A record of how different vintages of Mercken'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 milk chocolate. In the case of Mercken's Marque Milk Chocolate it means the quality of the chocolate they release every Fall. Once the top rated chocolate in the world, this great chocolate went through a decline in quality several years ago. In 2004 it seems to be improving again. Here is my call on how the quality has changed over the years:

1997: Excellent! Outstanding! The best milk chocolate I've ever tasted.

1998: Still excellent

1999: still excellent

2000: still excellent

2001: Terrible! This year the chocolate had a harsh, sour taste that was so bad I.threw several pounds of it away.

2002: again, terrible

2003: still terrible

2004: much better. A good rich chocolate flavor with just a hint of caramel from the use of real cocoa butter. Still a little strong for my tastes but very good just the same.

2005: Barely tolerable. There was a slight caramel note with an odd hint of an aromatic chemical or fruity flavor. After a side by side comparison I'd say I prefer the grittier, harsher, but purer flavor of the Hershey's 88 vintage.

NEW!!! 2015: After ten years I decided to give Merkins another try. This time it was milky with weak floral notes. The finish was harsh. I still rate good Hershey's as superior, but with good Hershey's only coming out once a year Merkins is better than many of the worse vintages. But, it'll be another ten years before I try it again.

(Note: I've noticed that the Mercken's chocolate ordered the last few years from The Baker's Catalogue has not been listed on the invoice or even on the chocolate itself as being Mercken's Marque, as it used to be in the early years when the quality was universally great. It's just indicated as "milk chocllate bar," no mention of Mercken's or Mercken's Marque. This makes me wonder if Mercken's is available in different qualities with the "Marque" being the best and The Baker's Catalogue people have switched to a lower quality to increase their profits. Or perhaps even more insidiously, the catalogue people have just purchased the right to use the Mercken's name in their catalogue but use chocolate from a different company. I have no evidence to support this and it is only conjecture.)


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