Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Napoleon BonBon

Napoleon LemonHard candy has a bad reputation as being cheap and a candy of last resort. Oh sure, a little starlight mint after a garlicky meal is usually gratefully accepted when offered. But really good hard candy is out there.

Some of my favorites are actually the most subtle such as the Japanese Juntsuyu and Barley Sugar Candy.  But sometimes bold is just what the doctor ordered. Napoleon BonBons are definitely bold.

As a kid I often got them around holidays, just a small handful included in my stocking candy. As I grew up I learned to find them on my own ... and was pretty shocked at the sticker price, especially compared to the more affordable Zotz.

Le Bon Bonbon NapoleonI don’t know when or where I got this tin. I think it was sometime in the late eighties, I’m pretty sure I bought it in Philadelphia or New York and I was probably mortified to pay something like three dollars for a little tin of lemon drops.

They’re made in Belgium and the packaging features the image of Napoleon Bonaparte. I have no idea when the candies originated or their history. The tin simply says: Le Bon Bonbon Napoleon Sour Lemon. The more recent bag that I acquired through a photo shoot for Candy Warehouse says Made by Napoleon-Breskens-Holland.

So even though I can’t tell you much about their background, I can review what I’ve got:


Though I most often see the Lemon, they also come in Cherry, Tangerine, Lime and Pineapple.

The candies are devilishly simple. Hard candy outside, and then a strip of super sour powder in the center. The powder center is often mistaken for a liquid, it’s rather cool on the tongue and so fine that it melts away instantly. It’s only before putting then in the mouth that I could really tell. (Yes, as a kid I sometimes broke them apart to create a big pile of super sour powder.)

  • Lemon - Yellow - a classic lemon hard candy, like any other lemon drop. The hard candy is smooth with few voids and has a good shatter to it when crunched. The lemon is a blend of zest and light tang. The acidic powder center really ramps up the sour. Sometimes I like to dissolve the whole candy as much as I can until I get to the sour for even release, sometimes I crunch as soon as a I can. A fun trick is to cleave the candy cleanly in half for as much surface area for the powder.
  • Pineapple - Clear - starts out sweet and floral but develops into a tangy and rather complex piece. The pineapple is more on the jam or boiled fruit side of the flavors than a fresh pineapple. The sour center is very strong and tastes a little more chemically on this one than the others.

  • Tangerine - Orange - I was really stunned when I tried this. The flavor was gloriously subtle, it tasted like orange blossom. Then the florals gave way to the zesty and sour notes. Then the really sour center. If I could buy a whole bag of Tangerine, I definitely would go with this one over the Lemon.

  • Lime - Green -  one of the more successful lime candies I’ve had in a while. I have a Persian lime tree, so I have a lot of experience with real limes, and of course my candy blogging brings me into contact with all sorts of fake limes. This has a sweet and slightly bitter zest start which mellows into a little bit of a floor cleaner vibe. But the sour packs enough scour power to bring it back round to that really tingly feeling. At the end of the candy though, there is still that bitter citrus oil vibe that lingers.

  • Cherry - Red - this has an immediate maraschino flavor that is then tempered with a sour cherry. It’s an odd combination, unlike the American cherry that we’re familiar with through cough drops and LifeSavers. It’s not as dark or woodsy, it tastes more unripe. The tartness is fun and well balanced.
  • These are insanely expensive. The ones in the top photo I bought at Miette in San Francisco last year for 25 cents each. They’re spherical and a little less yellow, but still the same flavor profile as the disk shaped lemon. The bags that Candy Warehouse sells are $7.10 a pound, and come in 7 pound bags. (Yes, at one time I had 14 pounds of Napoleon Bonbons - one of just lemon and one of the mix. I’ve eaten about three pounds so far.)

    I’ve really vacillated between giving these a nine or a ten. The price is a formidable obstacle to perfection, but then again, I know I bought that tin when I was in college and had staggeringly little money so they must be worth it. So there you are, another 10 out of 10.

    Related Candies

    1. Mike and Ike Alex’s Lemonade Stand
    2. Kasugai Fruits Lemonade
    3. Topps Baby Bottle
    4. Zotz Apple
    5. Giant Pixy Stix
    6. The Lemonhead & Fruit Heads
    Name: Napoleon Bonbon Assorted Sours
    • 10 SUPERB
    • 9 YUMMY
    • 8 TASTY
    • 7 WORTH IT
    • 6 TEMPTING
    • 5 PLEASANT
    • 4 BENIGN
    • 1 INEDIBLE
    Brand: Napoleon
    Place Purchased: samples from CandyWarehouse
    Price: $7.10 a pound
    Size: 7 pounds
    Calories per ounce: unknown
    Categories: Hard Candy, Sour, Belgium

    POSTED BY Cybele AT 6:50 am Tracker Pixel for Entry    

    1. My mother always used to have bags of the lemon variety around the house, which she liked to use as a sort of pick-me-up while she was at work, so illicit snacking on her Napoleons was a sure-fire way to get in trouble! I guess that’s why I’ll always feel kinda nostalgic about Napoleons.

      I’m surprised that they’re so expensive on the American market, though. They’re a staple of supermarket candy aisles on the Dutch market (where I live), as well as in other European countries, and they’re usually priced about the same as other candies here. They don’t sell disk-shaped ones here, though, just the spherical ones, and the available flavours are a little different from the ones you listed. I’ve seen bags of dark pink ones on sale here that’re raspberry flavoured, and black licorice-flavoured ones too. I’ve never tried those, though - I always go for the classic lemon ones.

      Oh, and according to the official site, whole bags of orange-flavoured Napoleons also exist… but they’re only sold in Belgium and Luxemburg. Bummer!

      Comment by V.K.N. on 3/24/09 at 7:33 am #
    2. It’s always nice to see a 10 out of 10!
      Those look quite tasty, I might pick some up when I go to EUROPE THIS SUMMER!!! *dances in excitement and joy*

      Comment by Jeni on 3/24/09 at 12:45 pm #
    3. i have that exact same tin, bought in the late eighties in a teeny candy shop in athens, ga. it’s still one of my favourites.

      Comment by santos. on 3/25/09 at 6:48 am #
    4. Sera's avatar

      Wow, these are gorgeous! I’ll have to keep an eye out for them.

      Comment by Sera on 3/25/09 at 1:03 pm #

      Comment by Bubbles on 3/26/09 at 2:42 am #
    6. I am the Candy Specialist at a uppity grocery store and Napoleons are in my top 5 favorites for sure. I eat at least one a day! They are so under appreciated at our store that I just don’t sell that many of them. Hopefully your review will improve their PR. I was shocked at the price you got them for, we sell them for 4.99 a pound, at a healthy profit I might add.

      Comment by Nicole on 3/26/09 at 3:08 am #
    7. Had to comment on this!
      Bonbon Napoleon also remembers me of my youth. You made me want to buy a pack (which I have not done in years. But as said above in Belgium they are simple supermarket candies at normal prices, and always spherical.
      They also exist now in a chocolate and coffee version (which I have not tasted ... the center though is not sour powder, but some liquid chocolatey-coffee thing).
      They were originally a Belgium company, but now they have been bought over by Lonka (fudge) in the Netherlands.

      Comment by mafalda on 3/26/09 at 3:14 am #
    8. Speaking of hard candy, I’ve been really addicted to these ones called ‘Senjaku - Hiyasyuwa Ramune Sour Fizzy Soda Candy’ They also have a cola flavour, and they’re the best cola/soda candy I’ve ever had! They have it at Amazon (http://preview.tinyurl.com/dxe6cy) so maybe you should try them smile

      Comment by eidetical on 3/26/09 at 9:10 pm #
    9. Also, the bags of mixed fruit Napoleons sold in Europe don’t include the lime flavour. Instead, they feature an apple flavour - and a very nice one, at that. It’s mild and a little tart, and not at all artificial-tasting - I really like it!

      Comment by V.K.N. on 3/28/09 at 1:13 pm #
    10. I?ve seen bags of dark pink ones on sale here that?re raspberry flavoured, and black licorice-flavoured ones too. I?ve never tried those, though - I always go for the classic lemon ones.

      Comment by jessica on 4/02/09 at 1:06 am #
    11. Now I know about these, a monster has been created! Good thing I can get them for $4.99 a pound at Fresh Market. Though someone DID go through and pick out all the delicious lime ones, curse them.

      Comment by Rosie M Banks on 10/05/09 at 8:38 am #
    12. so curious! miette in sf sells these, but they are round spheres, not flattened. and they said the red is raspberry and the green is apple. mysterious! i will have to buy some again to re-taste and wonder. they are 25 cents a piece…adds up quickly!

      Comment by carol on 4/30/10 at 11:33 am #
    13. Here (the netherlands), we also have Napoleon bonbons with licorice (yumm!), caramel, apple and ammonium chloride (‘salmiak’) taste.

      Comment by Anzj on 6/15/11 at 12:52 pm #
    14. Haha, I was eating Napoleons when I decided to search some background information on it.
      They can be so sour ouch.
      But nonetheless really awesome!
      I got cola flavored as a bonus

      Being from Europe is awesome but there is so many Japanese candy that looks delicious ...
      One day, one day.

      Comment by Tootsietroll on 5/23/12 at 9:53 am #
    15. Teehee, I have a 1 pound mixed bag full of these and the cola ones on the way to my house (along with haribo lemon ginger gummies!) I found the orange ones online by themselves, and also some cappuccino ones… http://www.dutchsweets.com/napoleon-napoleon-orange-bonbons-p-615.html

      Comment by neonumbreon on 8/14/12 at 2:14 am #
    16. mmmm They came! Cola is by FAR my favorite! (and everyone else in my house’s…better find a good hiding spot)

      Comment by neonumbreon on 8/16/12 at 9:44 am #
    17. Not interested in what others think….I just want some here at my home. Love them. Lemon and tangerine. Please tell me how to purchase them.

              .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

      Comment by Katy Wood on 10/09/12 at 2:18 pm #
    18. I found mine on amazon

      Comment by neonumbreon on 10/10/12 at 2:21 am #
    19. Just scored some in the bulk bin at Central Market in Austin.  My wife needs lemon drops to help stave off motion sickness, and I thought I’d take a chance on them at $7.99/lb (ouch!).  I then had to check out the candy blog to see if they had been reviewed after trying a cherry, then a lemon, then a tangerine. . . .  Best hard candy I’ve had.  Next stop, Amazon.

      Comment by Alan on 6/22/13 at 3:21 pm #
    20. Crack rock, crack rock.

      Comment by Firrip Handle on 10/16/13 at 5:02 pm #
    21. Napoleon Le Bon Bon Bons are made in Antwerp by the Stappaerts family. I used to carry them in my Cheese shop in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia. I met Eric Stappaerts in 1973 at the annual Fancy Food and Confectionery show in NY. And yes they are still a favorite of mine, when I can find them.

      Comment by Merilyn Jackson on 4/19/14 at 11:53 am #
    22. Mountainman nut &fruit; used to sell these from Belgium and they were in disk form. The ones you mentioned from amazon and walmart are in the round form and are not as good. The nut house shows them in the disk form but they are really selling the round type too. I have found no one selling in disk form and with all of the colors mentioned. I sure miss them and wished that mountain man would restock the originals.

      Comment by Richard Robertson on 5/16/17 at 10:26 am #
    23. loving lemon sours from Belgium !

      Comment by parul on 6/30/17 at 1:49 am #
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