Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Pine Bros Softish Throat Drops were introduced in 1870. The simple formula uses glycerine to soothe irritated throats. By 1930 the company was sold to Life Savers, which was a natural fit, as they had wide distribution and the throat drops were a nice complement to the candy roll line. By the late 1990 the brand was sold several times, lost national distribution and fell into obscurity before disappearing entirely.
Of course consumers didn’t forget about them, and soon there was enough of a groundswell on the internet to get the drops back on the market. In 2011 they finally returned with the most fashionable flavors: Wild Cherry and Honey. The return of Pine Bros Softish Throat Drops really couldn’t be considered complete until the Licorice flavor was also revived.
I find them reliably at CVS drug store chains, though others may carry them as well. It’s nice to see them in national distribution and there was even a commercial on at the top of the Golden Globe Awards to build brand awareness.
The Licorice drops are the same shape and size as the Cherry and Honey. They’re about 3/4 of an inch long and at first seem hard. In the mouth they soften quickly. They’re not chewy, but dissolve smoothly to form a coating, soothing syrup in the throat.
The licorice flavor is clean, with a clear anise or fennel note. There’s no molasses in here, so it doesn’t have all that earthy, minerally flavor that a licorice vine might feature. Instead this is just sweet, light and soothing. They’re much softer when they’re fresh, I opened my bag and let them get a little harder, as I will absolutely try to chew them if they’re soft and should know better than that.
The only issue I have with them is that they use artificial colors ... I’m not sure why, I don’t need them to be black. I don’t notice the flavor influenced by it at all, but why am I paying for that? There is no nutrition panel on the package, this is not food, there is instead the Drug Facts panel which has the directions for use (allow to dissolve in the mouth). They’re made on shared equipment with peanuts and tree nuts but contain no soy, dairy or wheat products.
I could eat these all day. I have been eating them all day. I’m glad they’re back.
Monday, January 13, 2014
I knew from the first time I heard about this bar from Sweden that it was not for licorice haters. It’s called Marabou Black Saltakrits. It’s described (in English!) on the front as Milk chocolate with pieces of salty licorice.
When Swedes say salty licorice, they don’t mean sodium chloride, like the regular sea salt or table salt. They mean ammonium chloride which has a distinctly more metallic flavor profile and can give the licorice an ammonia note at times.
It’s marked as a king sized bar, and in Sweden that means 7.76 ounces ... they’re a unitary parliamentary representative democracy under constitutional monarchy, so they have a slightly more generous meaning for king-sized candy bars than we do here in our federal presidential representative democracy under constitutional republic.
This very big bar is about 8 inches long and 3 inches wide. As it traveled quite a distance to me (from its origin in Sweden to Kristian in Germany who packaged it up and sent it to the far side of North America) it was broken in several places, so photographing the whole was not very attractive.
Marabou is owned by Mondelez (Kraft) and this particular bar uses Rainforest Alliance certified cacao (30%). It doesn’t say anything else about the sourcing of the milk products or sugar. The bar contains soy and milk and may also have traces of almonds, other nuts and wheat.
The bar smells great, like sweet creme brulee and a hint of anise. The licorice was not at all what I was expecting. The bits are little little toffee shards, they’re crunchy, not chewy. There’s no molasses, so it’s a much more pungent licorice flavor than a mixed sort of Australian or American chewy flour-based licorice. If you’re familiar with cinder toffee or sponge candy, which has a note of sodium bicarbonate in it, you might find this familiar, too. The licorice has a sharp note that’s rather salty but sometimes taste more acidic. It’s sharp and sweet but overall pleasant in small bits, but large pieces are off-putting. The creamy and ordinary chocolate is great as a background, it balances it all out, though offers nothing in the way of actual cocoa flavors. It’s quite milky, which is also fine.
A few bites, and I like it. But more than a square and I definitely start getting an overabundance of the ammonia going and have to give it a rest. This is something I absolutely do not need a king sized bar of, I simple little one or two ounces would have sufficed. Still, it’s one of the best salted licorices I’ve had - I liked the crispy texture and quick dissolve.
Thursday, July 18, 2013
Lucky Country is not as easy to find in stores as Twizzlers or Red Vines, but for folks who like a really rich tasting licorice but don’t want to spring for the European or Australian candies, it’s a good option.
Lucky Country sent me some bags of their black licorice and some of their fruity varieties. I’d tried their black before (the photo of the package shown is from 2008, but the pieces below are the more recent shipment).
The nuggets are big. They’re about 1.5” long and about .6 inches in diameter. It only takes five pieces to make a portion, which comes out to about 130 calories. Even though it’s not fat free, it’s very low in calories overall, only 92 calories per ounce, because it’s a wheat-based chew and the primary sweetener is molasses. The molasses also adds a bit of nutrition. There 6% of your daily RDA of calcium and 8% of your RDA of iron.
I was disappointed to see artificial colors in the ingredients. It’s pretty easy to find all natural licorice out there, so there’s little reason to compromise on this if you don’t like Red 40, Yellow 6 or Blue 1 going into your candy or body.
The pieces are a little sticky but overall quite chewy and soft. The flavor is well rounded with a good licorice and anise flavor along with a smoky and earthy flavor of molasses. They’re not as sweet as Panda licorice, and I enjoy the twisted segments as a shape versus the long, smooth bar of Panda.
It’s good stuff, and since it’s made in the US, it’s pretty affordable stuff. Personally I prefer the format of pastilles (like Good & Plenty) so if they ever go in that direction, I’d be interested to try them.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
I saw these Haribo Hot Sticks first on the Candy Gurus site and knew I had to have them.
They’re a strange combination of flavors, at least to the American palate. The package describes them as Fruity-Spicy & Liquorice. They’re sugar crusted gummis in three flavor combinations: Hot Orange + Liquorice, Ginger-Lemon + Liquorice and Raspberry-Jalapeno + Liquorice.
Haribo is a global confectionery brand, but this package is for the German market, with the majority of the package information in German and a smattering in English.
There are three flavors, but I have trouble telling them apart. The raspberry was easy, since it was pink, but the orange and lemon versions were more difficult.
The texture is soft and bouncy, the sugar crust is fine and adheres well to the candy, so well that there was barely any in the bottom of the bag. Each has a licorice end, and that flavor was consistent across all the pieces. It was very sweet with a mild anise flavor. I’m not usually the keen on Haribo’s licorice, but this gummi version was mild and traditional.
Hot Orange + Liquorice - the orange end had a little tangy citrus note and at first, I had trouble detecting anything else, but soon the warming spice of what I can only guess is hot pepper started. It was really just the heat, there wasn’t much of the vegetable note to it. The licorice combined well with it, mostly evening it all out and providing a more lingering sweetness.
Ginger-Lemon + Liquorice - this was the flavor that drove me to find the Hot Sticks. I love Haribo’s Ginger Lemon gummis, so the addition of licorice sounded great. The earthy flavor of the ginger balanced very well with the herbal notes of the anise-licorice. The tartness of the lemon cut the sugary sweetness of the grainy coating.
Raspberry-Jalapeno + Liquorice - I have to admit that jalapeno is not one of my favorite flavors. The raspberry and jalapeno flavors were well balanced here. The tangy and floral berry notes came right out, but so did the green vegetable flavors of jalapeno along with the very warm notes of the pepper. When I just ate a bite from that flavored end, I found it slightly too hot for me. However, when eating as a whole candy, with the soothing woodsy note of the licorice, it’s interesting ... still, it was a bit chaotic. Of all the flavors here, this one was the least successful. But it could just be that I’d never tried that combination before and it was too jarring for me to appreciate.
Overall, it’s a really fascinating mix. Each bite is different, and because the flavors are separated on different ends, you can kind of control how much of a mix you get. I’ll probably stick with the much more mundane Lemon Ginger, but the addition of licorice, especially this particular version of a gummi licorice, is quite good.
Monday, February 4, 2013
A little sampling of Licorice from Myzel’s in New York City that I picked up. Most are items I’ve had before, so it was nice to have the comfort of something tried and true. The one on the right end is the only one I’d never had before, it’s thyme and rosemary from Italy. It’s a soft, glycerine style licorice. Not very sweet at all with the balsam notes of the herbs.
Thursday, January 24, 2013
The candies, most from Sweden, are made without artificial colors. You can buy from Sockerbit’s website but their best selection is in their store.
The candies are fresh and well marked in their bins. I made three different bags for myself. One was wrapped candies (not pictured), an array of fudge & chocolate items and the third mix was for marshmallow and fruity candies. I purchased about a pound total and as you can see from this posting, sampled a huge variety of candy styles and flavors.
Romrussin Fudge - say it out loud and it’s obvious that this is rum raisin fudge. Even though the pieces seem a bit dry and hard, they’re not at all once I bit into one. The rum note is light, like a butterscotch sort of flavor. The raisins are tangy and sweet and pretty chewy.
Fudge Duo is a stack of vanilla fudge and chocolate fudge. It’s a bit drier than the romrussin. The chocolate is mild, the vanilla is quite sweet and has a light toffee note. The texture is smooth, without the heavy buttered grain of some styles of fudge (which I rather like). This was a bit sweet for me and I think I would have to either limit myself to one piece or eat it with something like dark chocolate, nuts or strong coffee.
Licorice Fudge is quite black and rather formidable. The flavor profile is well done. It’s not as sweet as the other fudges and according to the ingredients list I found online, it has 2.3% licorice powder in it. Like the other candies sold at Sockerbit, there are no artificial colorings, in this case the licorice is made black by the use of carbon black (E153 - which may have animal origins, my vegetarian friends). It’s unusual to find this licorice product here, because E153 is not approved in the US.
Overall, the fudge was dry. I’m not a huge fudge person in the first place, but the thing I like best about it is the buttery, grainy texture of fresh fudge.
Polly are little nougat nuggets covered in milk or dark chocolate. A little larger than a Milk Dud, they’re quite a tasty morsel, something I would want to buy again. They’re a little egg-noggy, maybe a rum flavoring to them. They’re chewy, like a stiff nougat but there’s no sugary grain to them (kind of like a tacky marshmallow). The dark chocolate version has a decent semi-sweet coating on it, it’s not that rich but passable for something that’s more of a family candy. The milk chocolate is actually a bit better, with strong dairy tastes and possibly this is the only one that has the rum notes to it.
Nougat with Almonds - it’s a bit dry, though not at all sticky. They’re airy pieces, kind of a cross between marshmallow and the Italian torrone. There’s no essence to it, no amaretto or orange notes. It’s a clean flavor and easy to eat. I wouldn’t mind them coated in chocolate as well. The nougat works better as a “dry” candy compared to the fudge and I’d be happy to eat more if I found it.
The center is a fudge-like sweet paste with a light rum and possibly raisin flavor. It’s covered in semi-sweet chocolate and some cute little nonpareils for garnish. I didn’t like them quite as much as the Polly, they’re not quite as poppable. They’re a bit sweeter and the rum more pronounced ... maybe it needed a bit more of a creamy butter component for me.
Starting small, there are a few jelly berries in there called Skogsbär. There were three different colors, each a little different. The Swedish berry flavor is mild but smooth. The classic raspberries were jammy but still not very intense. When I first bought them they were smooth but after sitting in the paper bag they got a little harder and grainier.
I always enjoy banana marshmallows. The frothy texture of marshmallow goes well with banana flavoring. In the case of the banana marshmallows from Sweden, don’t get these confused with the American Marbits known as Circus Peanuts. The texture is far smoother and the flavor, though probably artificial is not caustic. There’s even a little tartness to it.
The second banana is called Banana Bubs, they’re half yellow banana flavor and the other half a mild caramel flavor. They’re foamy and soft, chewy and less tart than the bananas.
The large pink disk says Franssons on it. It’s strawberry flavored, soft and has a great berry flavor to it. The smooth dissolve of the marshmallow gives it a creamy texture without any actual fat. It’s a few bites, so it ends up being a lot of candy in one piece. Refreshing.
Skumsvampar are the little hat shapes came in two different flavors. The pink ones are the lingonberry flavor, they’re more sweet without that round tart note that the disk had. The tan ones are cola, they’re very mild but have a good caramel and light spice note to them.
Elephant Feet Licorice is the only licorice I picked up while I was there, though they had quite a bit. These are a pleasant variety. The base is foamy and has a light caramel flavor to it. The black licorice layer is a gummi with a mild anise note to it. They’re easy to eat with an almost creamy flavor to it, like the crema on an espresso.
The Red Car is Swedish berry flavor, whatever the Swedish Fish flavor is, probably something like the lingonberry version of Jolly Rancher green apple. But it wasn’t exactly a flavor retread, it was different. It was much strong, much more floral, the the point where I noticed an overwhelming note of violet in my candy bag only to find it was this single red car that was causing it. It’s a good flavor, but very ultimately very different from the masculine berry I was expecting.
Cola Car is spicy and bold, with a sharp tartness to it. These got stale more quickly than some of the other pieces I picked out.
The Malaco Gummi Cola Bottles were tangy and sharp, but not quite as spicy or as vibrant as I would have liked. However, the texture was quite nice, a little tougher and less sticky than Swedish Fish. I would eat these ... I might even prefer them over Haribo Gummi Cola Bottles.
The flavor is not straight menthol or mint. It’s more like a berry flavor, maybe lingonberry with a menthol kick to it. There’s a light tartness to it as well. They’re odd. I was expecting them to be a straight sort of gummi mint cough drop (smaller gummi eucalyptus drops are popular in South America), but they’re simply different from that. I can’t decide if I like them. They’re soothing and invigorating ... but I wouldn’t call them tasty. It’s like mixing Sleepytime tea with Red Zinger.
Some other items not shown in the photos:
Dumle are individually wrapped chocolate covered toffee pieces. The toffee style is really a caramel. It’s quite soft, but not oozy like Cadbury’s. It has a light, cereal flavor that reminds me of graham crackers, maybe even with a hint of coconut and cinnamon. I also tried the purple wrapped liquorice variety. Instead of being a goofy over-colored black inside, it looked just the like other toffee version. The licorice flavor is mild and earthy.
Hem-kola are little squares of firm hazelnut caramel. They’re kind of like a rich Now & Later. The hazelnut is more of a flavor, there’s no crushed nuts in there. It’s sweet and becomes a little grainy towards the end. They reminded me a lot of the caramel style of Sugar Babies.
Rollo are like Sugar Daddy, a tough caramel. It’s creamy and has a strong dairy flavor, more than a hint of salt and a smooth texture.
Tom’s Guld Karamel are good, like a Storck Chocolate Riesen. The caramel (toffee) center is smooth, salty but not chocolate flavored on its own. The chocolate coating though is rather dark and bitter.
Whenever I’m in New York, I will definitely make this a stop. I know that the inventory changes as well, so not all of these candies may be available right now. (Here’s a review of my recent New York City candy shopping spree.)
I give the Polly an 8 out of 10, the Banana marshmallows, Cola candies and Elephant Feet a 7 out of 10 and everything else a 6 out of 10.
Friday, October 12, 2012
Darrell Lea is an Australian confectionery company founded in 1927. They were known in Australia for their quaint and classic chocolate and licorice products sold at the company’s branded stores. (The company went into administration earlier this year and was bought out by the Quinn family, who also run VIP Petfoods. The shops are closed, but they’re still making candy.)
Here in the United States were get few of their products on our shelves, with their signature item being the Australian style licorice. I’ve even tried another version of their chocolate covered licorice before.
Cost Plus World Market recently had a big display of Australian and specifically a large array of Darrell Lea confections. I picked up a chocolate covered fudge bar and this package of Darrell Lea Dark Choc Liquorice Bullets.
The package holds 7 ounces, but is jam packed with the candies. It’s a heavy bag, like a bean bag filled with lead shot. The pieces are large. Think of a swollen Good & Plenty. Good & Plenty are about 2/3 of an inch long. These are over one inch. They’re consistent, dark and glossy. They smell like sweet chocolate and nothing like licorice.
The chocolate coating is nicely done, shiny and thick. The flavor is, well, thin. It’s like hot cocoa made with hot water instead of milk. The chocolate notes are like chocolate syrup. The licorice nib beneath is hefty and soft with a solid and satisfying chew. The earthy flavors of the licorice go pretty well with the chocolate. It’s almost bitter with lots of notes of dirt and minerals but not a whole lot of anise, more on the green fennel flavors.
The chew leaves behind lots of sticky bits of the licorice in my teeth and has a sort of rib sticking density as well. The ingredients show that this is real chocolate, though it does contain PGPR (an extra emulsifier) and butter (so it’s not vegan ... though it also lists shellac). The licorice base is wheat flour. It was made in a facility that also processes peanuts and tree nuts. There’s no corn syrup though, which I know some people avoid in a licorice.
I found them satisfying as a candy, but not great as a chocolate product or as a licorice product. I ate the whole bag, but it took me well over a month, as I kept losing interest. They also make a Milk Choc variety, which might have a better balance with the added dairy flavors. I don’t know what the financial restructuring will mean to availability of Darrell Lea products outside of Australia.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
I saw some new packages of Panda Licorice on store shelves about six months ago. I thought it was cute and inventive. But I’ve already reviewed the Panda licorice line, for the most part, so there was no need for me to pick it up again.
What I didn’t realize is that this is actually a different line of licorice, with a different formula. The Panda Traditional Soft Original Licorice is part of the Panda “confections” line. It was formulated specifically to widen the Panda brand’s appeal and to be sold in more mass-market stores, instead of the narrow appeal of stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s which usually have rules about what sort of ingredients a product can have.
It doesn’t say much on the front of the package, beyond the brand name and the product but it’s quite clear: No artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
So a quick flip to the back of the package where they talk more about the traditional soft licorice and the heritage of the company that dates back to 1927 in Finland and how meticulous they are and how they use traditional ingredients. Those ingredients?
Yes, Panda’s licorice that’s otherwise free of artificial flavors, preservatives and colors, suitable for vegans, fat free and Kosher ... it’s made with high fructose corn syrup.
The price for this product? It was $2.99 at Cost Plus World Market for a 7 ounce bag.
The pieces of the Traditional Soft Original Licorice has 87.75 calories per ounce and 1 gram of protein. The pieces are large, sticky and very sweet. The one inch nubs are doughy and a little more “wheat” flavored than the classic variety.
It’s downright wet. In fact that may account for the lower calories on this variety, the fact that they have more water in them.
The licorice flavor is bland, though distinctly natural. It tastes more like anise though the sweetness has that soft licorice note to it. What’s missing for me is the molasses, that earthy flavor that has lots of toffee, burnt sugar, charcoal, oak and beets in it.
It sticks to my teeth. It sticks to my ribs. It sticks to my fingers, it sticks to the package.
In the interest of fairness, I had to revisit the stuff that’s made Finland famous. The All Natural Soft Licorice is made from an even shorter list of ingredients: Molasses, wheat flour, licorice extract, natural flavor (aniseseed oil). It has 92.14 calories per ounce but 2 grams of protein per serving. The price? It was $2.99 for a 6 ounce bag.
So for the same price you get about 14% less. But what was in that 14%? I have to wonder if it’s just high fructose corn syrup, watering the whole thing down.
The classic pieces in the bag are 3/4” tall and just a little smaller in diameter. They’re also far less sticky. They feel lighter and stiffer than their doughy counterparts. Plus it has all those complex flavors of molasses and licorice and less of the wheat flour.
It’s just baffling to me, since Panda has spent at least 40 years marketing itself in the United States as the premiere natural licorice brand, and competing against all brands, they’re still the fourth largest seller in the US. Much of their marketing, either by their hand or through the efforts of the stores that sell them have specified that Panda contains no “bad stuff” including high fructose corn syrup. So this change not only makes the candy taste bad, I think it’s done to purposely confuse consumers. The package uses the words traditional and original and says lots about how they don’t use those other bad ingredients. (But they do use a dubious ingredient that no one else uses, not even the cheapest of the cheap licorices.)
Lisa Gawthorne, Panda Liquorice spokesperson comments:
I tried engaging Panda in a dialogue about this change. I tweeted to them in March (they’ve answered in the past) but didn’t hear anything back. Then I tweeted to them again in June and they responded (though one of their responses they’ve since deleted). Here’s the exchange as it stands now.
Here’s the thing, though all this battle over high fructose corn sweetener, even as a candy writer, I haven’t had much to say. There’s not much to say, because HFCS in candy is incredibly rare. I’ve seen it in probably about five candies I’ve reviewed, and often when it does appear in other candies, it’s part of a whole ingredient like crushed cookies or a jelly, not something the candy company actually made themselves. HFCS just doesn’t behave the same way as a pure glucose syrup would or actual full sucrose. Ordinarily I would just be baffled that someone would use HFCS, but in this case I’m angry because Panda has cultivated their brand so carefully, in many cases specifically saying that they don’t use HFCS, as if everyone else does. When in reality it’s just them, in this lower price point line.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.