I’m not the biggest drinker in the world but I love me some boozy ice cream. Many mainstream ice cream companies are afraid to work with alcohol, probably a little bit due to the adult social association it may carry, but also from a technical side, since hard liquor doesn’t freeze using it within ice cream takes some serious skill. Difficult execution aside, some of my all time favorite flavors meld cream and alcohol in a way that yields addictive perfection, and in the year 2017 Ben and Jerry’s are officially gunning for my heart with the release of Urban Bourbon. This brand new flavor combines a burnt caramel ice cream with almonds, fudge flakes, and a bourbon caramel swirl.
The burnt caramel base is more subdued than I expected, without any dominant sweet caramel notes or rich deep burnt flavor coming through. There’s a little bit of roasted flavor but not even a quarter of the amount as other burnt caramel bases I’ve had, like the phenomenal one from Bi-Rite. It also feels a little on the thin side for a premium scoop, with an almost watery finish that doesn’t leave a strong aftertaste. The almonds are small and integrated throughout the texture of the ice cream itself, adding a constant small chew without any almond flavor or big satisfying snap. The fudge flakes are great, big chunks of sweet dark chocolate that add good texture, but there are simply too many of them. Since they are the least unique part of this pint I want them to come in and out of the bites and they’re taking over almost every spoonful.
The biggest issue with this pint is the lack of booziness. For a flavor with bourbon in its name it’s a pretty big let down how un-boozy the overall experience of eating this ice cream is. The only element that has the bourbon is the caramel swirl and there is very little of the swirl to be found. I had a little bit towards the top and had to dig past the middle of the container to get more of the good stuff, and even then it wasn’t as bourbon-y or complex as I was expecting. A big gob of the caramel on my spoon only gave off a bit of bourbon flavor and came off more straight sweet with a slight bitter finish than booze balanced by sugar. I wish I could have had more caramel to try and critique the use of the bourbon better but it was nowhere to be found, even as I dug to the very bottom of the pint.
Overall the almonds actually hurt the flavor, taking away from the creaminess and any subtle burnt notes that should be present in a base like this. The bourbon caramel is a letdown, not only in its flavor, but in its quantity, and there is way too much chocolate to savor the little bit of liquor you might be able to salvage from digging. Interestingly, I actually get more of a roasted coffee vibe than a caramel vibe from this pint as a whole. Every time that I would start to grasp any kind of burnt quality it would immediately get washed away and blown out by the huge chocolate flakes. Maybe I’m just spoiled by great local creameries, but two of my favorite flavors, Humphry Slocombe’s Secret Breakfast and Little Giant’s Dirty South, both use the beautiful booze balance so much more convincingly that I can’t help but be very let down by Ben and Jerry’s attempt.