage as as good as the greats of yesteryear: the impeccable 91 of 2005, the delicious 21 of 2006, the superb 35 of 2007 and perhaps even as good as the legendary 98 of 2006.
36 vintage (Available in Walmart late October, 2010, as 4.4-ounce bars) Very sharp.
After the initial test of the outstanding 35 vintage, I became concerned that I might have gotten an anomalously good single bar. To confirm it wasn't a fluke I purchased another bar from a different store. I'm happy to report it too was excellent. That's the good news...
The bad news is that it appears the 35 production run was very small. I searched through a dozen stores and only found 12 more 4.4-ounce bars in one store. Everyone else seemed to jump from the 33 to the lamentable 36 vintage. If you're lucky enough to find some 35s I highly recommend you stock up on them. There's no telling when Hershey's will turn out another vintage as good.
37 vintage (Available in Walmart mid November, 2010, as 4.4-ounce bars) Pretty good at first but the after taste is a little sharper than the great 35.
38 vintage (Available in Walmart mid November, 2010, as 4.4-ounce bars) Very sour, a good one to avoid.
40 vintage (Available in Walmart mid December, 2010, as 4.4-ounce bars) Terrible! Vile! One of the worst I've ever tasted. It starts off sour and sharp and gets worse the longer you eat it.
41 vintage (Available in Walmart through February as 4.4-ounce bars) Average Hershey's: harsh flavor with a sour aftertaste.
ANOTHER GREAT!!! 43 vintage (Available in Winco stores late February as 7-ounce bars) Excellent! Slightly better than the 28 vintage but it still has a hint of an edge that keeps it below the outstanding 35.
44 vintage (Available in Walmart in mid-March as 4.4-ounce bars) Odd initial milky note that quickly turns harsh and sour.
43 Vintage Retest: In early March I found that Winco still had a lot of 43 vintage bars so I got one and retested it. In careful side-by-side tests I now rate it as good as the superlative 35 vintage. The 35 has a little mellower aftertaste but the 43 is better during the initial taste. By any standards they are two of the best vintages Hershey's has ever produced. I went back and bought 10 bars and stored them with my stash of 35s for future taste tests.
This outstanding 43 vintage started showing up in Wal-Mart stores on the west coast in early April, 2011. It may be years before a vintage as good as this comes out again so be sure to give it a try.
45 vintage (Available in Walmart in mid-March as 4.4-ounce bars) This vintage suffers from a strong, harsh note from the very beginning that gets worse as the aftertaste develops.
46 vintage (Available in Walmart in mid-April as 4.4-ounce bars) This vintage suffers from the same weaknesses as the 45 vintage.
47 vintage (Available in Gelson's Supermarkets as 4.4-ounce bars in early May, 2011) Excellent! Better than the 28 vintage. Slightly sweeter than the 35 and 43 vintages but it develops a sharp taste after awhile that puts it just below those two great vintages.
43 UPDATE: I was still able to find some of the excellent 43 vintage in Walmart in mid-May, 2011. If you spot some of this outstanding chocolate I recommend to stock up on it.
49 vintage (Available in Walmart in mid-May as Giant bars) It starts off very good with a pleasant sweetness but the final after taste is harsh. I'd rate this as equal to the 28 vintage, good but not great.
50 vintage (Available in Walmart in late-June as Giant bars) Gritty with a harsh aftertaste.
51 vintage (Available in Walmart in mid-July as Giant bars) It starts off with an interesting milky or caramely note but quickly sours.
52 vintage (Available late-July) This is a middle-of-the-road vintage with some harsh notes.
54 vintage (Available mid-August in Albertson's as giant bars) Good, but it wasn't quite sweet enough to mellow chocolate's natural harshness.
55 vintage (Available late-August in Walmart as giant bars) Had a very sour aftertaste.
56 vintage (Available early September as 4.4-ounce bars in Smart and Final stores) Excellent! Initial comparisons suggest this may be as good as the outstanding 43, perhaps even a little milder. I'll be making additional comparisons to confirm this. If true, the timing couldn't be better because I'm at the end of the horde of 43s I built up.
58 vintage (Available early Novemeber in Walmart as giant bars) Had a very harsh initial flavor and after taste. One of the worst.
61 vintage (Available early November in Walmart as 4.4-ounce bars) Slightly better than average, but still had a sour note.
43 UPDATE: I couldn't believe my luck when I spotted a small bar of the 43 vintage in a bulk bin in Albertsons in mid November. I scrounged through it and found a total of 17 bars. This is proof that the dedicated chocolate hunter can find good vintages long after they may have thought to have disappeared.
62 vintage (Available early December in Walmart as small bars) Harsh and sharp with an hint of malt.
60 vintage (Available early December in CVS as 4.4 ounce bars) Terrible. Gratingly harsh with a sour after taste.
63 vintage (Available early January, 2012, in Walmart as 4.4 ounce bars) An immediately obvious sharp taste makes this a good one to avoid.
65 vintage (Available early January in Walmart as a 16-ounce bag of Kisses) This vintage had a nasty sour aftertaste.
66 vintage (Available early February in Walmart as 4.4 ounce bars) This vintage had an odd combination of both sharp and sour notes that set my taste buds on edge.
67 vintage (Available early February in CVS as Kisses) My first taste was terrible, but the second considerably better. I'd rate this one as okay, but not great.
68 vintage (Available mid February in Walmart as Giant bars) Edgy enough to be rated slightly below average.
69 vintage (Available mid March in Walmart as Giant bars) This was a very interesting vintage in that it started off with an unusual fruitiness. Unfortunately a harsh finish ruined the overall experience.
70 vintage (Available late March in Walmart as Giant bars) Harsh and edgy. I couldn't finish the bar.
71 vintage (Available late March in Walmart as Giant bars) Most Hershey's take a little time to develop a chocolate flavor on the palate. This one didn't and started off very good. It was so good I opened my last 43 vintage bar to see how it compared. Unfortunately it falls far short of that great vintage.
73 vintage (Available late May in Walmart as Giant bars) Harsh with a sour finish.
74 vintage (Available Early June in Walmart as Giant bars) It starts off with a pleasant maltiness but quickly turns bitter in the aftertaste.
75 vintage (Available mid July in Walmart as Giant bars) Edgy, just short of being harsh with a sharp finish.
76 vintage (Available late March in Walmart as Giant bars) Good but not great. Compared to the 43 vintage it isn't as sweet, which is needed to mellow sharp the aftertaste. Still, I rate this one as the best over the last several months.
77 vintage (Available late July in Walmart as Giant bars) Harsh chemical after taste.
78 vintage (Available mid-August in Walmart as Giant bars) This was a very interesting vintage. It starts out excellent with a good chocolate flavor enriched with the slightest hint of maltiness or milkiness. I was set to give it a rave review but all of a sudden the after taste kicked in and it was so sharp and edgy that it ruined the entire experience. I tried this bar several times because it was so good at first that I really wanted it to work out. Sadly, every tasting ended the same way.
81, 82 and 83 vintages (Available late August through early November) All three of these vintages were uniformily bad so I 'm grouping them together in an "avoid" classification.
NEW!!! ANOTHER GREAT IS BORN!!! 80 vintage (Available early November in Albertson's and Ralph's grocery stores as 4.4-ounce bars) It's been over a year and a half since the great 43 vintage and I'm happy to say the wait was well worth it. This vintage has a good solid chocolate flavor with a long lasting mellow aftertaste. I used one of my last pieces of the 43 for comparison and I'd rate the 80 as slightly better... which is saying something. (Is it really that good?) Before posting this revue I tested this vintage using bars from two different locations and had a second reviewer confirm that they were both excellent. Then I went back and purchased 14 more bars out of the same box from one of the stores for future use. Since then every time I have some it leaves a harsh after taste. I got more meticulous about testing and discovered that 1/2 hour after drinking Coca Cola this chocolate tasted excellent. One-hour after drinking tea it had a harsh after taste. Perhaps the caustic flavor of coke primed my taste buds to be more receptive for chocolate. From now on all tests will be conducted one-half hour after drinking Coca Cola.
87 vintage (Available late January, 2013 as 7-ounce bars in Walmart) Harsh.
90 vintage (Available late January, 2013 in Walmart as 7-ounce bars) Very good. lightly sweeter than average and not too harsh, but a sharpish after taste prevents this vintage from being one of the greats.
92, 94 and 96 vintages (Available late February through early April, 2013 in Walmart as 7-ounce bars) These three vintages were uniformily poor, with sharp notes and harsh after tastes.
95 vintage (Available early May, 2013 in Walmart as 12 ounce bags of Kisses) Good. Maybe even very good but a slight harshness keeps this from being great... though I have to admit I go back to the bag on a regular basis. :)
11 vintage (Available early June, 2013 in Walmart) Sour.
13 and 15 vintages (Available August, 2013 in Walmart) Both harsh with a bad after taste.
16 vintage (Available early September, 2013 in Winco Grocery Stores as 7-ounce bars) Very good. Clearly better than 95, which tasted sharp in a side-by-side comparison. I stocked up on this one for future comparisons. It's smooth and rich with just a hint of chocolate edginess. I decided it was good enough to compare it to the last piece of 43 I had, which was good but slightly below the great 80 vintage of 2011. The 16 was slightly harsher initially but had a better finish. Overall I'd rate them as equal. This places the 2013 vintage 16 as very, very good, but not better than the 80 vintage of 2012 or incomparable 98 of 2006.
18 vintage (Available mid October, 2013 in Stator Bros. Grocery Stores as 4.4-ounce bars) Starts off okay but quickly developes a harsh burnt taste.
19 vintage (Available mid November, 2013 in Gelson's Grocery Stores as 4.4-ounce bars) Terrible. Harsh and bitter from the first bite.
21 vintage (Available early December, 2013 as 4.4-ounce bars) One of the worst Hershey's I've ever tasted. Even worst that the lamentable 18 above.
22 vintage (Available mid-December, 2013 as 4.4-ounce bars in Albertson's grocery stores) Very good. It's slightly sweeter and less harsh than the 16 vintage, though a sharp aftertaste prevents it from being one of the greats.
23 vintage (Available late January in Winco Stores as 7-ounce bars) Sweeter and mellower than the very good 22. This is a good one to try.
27 vintage (Available early February as 4.4-ounce bars) Extremely harsh. I forced one rectangle down and threw the rest away, and this was after drinking Coca Cola, which always makes chocolate taste better.
29 vintage (Available mid April, 2014 in Staor Bros. Stores as 4.4-ounce bars) Very harsh finish.
30 vintage (Available mid April in Stator Bros. Stores as 7-ounce bars) Extremely good. Maybe one of the best.
31 vintage (Available mid May in Stator Bros. Stores as 4-ounce bars) Terrible. Harsh with a sour aftertaste.
33 vintage (Available early June) Very Good!!! Rich and mild.
35 vintage (Available early June as 7-ounce bars in Walmart) Superb!!! The initial chocolate flavor is deeper than the 33's and the aftertaste is milder. I rate this vintage as even better than last year's great 80! I bought a ton of it for future comparisons... and promptly consumed most of it.
37 vintage (Available late August as 7-ounce bars in Walmart) Very sharp.
40 vintage (Available late September as 7-ounce bars in Walmart) Not quite as good as the 33. A little harsh.
42 vintage (Available mid October, 2014 as 4.4-ounce bars in Walmart) A slightly sharp flavor and after taste places this one a bit below the 33 vintage.
43 vintage (Available late October as 7-ounce bars in Albertsons) Another very good vintage. I rate this between the 33 and 35 vintages.
45 vintage (Available mid November 2014 as 4.4-ounce bars in Walmart) Another outstanding vintage! It has a slightly smoother finish than the great 35 vintage.
47 vintage (Available mid December as 4.4-ounce bars) A little too sharp, but better than average.
49 vintage (Available mid January 2015 as 7-ounce bars) Very good. The finish is very slightly sour but otherwise this is a very good vintage.
52 vintage (Available mid March 2015 as 4.4-ounce bars) Very sharp.
54 vintage (Available mid-May 2015 as 4.4-ounce bars) Slightly sweeter than average but still too harsh to be good.
56 vintage (Available May 2015 as 7-ounce bars) Good texture but harsh flavor.
58 vintage (Available early June 2015 as 7-ounce bars) Very poor. It was harsh and sour.
44 vintage (Available Mid June 2015 as nuggets) A slight sharpness to the after taste ruins what otherwise would have been a good vintage. At first it was smooth and initially mellow. I'd rate it slightly below the 33.
59 vintage (Available early June 2015 as 7-ounce bars) Good, but an edgy after taste keeps it from being one of the greats.
60 vintage (Available late July as 4.4-ounce bars) Barely tolerable because of a definite sour note.
61 vintage (Available late July as 7-ounce bars) Slightly sharp, but not too bad after a coke. I rate this as slightly better than the 33.
63 vintage (Available early September, 2015 as 7-ounce bars) Almost identical to the 61 vintage. The only difference is that the sharpness hits and fades earlier.
64 vintage (Available late September as 4.4-ounce bars) The sweetest Hershey's I've ever tasted. It was more like chocolate candy than chocolate. It wasn't bad and had a smooth finish, but I prefer chocolate that tastes more of chocolate than sugar.
66 vintage (Available mid October as 7-ounce bars) Terrible. Very harsh with a sour aftertaste. One of the worst.
65 vintage (Available early November as 7-ounce bars) Slightly harsher than the very good 63, but not too bad.
69 vintage (Available mid November as 7-ounce bars) Better than the 65 but just short of the 63.
71 vintage (Available late November as 7-ounce bars) Sweeter and grainier than usual, but a sour aftertaste ruins the overall effect.
73 vintage (Available late December as 7-ounce bars) Sweeter than usual and smoother. Although it has a slight sharpness in the aftertaste I rate as better than the previous 71.
62 vintage (Available around Christmas 2015 as a 4-ounce giant kiss) FANTASTIC!!! I received this as a late present and have to say it was one of the all-time greats: smooth, perfect sweet/chocolate balance and absolutely no sharpness to the aftertaste. BUT!!! two months later I found more as 1-ounce minibars and they tasted terrible. I assume these were either a different 62 or that the faster coolling of the smaller bars changed the flavor.
75 vintage (Available late Feb. 2016 as kisses) Terrible. Extremely harsh. Buy a pound and send it to your worst enemy.
76 vintage (Available mid Mar. 2016 as 4.4 ounce bars) It had a odd chemical note that was very off-putting.
78 vintage (Available mid April as Kisses) This was an interesting vintage because at times it had a very chocolaty kick that was great. Unfortunately, an overpowering sharpness spoiled it.
79 vintage (Available late April as 2.2 ounce bars) Slightly better than average. This is one I need to test again.
80 vintage (Available early May as 4.4 ounce bars) Very harsh.
81 vintage (Available late May as Nuggets) VERY GOOD! Not one of the all-time greats, but better by far than most Hersheys.
83 vintage (Late July as nuggets) Tolerable, but the aftertaste is harsh.
84 vintage (Late July as 2.6 oz bars) Slightly sweeter and smoother than the 83, but the aftertaste is still too harsh.
85 vintage (Late July as 1.55 oz bars) Average initial taste but the aftertaste was very smooth with little or no harshness compared to the 83 and 84 vintages so I rate it as GOOD.
88 vintage (Late August in Walmart as nuggets) Good with a hint of harshness in the aftertaste. GOOD.
A side-by-side comparison of the 85 and 88 vintages places them both in the 'good' ranking but not great. The 85 has a mellower intitial chocolate taste but the after taste is a little harsh with a semi-sweet or even bitter-sweet chocolate edge. The 88 has a better finish but the initial flavor is slightly harsher with, if you focus on it enough, a sublte hint of burnt chocolate.
89 vintage (Late October, 2016 as 7 oz bars) Very harsh with a nasty aftertaste,
90 vintage (Early November as 7 oz bars) Good with a hint of harshness in the aftertaste. If this sounds the same as the 88 vintage, it's because in side by side tasting I can't tell them apart. GOOD.
92 vintage (Early November as 7 oz bars) Very good. Perhaps a little better than the 88 and 90 vintages. VERY GOOD
Very Good! 91 vintage (Mid November as nuggets) Milder finish than even the very good 92 vintage. This is the best Hershey's I've tasted in a long time. It's not up there with the greats, but it's good enough to eat until something better comes along. WARNING!!! I had this same vintage as a 0.45-ounce mini-bar and it tasted terrible. As commented earlier, different moldings of the same vintage may not taste the same.
93 vintage (Mid December in Walmart as 7 ounce bars) Unpleasant, sharp edge in both the initial and after tastes.
95 vintage (Mid December in Walmart as Nuggets) Mild chocolate flavor ruined by a burnt note.
NEW!!! 96 vintage (Late December as Valentine's Day Kisses) Overly sweet that turns sour during the after taste.
You may note that while the chocolates are arranged by vintage, some earlier numbers are listed as "new" while later ones aren't. This is because stores don't always stock shelves in sequence. Some boxes of bars may languish in a storeroom for months while newer shipments get used. This can lead to the interesting problem of spotting an "18" chocolate and assumning it's the next in sequence after "16" and "17." In fact, it may be an "18" from the previous year.
Please don't assume that because I put this page together that I'm saying that Hershey's is good chocolate. Many other companies produce better quality and maintain higher consistency. I'm only posting this page for people who eat Hershey's and want to maximize their eating pleasure.
Why does Hershey's vary from batch to batch? As a mass production company whose main goal is to market as much chocolate as possible I believed Hershey's is forced into purchasing beans from the cheapest sources available, regardless of quality, and process them as quickly and cheaply as possible. One vintage might start with poorly fermented beans of a variety that produces poor chocolate. Regardless of production standards this will not end up being good chocolate. On the other hand, the next production run might contain some premium beans from artisanal farmers because they just happened to be available at a good price. This chocolate will end up producing a better vintage.
(I confess that I am not intimate with Hershey's production methods so this is all guess work.)
If something goes wrong with a particular batch they can't simply throw it away because it represents millions of dollars. Good or bad it has to be sold. High-end chocolate companies can afford to be choosy about which beans they use and tailor each production run to the particular mix of beans they use. If a batch goes bad, they are willing to discard it rather than compromise their standards. The cost for this is seen on the price you pay, many times the cost per pound of Hershey's.
I've often puzzled over what makes Hershey's so gritty. Recently, I left a bar in the car while I did some shopping. When I came back it had warmed to the point where it was very soft. Upon tasting it I noticed that the texture was very smooth and creamy. This suggests that the grittiness is cause by particles of fat, which become soft when warmed.
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