By Allen Pierleoni
The American Licorice Co. - in business since 1914 - knows something about the popular confection. ALC proves that point again with its new line of "gourmet" licorice, Natural Vines ($3.49 per eight-ounce bag).
Natural Vines brand is available in two flavors - traditional and strawberry - and each has a lot going for it. For one thing, they're sweetened with molasses and cane sugar, not the ubiquitous high-fructose corn syrup. For another, there's no artificial anything in the ingredients.
Let's not forget the most important part of this: How does it taste? We lined up an informal taste test of both Natural Vines flavors; here's a sampling of tasters' comments:
Black: I'm not a huge fan of black licorice, but this version was delicious. Just the right amount of zippy anise flavor. It brought back memories of the licorice drops my father brought back from Holland when I was a little girl.
Red: A lovely little strawberry candy, much better than the typical red licorice out there.
Black: Would like it maybe a tiny bit sweeter.
Red: Not overpoweringly sweet. Nice texture.
Black: Flavorful and not too strong.
Red: The strawberry's barely fruity and kind of boring.
Black: A very straightforward licorice flavor without being overwhelming. The texture is less chewy than chunky, but that keeps the aftertaste down.
Red: Quality stuff. Not too sweet. Proves that red licorice can be other than cheap-tasting.
Black: The licorice flavor is too strong.
Red: Tastes sweet and sour.
Black: Dense and chewy, almost had a chocolate-y flavor. Kind of like having a little cup of cappuccino. Love 'em: Where's the rest of the bag?
Red: Yuck. Tasted chemically sweet and not at all natural.
Black: Good texture and flavor, a big upgrade from the cheap licorice of my youth.
Red: Sweet and fruity, but didn't have the flavor depth of the black.
Call The Bee's Allen Pierleoni at (916) 321-1128.