Monday, December 12, 2011
When I was a kid and candy was hard to come by, there was always the old standby of cough drops. I grew to love Hall’s Honey Lemon Eucalyptus drops as if they were decadent candy. Of course they are, there’s little that’s nutritional or therapeutic about them. But sometimes it’s a small pleasure that lifts the spirits when you have a cold.
My favorite cough drops as a kid were Pine Bros, which were about as old school as they come. They weren’t like the standard hard candy lozenges, instead these were a glycerine pastille, similar to Grether’s or Dr. Doolittle’s. The ingredient they all share is glycerine, which is viscous and has soothing properties as it can coat irritated membranes.
Pine Bros Throat Drops and I were born in the same city, about a hundred years apart. Once I moved to the West Coast from Pennsylvania, I couldn’t find Pine Bros any longer. Part of it was that Pine Bros, which was made by Life Savers between 1930 and then Life Savers was bought out by Leaf (I believe they were manufactured outside of the US for a while and the formula changed) then when Leaf divested in 1998 a company called IVC picked up the Pine Bros name. By 2005 they were gone.
The word softish is perfect for these. They truly aren’t hard or soft, but have a great squishy quality. The pieces are nicely formed and comfortable for the mouth. The pieces are about three quarters of an inch long and have a little indentation in the bottom, which I believe is caused by the piece shrinking a bit due to evaporation as it cures in its mold.
The flavor is mild, a combination of a jammy wild cherry flavor and a little hint of honey (though there’s not actually any in there). The flavor is rather similar to blackcurrant with its deep wine notes. It’s more floral than many other cherry candies and because they’re colored naturally (with elderberry juice) there’s no weird aftertaste.
Most cough drops are hard candies, but these are soft, pliable yet tacky and stiff and pretty much impossible to chew up. They’re not quite bouncy like a gummi (which contains gelatin, which is a protein) but still have some of that firmness. The other great thing is because they’re so smooth, there’s little danger of sharp voids like some cough drops can have - so no little cuts or scrapes inside the mouth.
I picked up the Value Size not because of its value but because it was the only format available. It holds 32 drops for $3.49 (2.38 ounces) while a little tin of Grether’s of a similar quantity would be about $10.
If you always wished that Grether’s came in Wild Cherry and at a fraction of the price, Pine Bros may be the solution for you.
The package is new and sharp, but still has a classic feel to it. The color coding is similar to the boxes I remember as a kid. Cherry came in a deep red box, Menthol was in Blue and Honey was in a deep amber. The new packaging is a bit brighter, with more of a mustard yellow.
The ingredients are listed as a medicinal product, not a candy. My Pine Bros Throat Drops were also taxed, so were not considered food so do not have any nutritional/caloric information.
The pieces are beautiful little amber drops. They actually remind me of true amber. They sound like it when dropped and feel lighter than they look they should. But they’re a little weird. They’re not like I remember them.
The package smelled quite a bit when I opened it. Not just like honey but like roses, like a jam made from rose petals, so it’s a very sweet, syrupy rose scent. It’s not a bad thing, but it’s not the toasty and more cotton candy notes I was prepared for.
The texture is smooth, the melt is wonderful and they truly are soothing for a throat a bit raw from the drying and dusty Santa Ana winds. But the flavor, which I was hoping would be mild and sort of fleeting is rather stubborn. It tastes, well, old. Like old flowers, old tea ... not fresh. I actually found myself reaching for the Wild Cherry ones.
There are two other flavors that Pine Bros is hoping to bring back: Licorice and Honey Lemon. So here’s to hoping that it’s actually Honey Lemon that I love so much and that my favorite will be restored. But I also have high hopes for Licorice.
They are made in the USA in a facility that also processes peanuts and tree nuts. They’re not listed Kosher but the non-honey versions should be considered vegan (unless the glycerine was from an animal source, which is pretty rare because it’s so much more expensive).
I’m not planning on reviewing cough drops on a regular basis, but now’s a good time to ask: what cough drop do you eat like candy? (My other favorite is Thayer’s Slippery Elm, which also has a dreamy smoothness with the flavor of maple sugar considering it starts out looking like a small tablet of rabbit food.)
Friday, November 4, 2011
When I heard that Jelly Belly was making chocolate covered jelly beans, I simply assumed that mint would be in the initial mix. But when I tried my first box of them, it was all fruity. It makes sense that mint would be sold separately, as they can overpower other flavors.
I found the new Jelly Belly Mint Jelly Bean Chocolate Dips on sale at TJ Maxx. They were a much better deal than I usually see for the Dips, only $1.69 for the bag. They look like an ideal candy for snacking at the movies. The fact that they’re a chocolate covered jelly candy means that they’re a bit lower in calories than a regular chocolate bar. It’s only 106 calories per ounce, instead of the typical 140-160 calories per ounce for straight chocolate products.
The Dips are rather interesting because they’re just the center of a jelly bean covered in chocolate, there’s no candy shell. This creates a smoother experience, but there is a more subtle experience. Gourmet jelly beans are usually constructed of two parts - the lightly flavored center and the intensely flavored shell.
They’re beautifully panned, the chocolate coating is consistent and shiny. They smell like dark chocolate: deep and slightly smoky. The chocolate turns creamy very quickly when I chewed the beans. The center is firm and chewy, but has not hint of the grainy coating that typical sugar shelled jelly beans have. The mint comes out quickly, it tastes like a peppermint and spearmint mix. But the longer I chewed, I started getting another flavor - the sweetness of the chocolate dissipated and suddenly it was tangy. The jelly center has citric acid in it, so instead of being like the a chocolate covered Spearmint Leaf, there’s this weird tartness. It’s like there’s a mojito note to it, without the citrus zest. Or a cough drop.
I just didn’t like it. If I kept eating them, the aftertaste didn’t get a hold of me until the last one was left ... but that’s no way to enjoy candy. I’ll stick to Junior Mints or for this candy, the fruity flavors.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
A couple of months ago Jelly Belly announced a new jelly bean flavor: Candy Corn Jelly Belly Jelly Beans. Jelly Belly, which began as Goelitz Confectionery Company, has been making Candy Corn for over 110 years so I’d think that they know a lot about Candy Corn.
Candy Corn is a bit polarizing, since it’s a rather simple and cheap candy it becomes ubiquitous in the fall around Halloween and Thanksgiving. Some folks actually like it but I think most don’t have a feeling one way or the other about the candy itself, but might have some strong associations with the occasions attached.
So what is the essence of Candy Corn anyway? In my mind it’s a honey flavored firm fondant. So a jelly bean that’s Candy Corn flavored should have some aspects of that.
The bean has the requisite colors: orange, white and yellow. (In an ideal world though it’d be an orange background with white and yellow additions.)
The flavor is at first a little like fake butter but gets much better after that. I was afraid it was just going to be a honey toasted version of buttered popcorn. But it’s a bit more than that. The dominant flavor is actually a mix of the toasted marshmallow and honey bean. There is a butter note, but it goes away quickly.
Are they great jelly beans? Well, they’re interesting because they do in fact taste like candy corn. But part of what I like about candy corn is the layering. I like to bite off the crispy and dry white tips, then the orange layer, savoring the slightly moister and denser yellow base for last. The jelly bean has none of that interactivity. I can’t search through a handful of jelly beans looking for that misformed kernel that’s just orange or only two layers.
However, if you simply love the flavor of Candy Corn but have been wishing for a less pointy version of it, then Jelly Belly has the best solution.
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 4, 2011
I know there are a lot of blogs out there that review candy these days, but somehow I feel alone in my obsession for licorice. (And I feel sometimes that I’m alienating my non-licorice loving readers by featuring something black every week.)
I picked up this cute little can from Van Slooten called Flowers & Butterflies Mix of Sugared Liquorice. It’s Dutch and as far as I could tell, was a mix of salted and sweet licorice much like the previous little can I picked up and reviewed of Licorice Figures. It seemed a bit pricey, something the size of a can of beans that cost $3.99, but they really packed the candy in there, it’s over a half a pound at 8.82 ounces.
The mix inside was as described, at least six different shapes and as far as I could tell, three different varieties.
Gummi Flower & Tulip is chewy and dense but with a very mild flavor. It was mostly a toasted sugar flavor, sort of like a marshmallow and some light anise. That was it. I liked it and I ate them all. At first I didn’t realize that the tulip was the same as the flatter 10 petal flower. But once the tulips were gone (yes, I ate them first), I figured it out.
Butterflies are a great medium brown color with sparkly grains of sugar. There are two shapes for the butterflies, but I found the texture and flavor to be the same with them. I expected a griotten flavor and texture, which is a light and airy gummi with a salted licorice flavor. These did have that brown sugar and salted licorice flavor but with instead the texture was sort of tacky and chewy. I can’t say that it as quite a gumdrop, but it definitely wasn’t a gummi marshmallow. I enjoyed these, the salt was quite noticeable but not so much of the ammonia aftertaste taste that I don’t care for.
Gumdrop Flower is really chewy and has a strong molasses flavor. Aside from the grainy sugar coating, it’s quite smooth. I enjoyed it at first, but then there’s a tangy element that creeps in along with something metallic, then I got a hit of the ammonia. As long as I alternated them with the other versions, I found them passable. Ultimately I was left with a dozen of them in the bottom of the can.
I would eat these again, especially for the milder gummi varieties. They’re also pretty and I like the compact, easy to open and close package.
Candy Gurus tried their Fruit Gums called Fun & Sun Fruit Gum
Monday, July 18, 2011
As the billboards around town keep reminding me, the Harry Potter film series ends with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2. This may or may not mean the end to the curious creations from the books and films, the candies made by Bertie Bott, a magical confectioner. His triumph and perhaps unique item is Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans. The tale goes that Bertie Bott was making traditionally sweet flavored beans when he accidentally made one flavored like a gym sock and then struck upon the idea of making a flavor of everything, even things not intended to be eaten.
The reality of how Jelly Belly went about it is rather similar. Years ago Jelly Belly was trying to come up with a Pepperoni Pizza jelly bean. Something about the intensity of the flavors was more than a little off and what they created smelled so bad that they had to clear the candy kitchen and air it out, because it reeked of vomit. So when the opportunity to make the Bertie Bott’s came up, they resurrected the failed recipe and made it ever so slightly more vomitous. (In the current variety package, though, Vomit is no longer part of the mix. Perhaps a little too much reality.)
The Harry Potter books list dozens of flavors and the actual candy made by Jelly Belly does incorporate many (mostly the ones that would be recognized by Americans, not things like tripe or marmalade). This little box may contain the following flavors: Banana, Black Pepper, Blueberry, Booger, Candyfloss, Cherry, Cinnamon, Dirt, Earthworm, Earwax, Grass, Green Apple, Marshmallow, Rotten Egg, Sausage, Lemon, Soap, Tutti-Fruitti and Watermelon.
I’m not going to eat them. I’ve had quite a few of the flavors, even some of the non-traditional ones like Soap (floral), Black Pepper (spicy and well rounded), Grass (grassy) and Dirt (like beets). But draw the line there. I have no interest in rotten eggs, boogers, earwax or vomit. I appreciate the the sheer breadth of flavors in the package means that you actually have to pay attention to what you’re eating. I like that idea. When I eat the citrus mix, I don’t really care that much of I’m eating lemon or orange, because they’re both good. With the Bertie Bott’s, there are no guarantees.
Like all Jelly Belly products, they’re expensive. The Jelly Belly website lists this little 1.2 ounce box for $2.25 (though I’ve seen them for $1.50 at stores). But then again, they’re not really for eating by the handful, unless you have no sense of smell and therefore do not gag on the cacophony of unnatural flavors. (And if you can’t appreciate the wacky tastes, spare yourself the expense and just buy the regulars in bulk, the texture is the same.)
I thought Jelly Belly’s rehash of the Every Flavour Beans as a sort of Russian Roulette was pretty good. It’s called Beanboozled and you get a container of jelly beans that could be either of two flavors, a benign one like coconut or it could be the less desirable baby wipes.
I don’t actually find these tasty (as I’ve given them an 8 out of 10 rating indicates) but I do find them to be the most inventive and successful emulations of a fictional product I’ve ever encountered.
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Gimbal’s is a Californian candy company that specializes in sugar candies and boasts a low allergen facility. Lately they’ve been introducing a new themed-flavored “Lovers” product every year. The first year it was a heart shaped Cherry Lovers, with nine different cherry flavored heart shaped jelly beans. Last year it was Honey Lovers with sixteen different honey tinted flavors. This year it’s its a bit of a tart twist with Gimbal’s Sour Lovers.
When I first saw the announcement for them, I knew I had to track them down. I had trouble finding Honey Lovers in stores, so I decided to order Sour Lovers online and avoid the store-to-store hassle. I was fortunate to find them featured in a special at CandyDirect.com where they were $7.00 for two 11 ounce bags including shipping. (Little did I realize that the actual shipping, from the San Diego area to Los Angeles would take 12 days, with little communication from the company about the delay.)
The package includes twelve flavors of tart jelly candies with a sour sand coating. The flavors are: Pomegranate, Fuji Apple, Grapefruit, Watermelon, Meyer Lemon, Tangerine, Baja Margarita, Sour Blueberry, Mango, Bing Cherry, Strawberry Daiquiri and Georgia Peach. I’m kind of particular about my sour candy, because I like a lot of intense flavor with the tartness, so these really sounded tantalizing to me.
The heart shapes aren’t as defined or quite as attractive as the Cherry or Honey Lovers, but I thought the size and shape, a sort of thick heart shape, was perfect. The sanding is light to keep them from sticking together, but I found that even in the low humidity of Los Angeles, they did get a bit tacky if they weren’t stored in a sealed bag.
I had trouble telling the colors apart. Since I had two bags, I mixed them up in order to find all of the colors/flavors. I have to say that the guide on the back wasn’t exactly helpful for the colors that had a few flavors associated with them, like the orange/peach, pink/light red/red and yellows.
Pomegranate - I found it difficult to identify this one, so I had to open both bags in order to find the slightly darker red Pomegranate. It has some floral notes that reminded me of raspberry but with more of a tannic bite. It’s missing some of the notes of actual pomegranate juice but still has a distinctive flavor unlike the rest of the pieces in the mix.
Fuji Apple - goes beyond the normal green apple flavor with actual real apple juice and peel flavors in there along with the fake green notes that we come to expect from candy.
Grapefruit - I could eat a bag of these. If they make another Lovers mix, I would pay a premium for it to be a Citrus Lovers. This had an amazing intensity, all of the notes a real grapefruit has from the juicy tartness, zest, sweetness and then that lingering bitterness.
Watermelon - Gimbal’s does a great job with flavors that I often find too artificial from other companies. This watermelon was definitely a little on the “candy” side of things, but really flavorful, floral and of course puckery.
Meyer Lemon - again, get me a bag of these. Meyer Lemons have a bit more of a mandarin flavor to them than the usual Eureka lemons, so they’re the perfect combo of tartness and juicy citrus flavors that do more than burn. (I actually drink Meyer Lemon juice from my back yard tree in a little mineral water - no sugar needed.)
Tangerine - this one sizzles with sour orange, it’s actually a bit more sour than the Meyer Lemon, and also not as zesty.
Baja Margarita - this take on the traditional sour lime really pops, it’s zesty but not all about the sour and I might have even tasted a little hint of salt on it.
Sour Blueberry - this one wasn’t quite blueberry, but I’ve been binging on the real thing. It was more like a sour raspberry, which you know, is also good.
Mango - I had trouble finding this one in the mix as well, and sometimes didn’t know if it was Peach (which is an opaque one). I really can’t say more than I’m not sure I ever ate one.
Bing Cherry - the bing cherry heart isn’t that dark in color, but does have a strong, woodsy flavor like a Life Saver but with far more intensity and tang.
Strawberry Daiquiri this was lovely, though maybe a little too sour, which covers up the great flavors. The floral notes were overshadowed by the citrus, but it’s a daiquiri flavor, so I suppose that’s to be expected.
Georgia Peach - I’m not usually fond of peach flavored candies, but this one has it all, actual fuzz flavor, a zing of sour and the sweet juiciness. It’s like a peach that’s not quite ripe. It has the added benefit of going well with the other flavors (except maybe watermelon).
The candies also have vitamin C in them as well as being made in a facility that’s gluten free, dairy free, soy free, peanut & tree nut free. They’re made with natural flavors and apple juice, but there are also artificial flavors and colors, too. As a true jelly product there are no fats or gelatin in them either (so they’re basically a vegan product since there’s no confectioners glaze or beeswax on them like the hard shell jelly bean versions).
I loved this mix. They’re zippy but have more well rounded flavors that will please adults. I can’t eat too many without burning my tongue, but then again, the intensity is really satisfying so I don’t usually want to eat more than five or six at once.
Full Disclosure: It’s come to my attention that I did not mention when I first posted this review that CandyDirect.com was an advertiser on Candy Blog. We no longer have any sort of business relationship. I made no attempts to hide my identity in the ordering process, though I can assure folks that I received no special treatment one way or the other in the price, shipping, handling or communication process. This post is not a review of CandyDirect.com, I only made passing mention of my experience with the company in the procurement of this candy because I always mention where I get my candy from. (I did subsequently get a free sample of the Sour Lovers from the National Confectioners Association after this review was posted and I ended up giving that bag away unopened.)
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
When it comes to classic American candies, the fruit slices are right up there at the top. They’re a simple mix of sugar, fruit flavors and a bit of thickener in the form of corn starch. You can even make them at home, but since the ingredients are so inexpensive they’re a great value as a store bought item.
Brach’s is currently updating their line of candies with new packaging and some new formulas. They’re also adding a twist to some old favorites, including the fruit slices with their new Brach’s Mandarin Orange Slices. In this case they’re calling them Mandarin Orange Jellies Made with Real Fruit Juice.
Personally, I’ve always loved Orange Slices, and their companion jelly candy, the Spearmint Leaves. I never really thought they needed much tinkering, though the best version I think I’ve had are the gourmet Gumdrops that Whole Foods sells that are made with all natural flavors and colors along with some more exotic flavors.
These fruit jellies are lovely to look at. They’re about the size of an actual mandarin section in this case, though a bit more stylized in their format with heavy little segments making them rounded and bulbous. The color is quite orange. I even noticed that the sugar sanding on the outside is colored. (Most jelly slices just have a plain, large grain sugar sanding to keep them from sticking together.)
These were obviously fresh, since they’re a new product. They’re soft but still firm enough to have a stiff bite to them. The smell was great, just opening the bag (or even re-opening the bag) was like peeling a fresh orange. As a jelly they’re smooth and dissolve easily in the mouth. (A gelatin based candy would be chewier and have a longer melting process.) The flavor has many different elements. There’s the typical orange juice note which has the distinct orange flavor and a mellow note of tartness. Then there’s a large hit of zest to the whole thing, a slight bitterness that pops in and then disappears. Incredibly there is something rather “mandarin” about the flavor that made it a bit different from the generic orange. The other item of note here is that the sugar sanding has flavor as well, just a hint of the zest.
They’re soothing. They’re not the most exciting candy in the world, but even with all of my choices (and believe me, at any given moment I have at least fifty different things to choose from), I still found myself eating these.
It’s hard to sell folks on a brand name item for a classic candy where there are so many different brands and generics available. I don’t know if I’d always reach for Brach’s when it came to Spearmint Leaves or Orange Slices, but if the price is the same or close enough, these are a step above.
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