One other interesting thing I noticed on their label is the logo of the Nestle chocolate company. There isn't any indication of the relationship between Nestle and Perugina, although my informants tell me that Perugina Brands of America is a division of the Nestle Food Company. I'm guessing that Nestle manufacturers Perugina chocolate in the states rather than just importing it from Italy and distributing it in America, similar to what Hershey does with Cadbury chocolates.
A friend of mine who used to live in Perugia, Italy, says that the actual Perugina Chocolate Company is based there. She says that they make lots of types of chocolates besides chocolate bars, notably their Baci chocolates which are individually wrapped candies with nuts in them, and their Gianduia which is a hazelnut blended milk chocolate. Obviously I won't review either of those, but they do sound good. Hazelnuts in particular go very well with chocolate. She also says that the Italians tend to like their treats sweet, which probably explains the sweetness of Perugina's chocolates.
Hidden in the "natural flavors" are, I think, the usual vanilla and perhaps a bit of carmel or burnt-sugar flavoring. I think this because my first reaction to tasting this chocolate was "hey, this reminds me of fudge!" It tastes like a cross between maybe 4 parts dark chocolate and one part fudge. I think the best way to describe this chocolate is to say that it reminds me a lot (both in flavor and texture) of good ganache, of coverture chocolate, and of the sort of smooth chocolate coatings used on gourmet chocolate cakes at fancy restaurants.
This certainly isn't the strongest dark chocolate I've encountered. In fact, it doesn't pack a particularly strong chocolate punch, but it's chocolaty enough. Overall, I find it to be quite nice. You should definitely give it a try if you find it in the store somewhere. Grocery stores aren't likely to carry this, but candy stores should. That's where I found my sample to review.
You'll notice that it's alkali processed like the Perugina Dark chocolate. While alkali processed chocolates are nice, I think in this case it killed all the bitterness promised by the name and the stark black design of the label. Indeed, while this chocolate has more cocoa liquer than sugar, it's really not bitter at all. The other thing I feel compelled to point out with respect to the ingredients is that butterfat comes ahead of cocoa butter! This probably contributes to the richness of the flavor, but does lessen the chocolate experience in a way that strikes me as needless. My suspicion, based on no more evidence than the ingredient lists and the experience of eating them, is that the manufacturers are saving extra cocoa butter from this chocolate to use in the dark chocolate bar. And of course, what's the deal with using vanillin instead of real vanilla. The back of the label claims that this chocolate bar is "offered to you in the best tradition of Italian taste!" Somehow, I doubt that artificial vanilla simulants are an element of traditional Italian confectionary.
But on to the chocolate itself. The first thing I noticed when I unwrapped the bar was the aroma. Most chocolate bars, especially dark chocolate bars, don't have a particularly strong aroma unless you stick your nose right on the bar and breathe deeply. This one, though, presentd a very nice aroma withoug resorting to such measures. It was a pleasant surprise. The aroma was a rich, chocolaty one. The flavor of the chocolate is also quite rich, but not overpowering. As chocolates go, the flavor is pretty unremarkable. I don't sense any fruity undertones, slight smoky flavors or anything else like that. It's just, well, chocolate.
The texture is reasonably smooth, about on a par with Hershey's, but the chocolate itself is noticably softer than Hershey's. This seems to be a trend with Perugina, so perhaps if your teeth are sore from orthodontic work or something like that you might give this brand a try. I suspect this chocolate would go well with fruit, and since it's not overly expensive and each bar breaks into 24 separate pieces, it might make a good party chocolate.
If you like creamy chocolates, whis one will probably please you. I found it to be unusually firm, with a nice crisp snap, compared to other milk chocolates. It posesses the same slightly rough texture that most milk chocolates do. It's very sweet, and unlike Perugina's bittersweet, is sweet enough that you'll probably need some water to wash it down with, unless you were born with unusually productive salivary glands.
All in all this is a very unremarkable milk chooclate. Feed it to your friends who won't know the difference but will be impressed by the fancy label.