Friday, April 11, 2008

Black Licorice Twists & Snaps

Black Licorice by Red VinesI’m hearing a lot of hatin’ on black licorice in the entries for the Red Vines Giveaway. Which makes me sad. I think a lot of folks are very attached to their favorite candies and I’m probably one of those people and maybe I take it a little personally when someone calls something that I appreciate disgusting. (But I’m not a converter or anything, I don’t like to force candy on people who say that they don’t like something.)

Licorice has a long and wonderful history as a confection and even a medicine. It’s also very flexible, used as a flavoring in hundreds of different sweet and savory items. It has some companion flavors as well, such as anise and fennel. One of the more commonly found licorices is the Red Vines Black Licorice Twists.

    Black Licorice Twists by Red Vines

The most common kind of licorice here in the United States is the twist. It has a wheat base and is usually flavored and sweetened with molasses (and in this case, corn syrup too). Molasses is a great companion to licorice. While pure licorice is very sweet and soft on the tongue, molasses is deep and only mildly sweet with some interesting mineral notes.

The earthy combination and less sticky complexity to it all makes Red Vines Black Licorice Twists a nice treat. They’re not very licoricey, but that’s okay, they do have a nice texture and feel more like a snack than a candy sometimes. (Wheat-based candies can do that.) I think they’re best when they’re fresh, but stale is okay. I’ve revived stale licorice before by placing it in the microwave on top of a very lightly damp paper towel, covered with another paper towel and zap it for 10 seconds.

Licorice and licorice-like candies are increasing in popularity, probably because of their low caloric density and satisfying chew. As a grocery store purchase of licorice, I prefer Good and Plenty, but if you put Red Vines Black Licorice in front of me, I’ll definitely eat it.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Orginal SnapsSo that brings me to the truly original product that American Licorice makes: Original Snaps.

I’d never had them until I started the blog. I picked them up two years ago to try and found the bag was so horribly stale that it wouldn’t have been fair. So again with full warning this time that National Licorice Day was approaching, I picked up another bag.

It’s mind boggling. I don’t even know where to begin with how confused, anxious and actually angry these make me.

First, I opened the bag and it smelled like sweet musk. Yes. Like the Australian Musk Lollies. And I know this smell because I recently bought a bag.

Original Snaps

At first I thought I was crazy. I’ve had smell hallucinations and I’ve heard that simply coloring a food one way will make someone expect that flavor, so maybe I was just having some sort of synapse malfunction.

But it’s been a full week and I’ve checked with others. The reaction to the smell ranges from “It smells like my grandmother’s purse” to “that’s like a bad candle shop.”

None of it gets better. The colors are odd, like slightly bleached by the sun or perhaps rinsed in the colander with some fresh veggies and they’ve run.

The texture is like eating surgical tubing ... that’s been sitting next to leaking perfume samples for several months. They candy is made of little tubes of a similar wheat-based licorice vine (no twist to it) that is then coated on the outside with a candy shell (I can’t call it crunchy, only colorful). After chewing a bit the flavor does kind of warm up, after the musk has gone away it’s a little bit like licorice, but lacking the anise punch and the deep earthy molasses flavors.

The American Licorice Company explains them this way:

Snaps(r) is the candy with the licorice center, pastel-colored candy coatings and unique taste. Introduced in the 1930s, Snaps brand candy is the nostalgic confection with a legion of rabid fans.

Maybe it’s just because I don’t like musk. But someone must like these candies or they wouldn’t be making them for those rabid fans. Or maybe people just use them for craft projects. They might make some decent kid-safe chunky beads for stringing on some embroidery thread.

I just ... don’t know what else ...  to write about them. I can only assume that those people who hate licorice have tasted this and I can’t blame them for their hostility towards the stuff. (Go ahead and call me hypocritical for hatin’ on this stuff, I can take it.)

Rating: 2 out of 10

The Red Vines Giveaway closes on Saturday, April 12th, so enter if you want some! (Don’t worry, there will be no Snaps in the winner packages.)

Related Candies

  1. Organic Finnska Soft Licorice
  2. Licorice Assortment
  3. Good & Plenty (Fresh from the Factory)
  4. Brachs Bunny Basket Eggs
Name: Red Vines Black Licorice Twists & Snaps
  • 10 SUPERB
  • 9 YUMMY
  • 8 TASTY
  • 7 WORTH IT
  • 4 BENIGN
Brand: American Licorice Company
Place Purchased: sample from Red Vines & Walgreen's
Price: $1.29 retail and $1.49
Size: 5 ounces & 5.5 ounces
Calories per ounce: 99
Categories: Licorice, United States, American Licorice Co.

POSTED BY Cybele AT 8:24 am Tracker Pixel for Entry    

  1. I have never had the snaps, so I can’t comment on those, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE black licorice, especially jelly beans, but I too have encountered many a hater!

    Comment by Meredith on 4/11/08 at 9:48 am #
  2. I believe my exact quote about the Snaps of evil was, “It smells like my grandmother’s powdery neck.”  Seriously, the Snap was the most disgusting piece of candy I’ve ever tried, and since I work in the office next to Cybele’s, I’ve tried some doozies.  It’s the first one I’ve had to spit out.

    Comment by Bronwen on 4/11/08 at 9:59 am #
  3. I also don’t understand why people hate black licorice. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!! I also like the jeely beans (of course) and lollipops thta come in the black licorice flavour!!

    Comment by Farah on 4/11/08 at 10:07 am #
  4. I have eaten Snaps as a child, it was one of those candies that would sit in the candy dish forever, and after everything else in the house was gone, you’d eat a couple in desperation.

    They’re so tough that the outer shell is like chewing on thick, wet cardboard. I remember them as being hideous, but you know what? Your mentioning them here has made me want to have a couple just to remember.

    Comment by Carol on 4/11/08 at 10:22 am #
  5. i can honestly say that the only licorice ive really ever have had are the jelly beans, and i liked them (i hate the red ropes, no matter the brand). but i have never seen, heard or read anyone ever say anything good about Snaps.

    Comment by Doug on 4/11/08 at 10:23 am #
  6. My father LOVES licorice snaps. He eats them by the handful. I tried them once when I was younger, and they are disgusting.

    At least the packaging has improved over the years. I suppose the intent is to trick kids who don’t know how gross these things are into buying a bag!

    Comment by nd on 4/11/08 at 10:33 am #
  7. i hate to say this but Snaps are a guilty pleasure of mine.  i can’t say why, but i was very upset years ago when American discontinued them. they have a distinct and unique taste that for some reason resonates with my tongue.  i don’t put them in the same category is “real” licorice…

    Comment by mk on 4/11/08 at 10:52 am #
  8. Try explaining droppies to the rest of the world. They are Dutch treats, and I really like the double salted black licorice.

    Comment by cassie on 4/11/08 at 11:13 am #
  9. Yeah, Snaps, yuck….you’re a brave woman to eat those a second time, willingly, Cybele. wink

    Comment by Sera on 4/11/08 at 11:41 am #
  10. You know, I like anise and fennel (especially traditional Italian pizelle with anise!), but I just can’t get into black licorice.  My dad’s nuts about it, but sadly I didn’t inherit this good quality from him.

    Comment by Mo on 4/11/08 at 12:34 pm #
  11. I love black licorice, but I’ve never had the Snaps. I think I’ll pass them up after your article though. Thanks for the heads up. My favorite version is black licorice salt-water taffy! Mmmm.

    Comment by Karen on 4/12/08 at 3:03 am #
  12. I love the taste of licorice jelly beans (though I always hated them when I was younger because of the strong taste), but the twists have always tasted too mealy too me. Probably because of the flour they’re made with. I like the licorice ropes better than the red ropes though. :D

    Comment by Magda on 4/12/08 at 5:02 am #
  13. Snaps are a candy you don’t think about unless you see them in the store.  We have a candy store in our area that sells them in bulk.  They are the only black licorice-like candy I eat.  Seeing this on the blog has given me craving for it.
    Our office has increased the sales of red licorice lately.  We go through about a bag a day among 3 women.  We could sure use a free supply….

    Comment by Dragonfly_Spirit on 4/12/08 at 10:48 am #
  14. Mmmm… I can smell the Vines through the screen! 

    I tried Snaps once.  I finished the package, but have never been remotely tempted to buy them again.

    Comment by Ann on 4/12/08 at 7:23 pm #
  15. on a non-licorice note—i keep looking for the tootsie pop drops and the crispy mint M&Ms;and can’t find them.  are they slowly sweeping across the country, making my FL location unfortunate, or am i just not looking hard enough?

    of course what i’m really waiting for is the rockin nut road snickers… mmm.

    Comment by emma on 4/13/08 at 6:08 pm #
  16. The snaps coating looks like..painted paper mache?

    Comment by Leigh on 4/13/08 at 6:11 pm #
  17. on another side note, i went to some scottish games this weekend, and their was a tent selling various foodstuffs from the british isles. among all the various european candy bars was a few different bags of licorice. i thought about buying a bag, but had no idea which would be good and which ones wouldnt. oh well. bought some Aero bars instead.

    Comment by Doug on 4/14/08 at 5:01 am #
  18. I love black licorice…except snaps.  Those are the NASTIEST things I’ve ever tasted.  Picked some up at a local Rite-Aid and had 3 pieces before throwing them out.  Ick!

    Comment by Karen on 4/14/08 at 9:01 am #
  19. I saw that picture of the snaps (poured out of the bag) and just about gagged. I must’ve had em before, cause you really nailed your description with some weird memory - I think they’d been in my grandmothers candy dish a year or 2 too long ... eeeewwwww!

    Comment by Kim Andersen on 4/15/08 at 5:18 pm #
  20. “I?m probably one of those people and maybe I take it a little personally when someone calls something that I appreciate disgusting.”

    Yeah, but don’t you do that to cherry fans all the time?  Cherry is my favorite flavor, but I don’t take it personally when you complain about it (which is a lot.)  You shouldn’t take it personally when people think black licorice is the disgusting.

    Comment by Rita on 4/16/08 at 8:30 am #
  21. Snaps are one of my favorite candy.  I had a hard time finding them for awhile but now they sell them in a few grocery stores.  I use to buy them by bulk but haven’t seen them like that for a long time.

    Comment by Liz on 4/17/08 at 6:15 am #
  22. I’ll stick up for Snaps - I love them! The colors are great, emblematic of some past extraterrestrial design era that never existed.  And the ziti “surgical tubing” shape is a winner for me.  A very mild licorice for when I’m on the fickle side of my love-hate relationship with the stuff.  That musk coating is like nothing else, and works for me. But, then I like floral/perfumey flavors, like C. Howard’s Violet mints.

    Comment by Steve on 6/13/08 at 11:37 am #
  23. Snaps have been a part of my candy intake since my 1950’s childhood and still make my mouth water. I love the salty european black licorice as a result of that time in my life. I can still taste the sugar blast from the candy coating (you gotta ingest a handful for this) and being left with the salty, chewy black licorice after the sugar. Best enjoyed by the handful as a child would eat them!

    Comment by Jake Bratzler on 6/15/08 at 2:33 am #
  24. I love Snaps! And yes——best eaten by the handful to appreciate the floral nose, sweet candy coating, then black licorice.

    Comment by Gretchen on 7/01/08 at 11:12 am #
  25. SNAPS Rule!!!! Have loved them all my life. Great taste. I like them better when they are a little bit stale.

    Comment by Ellen on 7/02/08 at 6:46 pm #
  26. I too, love snaps and have for about 40 years.  I love the weird smell and the odd flavors and how the colors don’t match up to anything you would imagine.  The pinks taste a bit like soap but the rest are yummy.  Here’s the key though - they must be fresh and its hard to get them fresh probably due to the long time sitting on the shelves due to their unpopularity.

    Comment by Lynn on 9/29/08 at 9:47 am #
  27. I bought a 10 oz. tub of snaps tonight from Wal-mart. I love black licorice so I decided to buy them. I started with a white piece. Tasted decent and the chewiness gave it a unique feel that I really enjoyed. Then I ate a green and then an orange. All good so far. Then my wife came in the room and I said “here, try these, they’re pretty good.” She took a pink one popped it in her mouth. Her face melted in disgust and her head violently shook as though to fling the embalming taste away. I didn’t understand until I tried one myself. UUUUUUCK!!!! I couldn’t do it. It tastes like furniture polish and lipstick mixed with old spice and hat boxes from the attic. I emplore everyone to buy some snaps to experience this one of a kind, deathly flavor.

    Comment by Patrick on 12/11/08 at 5:22 pm #
  28. Oh thank goodness!!  Someone else had the rancid perfume experience with Snaps.  I thought I was crazy.

    Comment by Kristie on 1/02/09 at 5:09 pm #
  29. Being a black licorice fan all of my life and liking Am. Lic. Co. products I recall seeing this at my Target about 6 months ago or so.  I remember being excited about nostalgic candy and more so old style licorice.  When I opened the bag and tried them I was confused.  The taste was not right and texture was not right.  I sampled again thinking I had a dud.  But after about 10 pieces I realized the taste was deliberate.  The writer has it right.

    Comment by David on 2/16/09 at 8:46 am #
  30. I have been addicted to black & red licorice vines & snaps over 50 years. When we moved from Oregon, my sis in law would mail care packages full of them to anywhere we lived we couldn’t find my vines. They are my comfort food, my memories of childhood, my “nothing can taste better” food. No other company makes anything that comes close to heaven for me. Twizzlers suck!!
      Snaps? There’s always one flavor in a bag that tastes horrible and our son says it’s like Harry Potter and his candy that tastes like ear wax.  You never know what flavor you will find, but there’s going to be one that’s nasty.  That doesn’t keep us from buying bags whenever we find them though. The fresher they are, the better they taste, so watch the use by date on the bag to get the best flavor.
      We just bought 4 big bags last week, wish I could find the bulk containers of them as my source has stopped selling them.

    Comment by Sandi S on 4/05/09 at 4:56 pm #
  31. I just received Licorice Snaps in a care package from my sister in the US.  I have fond memories of these candies from when we went to Walt Disney World in the 70’s.  The pink ones do stand out…My first thought was roses, then an intense hit of turn of the century odor of the Morgan City Public Library.  Yummy…I think.

    Comment by Patrice on 8/08/09 at 6:16 pm #
  32. I loved the snaps! In fact, I went on a search for them when I was pregnant (and I’m not a big black licorice fan), and had a very difficult finding them. I was finally able to find them in bulk at a grocery store, then moved out of state & have not been able to find them since. I still look though. If anyone knows where to find them in Oregon, I would love to know!

    Comment by Samantha on 8/24/09 at 1:08 pm #
  33. Snaps are, by far, the worst candy I have ever come across. I saw them yesterday at the local KMart, had never heard of them before (note to self…check Candy Blog before attempting to jump into the deep end of the candy pool), love licorice, so I decided to get 2 bags. The stench that came from the bag when I opened it was an inkling of the terror inside. Bad perfume wrapped around plastic. That’s the only way I can describe it.
    Headed out back right now to bury the rest. Hope that the EPA doesn’t get a wind of what I’m doing.

    Comment by Patrick on 8/30/09 at 9:18 am #
  34. My husband and I tried Snaps today, someone bought these nasties as a gift for our wedding. They’re disgusting. My husband said they tasted like “detergent” and spit them out. I had a few and at first thought they were OK. Not good, but not horrible. After a a few chews, they increasingly become rancid. Needless to say, we threw the whole bag away. What a terrible wedding gift.

    Comment by Kristen on 12/12/09 at 9:16 am #
  35. Black licouice is nasty (to me). i guess pepl have different taste but I for 1 is not a black licouice fan.

    Comment by Mone on 7/22/10 at 3:55 pm #
  36. Snaps! I have been thinking about them for years, today finally remembered the name, and the descriptions above are right on. ‘Paper mache’. Weird colors. Slightly rancid. Brittle. I can’t wait to find them.

    Comment by Joseph on 10/15/10 at 6:52 pm #
  37. I love Snaps! My Mom used to eat them when I was a kid. She loved the pink and white ones.  She told me they had a different flavor from the others. And they do. Has anyone else noticed this?

    Comment by Laura on 5/15/12 at 11:06 am #
  38. The white and pink ones DO have a different flavor, seems like menthol or something is added. Incidentally, after searching a long time in specialty shops, it turned out SNAPS were right under my nose, down the street at Walgreens, in bags for about $2.50

    Comment by Joseph on 5/15/12 at 11:35 am #
  39. It’s not a menthol flavor. It seems floral. Almost like those weird candies, that were “violet” flavored.  The were in a silver and purple foil wrap and were square shaped.  Can anyone else describe or know what the flavor is in the pink and white snaps.  They are a bit different.

    Comment by Laura on 5/16/12 at 7:20 am #
  40. I love black licorice, but could only force my way through a few of these before tossing the bag in the trash.  And even though I had only eaten a few, my teeth and tongue were stained an ungodly shade of pink that brushing my teeth barely made a dent in.

    Comment by Stephen on 7/23/12 at 6:10 am #
  41. Snaps are my favorite candy in the universe… I disagree and if they keep making them for just me I would make it my life work to work to keep them in business.

    Comment by Cynthia on 2/21/13 at 9:38 am #
  42. I have been a big fan of Snaps for over 50 years.
    Recently the company changed the ingredients and now use a licorice that resembles jelly beans.
    They still list it on the bag as “Original Snaps”.
    I would think that this is false adverting because it is far from the original.

    Comment by Richard on 5/16/13 at 3:07 pm #
  43. The original Snaps are the best. love them, but just recently they changed them. They are not the same anymore. To me they are now inedible. Its To bad because I have great memories of my dad and I eating them when I was young.

    Comment by Bart on 6/08/13 at 5:38 am #
  44. I hadn’t had Snaps for a long time (months though, not years) and recently bought 2 bags.  Didn’t notice the “Same Great Flavors, Softer, Chewy Center” on the bags.  They are NOT the same great flavors (the colors used to each have a unique flavor, now they all taste the same) and they don’t get nice and hard even when I freeze them.  They’re just a glob of colored sugar now and I will no longer be buying them.  Sure not the same Snaps I used to buy 50 years ago in the 2c red box!

    Comment by Faith on 6/10/13 at 3:30 pm #

    Comment by Shirley on 6/20/13 at 1:58 pm #
  46. The Snaps that are being produced today are NOT the same as the Snaps that were produced last year. There was a “problem” and the company changed the formulation dramatically. In my opinion, they are now AWFUL. The bags say, “same great flavor, now softer” If you are a Snaps lover…..DO NOT BUY THEM. I just got tricked at my local Walgreens. They had both kinds of bags—the old style and the one with the new disclaimer. I bought the one without and it contained the “new” Snaps. I threw it away. Caviat emptor… Let the buyer beware!!

    Comment by J. Masek on 7/27/13 at 1:20 pm #
  47. Really looked forward to having them after what was probably at least 25 years. I liked them as a kid. These are all wrong.  The shape is shorter, the texture is doesn’t you know, snap,  and there is something missing and something extra in the flavor.  Bummer.  At least I have found that amazing school chalk licorice. That will console me about never having real Snaps again.

    Comment by Sara on 5/26/14 at 7:27 pm #
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