Tuesday, October 18, 2011
I bought these Bubble Gum Cigars while on vacation last month, mostly because it’d be so longer since I’d seen the full array of the flavors in quite a long time. They’re made by Concord Confections in Canada which is now owned by Tootsie. (They also make Dubble Bubble Gum.)
I picked out three of them, in a standard array of colors orange, green and yellow. Each has a special name on the band, which is smaller than the standard cigar band (so I can’t wear it as a ring, even on my pinky). The wrapping is simple, just a clear cellophane sleeve, all were fresh and pliable (though if you’ll notice I dropped the orange one and it broke into pieces).
Cigars have faded a bit from pop culture, but starting sometime in the early 20th century it was common to celebrate a new baby with a gifting of cigars to friends (mostly by the father to friends, coworkers and contacts). As something that children today are aware of, it’s kind of an anachronism, as I know I can go months without even catching a whiff of the scent of a cigar, much less actually seeing someone smoking one. The relationship between real cigars and bubble gum ones is so far removed, I don’t think anyone can say that they actually improve the opinion folks have of tobacco. The reverse is probably true, the shape and association of a cigar with a children’s chewing gum is more likely a hindrance to sales.
El Bubble is green and Apple Flavored. I admit that I’m kind of a gum purist. Chewing gum should be mint, cinnamon or that Juicyfruit flavor ... and bubble gum should be bubble gum flavored. None of these cigars is actually bubble gum flavored (I couldn’t find a pink one). The apple is actually rather more on the actual apple juice flavor side of things than tangy green apple. It’s sweet and light. Even after the sugar fades, it’s not offensive or even very strong at all. I don’t think anyone sitting near me would recognize the flavor.
The gum is soft and easy to chew. It’s gets very soft and grainy quickly, kind of made my mouth fill up with saliva. But a little chewing and the gum firms up into a stiff enough piece that makes decent bubbles.
Gold Dragon is yellow and Banana Flavored. Banana is a rare flavor of gum in general, so it’s nice to find. I’m sure there are some sort of Freudian/Mae West jokes about cigars and bananas, as well. The chew is soft and sugary with a mild and sweet banana flavor. Eventually as the sugar fades the flavor is much more artificial and caustic. Bubble blown at this point end up filled with noxious vapors like walking into a poorly ventilated nail spa.
Wild Tiger is orange and Orange Flavored. It’s a purely sweet affair here, sickly sweet with only a touch of orange flavoring. Don’t worry, it’ doesn’t taste like Aspergum, that would be too intense. Instead it’s more like some sort of sugar paste that was next to something orange flavored at one point.
They’re a fun little piece of gum, mostly inoffensive and colorful. They could easily just be little rods of gum or tubes ... but the idea of the little bands and their colorful names is the one bit of novelty here I enjoyed. The gum itself was passable, but I’m sure something that kids would chewy like I do ... just long enough to get the sugar out, then blow a few bubbles and move on.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Cadbury Adams, makers of Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids have introduced a new product to their line of jelly candies. Sour Patch Kids Berries are a variety of four berry flavors of the classic chewy jelly candy covered in sour sand.
There’s no mention of this product on the Sour Patch Kids website, and the package is rather scant with details as well. There are four colors for the candies, but there’s no mention of the flavors. I think they’re: Cherry, Blue Raspberry, Strawberry and Grape.
The regular Sour Patch Kids come in four flavors: orange, cherry, lemon and lime. The Sour Patch Fruits come in watermelon, orange, lemon, lime, grape and cherry. Then there are the individual flavor packs like Watermelon, Peach and Cherry. It seems like cherry gets a lot of attention from the Sour Patch family, here it is in three different assortments plus a package all of its own.
Sour Patch Kids are a simple construction, a firm jelly candy is molded and then coated in a sweet & sour sand. They’re small, so one is a good bite.
Grape (Purple) is a great sour flavor. This grape is just like a jelly version of Pixy Stix or SweeTarts. There’s a lot of fake grape flavor to go along with the sour.
Cherry (Red) is as I expected, tart and sharp with the strong woodsy notes then sweet and a little on the medicine side, especially as the food coloring kicked in.
Strawberry (Pink) this was the flavor I wasn’t quite sure about. It’s soft and floral and more delicate than the others, perhaps even a little citrusy.
Blue Raspberry is a well rounded flavor. It’s quite tart at first then morphing into a sweet and floral berry flavor that’s reminiscent of the Swedish Fish.
Here’s something that’s been bothering me for years. Sour Patch Kids don’t look like kids. They don’t look like much of anything except maybe shaving brushes. There are little characters on the package, but I’ve never quite been able to make them out. Jelly Babies manage to look like their little characters on the package, so I know the molding technology allows this. Even Swedish Fish do an excellent job of looking like little fish.
It’s interesting to see a new mix of flavors for the Sour Patch Kids, even if the actual flavors are not new. There’s nothing earth shattering here or innovative, just a limited mix that might appeal to folks who don’t like the citrus flavors in the regular Sour Patch Kids or Sour Patch Fruits.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Their tins are always quite smart looking and I rather liked the simplicity of this one, just a smaller version of the standard set by Altiods. The embossed top flips open to reveal the candies inside.
The tin says that the “mints” are made with real Canadian maple sugar. The full ingredients are: pure cane sugar, maple sugar, natural flavor, calcium stearate and malic acid. There are thirty in a tin, which holds less than an ounce, .85 ounces.
The candies have a polished yet rustic look. They’re shiny and sharply stamped with a little maple leaf in the center. But the texture and color of the candies is a little mottled, it’s not a bright white and has little caramel colored flecks in it.
The scent is definitely smoky and like toasty maple syrup. The flavor of the candies though was a bit different from what I was expecting. It is a combination of all the flavors that are listed in the description, they are mint, they have maple sugar in them and blueberry flavor. It’s a riot of flavors. Not a “burn my tongue down” riot, but the kind that pulls off my backpack and steals my books kind. The blueberry is tart and floral, the maple is rustic and woodsy ... so far so good. But the mint is cool and minty with a little note of eucalyptus. It’s like a blueberry cough drop made in some sort of colonial re-enactment apothecary shop.
I liked the straight ahead Maple Ice Mints, so I’ll have to stick with those, because these are just not for me. But I’m also not very happy with the combination of mint, lime and white rum that are used to make a Mojito. So if you’re down with mojitos, maybe you’ll be down with Wild Blueberry Maple Ice Mints.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
In the world of new candies, I think that names are important. They should either be descriptive of the product experience or novel enough creation that it arouses curiosity and the ability to associate that product forever with that name. Last year I tried something called Powerberries at Trader Joe’s. The name certainly doesn’t say much about what the product is, but is evocative enough that I could glean attributes, especially when I got to see the package. I bring this up because I’m now faced with a similar product that doesn’t quite have the naming mojo. They’re called Brookside Dark Chocolate Pomegranate.
Now there’s lots to love about that name if you happen to like a pastoral name like Brookside and the two elements of dark chocolate and pomegranate are also favorites of mine. (But I’m not so keen on eating actual pomegranate seeds, I know they do sell those, but that’s not what these are.) So while it didn’t have the sexy punch of Powerberries, I did actually buy this package.
It’s a stand up pouch that holds 7 ounces of smooth dark chocolate surrounding a sweetened real fruit juice piece made from a blend of pomegranate juice and other select fruit juices. The image on the front actually looks a heck of a lot like the one I shot below. Hooray for accuracy!
The bag certainly smells fragrant, like a bowl of dried fruit. There are notes of blueberry, raspberry and apricots. The pieces are mostly spherical and glossy dark chocolate. Some were more like disks, about the size of an M&M.
Inside each piece were one or two little pods of this fruit juice pieces. It’s a grainy little “not quite jelly” bit. They’re quite fruity, to the point where some actually had a slight bitter note to them, like the membrane of a pomegranate can impart. The chocolate is smooth and has a good woodsy cocoa note that stands up well to the fruit.
As I mentioned in my original review of the Powerberries, these are a little strange but quite compelling. Though the actual name isn’t quite as exciting and the price is slightly higher than Trader Joe’s, they’re still a fun change of pace for chocolate. I wouldn’t necessarily say that they’re a health food, though the package stresses that there are 100 mg of flavanol antioxidants in each 42 gram serving (20% of your vitamin C as well), I’d say eat them because you like them. There are certainly more nutrients in here than the standard M&Ms, but the key is always to practice moderation.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
I picked up the Cadbury Wunderbar at a grocery store. I’ve actually seen them in the United States, heck, I’ve even bought them before, but they were always kind of melted and broken. This one looked lovely and in good condition. Wunderbar is a great name for a candy bar, it works on a couple of levels. First, it’s unique and a bit of a play on words because it sounds like Wonder Bar. But the German word Wunderbar (pronounce that w like a v) means Marvelous!
The front of the package doesn’t do much to illuminate what’s inside though. It just calls it A peanut butter caramel experience. The back, in teensy print, says crispy peanut bar with caramel and cocoa containing coating. Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a bar with a less appealing description, probably because it ends with some sort of comedic euphemism for mockolate (because of the alliteration of the K sounds).
I don’t want to think too much about this bar. It’s a candy bar and it’s supposed to be transiently pleasing. So I’m prepared for just that.
The coating was pretty good for mockolate, a little soft but not at all waxy. Smooth enough to not be grainy but not so great at the melt in your mouth creaminess. The flavor was okay, more milky than chocolatey but mostly it tasted like peanuts.
The center of the bar was like someone had chopped up the center of Butterfinger bar and mixed it in with some Chex cereal then reformed it into a log and coated it. That’s really not a bad idea and it does work. There’s a bit of a softer caramel in there as well, that keeps it all soft and crumbly. There are little shards of peanut butter toffee stuff, too.
I wanted more peanut flavor, but it wasn’t overly sweet and had a little hint of salt as well.
Really it just left me wanting a Clark Bar. But I admire it for not being another Clark/Butterfinger/Fifth Avenue knock-off. It’s more munchable and certainly less messy. It’s also huge, at 1.9 ounces and about six inches long. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it marvelous, since it would be better with real chocolate. So I’ll just call it Tempting (6 out of 10).
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Yes, I’m the type of person who eats sugar straight. Mostly brown sugar, but sometimes raw sugar and of course honey. Then there’s maple sugar. That’s a kind of sugar that’s actually marketed in little molded shapes to be eaten straight by non-sugar-obsessed folks.
Big Sky Brands of Canada is known for their little compressed sugar candies like Jones Soda Carbonated Candies and Yogen Fruz Smoothies. Their new Maple Ice Mints Original are far more subtle and dare I say, elegant.
The tin is rather ordinary but does the job. It has all the convincing faux wood grain of a early 1980s station wagon. It’s about 3.25 inches long and 1.75 inches wide.
Inside the tin are 30 little mints, each is about the size of an extra strength aspirin. They have a small maple leaf on one side. They smooth but leave a little powdery residue. They smell woodsy and sweet, like maple. The ingredients list both cane sugar and maple sugar, the color of them is a light sandy white and since there are no artificial colors in there, I’m guessing that’s the maple sugar that does that.
They’re sweet and have a light fresh mint hint far in the back, but mostly they’re a soft maple flavor. The great thing about the maple flavor is that it’s not sticky like the syrup and other sugar candies.
The problem with them is the price, I suppose. They were about $2 for less than an ounce. It’s tough in a Tic Tac and Altoids world to sink twice as much money into these. They’re not minty enough for me to consider them a mint, in that mints are consumed one or two at a time and then set aside for another day. Nope, I wanted to eat the whole box of them at once. I succeeded in eating them in three separate sittings. They still leave my mouth fresh and were wonderful with tea or just as a little delight in the middle of computer frustrations.
The package doesn’t say anything about the gluten status or nuts but they do appear to be all natural and probably vegan. (There’s calcium stearate in there, but I’ve never seen a candy that uses an animal source for the ingredient since the vegetable version is so cheap.)
Monday, November 1, 2010
Life Savers were introduced in 1912 by Clarence Crane. They came in one flavor, Pep-O-Mint. Crane made chocolate most of the year but wanted a candy product that could withstand the summer heat and have a long shelf life. So he innovated the Life Saver. At first he was just trying to create a mint disk, similar to a Necco Wafer. But the pill maker he took his contract to had trouble making a plain, thick disk that didn’t fall apart. So they put a little hole in the center to stabilize the production. The look of the little white hoop of candy reminded Crane of the life saver found on boats, so that’s what he named the mint.
Within a could of years Crane sold the company and rights to Life Savers to Edward John Noble who saw the great potential of the candy. They were sold in little cardboard tubes, he streamlined things and packaged them like they’re sold today, in a roll wrapped in waxed paper and foil with a little paper label.
Noble was an excellent salesman and introduced techniques to his clients, such as telling them to make sure that customers always had at least one nickel in their change and to display the rolls on the counter by the cash register. Life Savers were positioned as an impulse buy. Early packages were all one flavor and consisted of the standard mints (wintergreen & spearmint), cinnamon, violet and even licorice. It wasn’t until 1935 that Life Savers in the Five Flavor roll came out.
In the late 1968s Noble sold the company to E.R. Squibb Corporation (yes, the drug people that later became Bristol-Meyers Squibb who make Plavix and Coumadin) and then they sold to Nabisco Brands Inc in 1981. Nabisco in turn was taken over by Kraft in 2000 and Kraft sold their candy interests including Life Savers off to Wrigley’s in 2004. Wrigley’s was acquired by Mars in 2008.
Life Savers Pep-O-Mint themselves are simple. A little loop of compressed sugar with some strong peppermint flavoring. It’s all held together with a dash of stearic acid. There are 14 in the standard rolls these days.
Instead of the smoothness of a boiled candy mint, these have a little bit of a chalky texture to them. They’re not as grainy as Altoids (and not as strong) but they’re not as airy and melt-in-your-mouth as Buttermints or After Dinner Mints.
It’s quite a simple little candy. I like to crunch them, but they also dissolve slowly if you’re patient. I’m not patient and can crunch through a whole roll on a drive home from work.
Just as Life Savers have gone through plenty of owners, the wrappers have been designed, redesigned and undesigned time and again. The packages I’ve featured in this review are from the new “throwback” release of the Pep-O-Mint and Wint-O-Green rolls that are available in convenience stores. (Here’s one article about the most recent redesign shortly before Mars acquired Wrigley’s.) Here are some more photos of the different designs & flavors of Life Savers over the years.
I like the classic look of these packages, but really it’s the size and shape that probably compels me. It’s the one consistent item no matter what year it is.
Wint-O-Green Life Savers were introduced in 1919. They’re probably best know because of the cool feature that you can create a luminescent spark when crunching a Wint-O-Green Life Saver. (I can’t capture it with a camera, but here’s a guy who has.)
They’re smooth but quite aromatic. After eating about half a roll I tend to get a strange numbness, like Cepacol or other topical anesthetics can cause. It’s not all about medicine and therapy though, it reminds me of classic Bazooka Bubble Gum and Root Beer soda.
I don’t really like the smell of wintergreen that much, because of some of the more unpleasant associations with pain relieving rubs, but I do like the strange tingly flavor and how different it is from the standard peppermint or spearmint.
Both flavors are classics and still made in the classic way, though now in Canada where sugar is cheaper. I’m glad Wrigley’s hasn’t mucked around with anything aside from the packaging.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
The Nestle Aero line is a fun sort - it’s aerated chocolate. That means that air bubbles are trapped in the chocolate, making it light and fluffy, kind of like chocolate pumice. This is rather foreign to us here in the US where aerated chocolate isn’t that common. Europe Cadbury has a whole Wispa and Diary Milk Bubby line of products and they’re also popular in Israel where Elite makes some bars.
The Aero 70% Cocoa bar was a little more expensive than some of the imports I find, I paid $2 for mine, though in Canada, where these are from, they might be more reasonably priced. It’s five inches long and 1/75 inches across making it seem like a large bar. It only weighs 1.41 ounces, which is a great portion for chocolate but at this size it looks large but feels a bit puffy. Well, that’s because it is. The wrapping is simple and elegant. There’s a lot of info on the bar but they balance it well with the bubbly graphic elements and the matte paper keeps it from being too chaotic.
Inside the foil wrapper, the bar is nicely molded, the shape is great and does a great job of highlighting the bubbly attributes while still making it easy to portion. The bubbles vary in size, but are consistently distributed throughout the bar - no solids spots.
The bite is easy and doesn’t flake or crumble. The scent is odd, almost alcoholic - like whiskey with hints of tobacco and cedar. The chocolate flavors are similarly woodsy and rich with just a hint of tannic cherries. The melt is creamy and slick. It’s amazing how good this is for a Nestle bar. Like all the best things about Nestle Chocolate Morsels, but even creamier.
The nutrition label was kind of shocking. The reason the melt was so smooth was the level of dreamy cocoa butter in the bar - it has one of the highest calorie counts per ounce of a whole chocolate product: 169. There are 16 grams of fat in here, but also 4 grams of fiber, 21 grams of sugar and finally 3 grams of protein. There’s a shocking 35% of the Canadian RDA of iron & 25% of the magnesium. The front of the package also says that there are 500 mg of polyphenols. The ingredients are also simple and easy to understand: cacao mass, sugar, cocoa, cocoa butter, soy lecithin & natural flavor.
I happened to have some of the Bubble Chocolate 60% Dark bar around to compare it to, and the Nestle Aero is surprisingly richer and smoother. I ate the whole bar and would probably buy it again if I saw it - it’s my favorite of the aerated bars I’ve had.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.