The first Ben & Jerry’s Limited Batch of 2021 was a helluva challenge to find, and it’s less of a newbie and more of a remix. Totally Unbaked is a reimagined take on Half Baked, combining chocolate and vanilla ice creams with brownie batter swirls and gobs of chocolate chip cookie dough. As a fan of OG Half Baked this pint only really has to answer one question: is it an improvement? The answer, sadly, is no.
The new addition to the mix, the brownie batter swirl, is FANTASTIC. It’s rich and thick and sticks to the spoon like proper batter, although it’s missing the grittiness I expected, (not an issue) and has more of a smooth consistency like fudge. B&J’s ability to nail a rich heavy swirl is what makes Peanut Butter Fudge Core one of my favorites from them and in Totally Unbaked that rich thickness is absolutely the star of the show.
It makes the whole pint more chocolate forward than its predecessor and while the base distribution is still fairly equal, most of the more subtle vanilla flavor gets washed away from the intensity of the chocolate ice cream and swirl tandem. I have no issue with the level of chocolate, and I guess what I want is MORE chocolate because this pint DESPERATELY misses the brownies. B&J do brownies so well that their absence here is notable. Despite how good the batter is I still want the brownie’s dense chew to go with it; that would be a sweet combo.
What makes me REALLY miss the brownies is the cookie dough execution. I’m not sure if this was just a quality control issue but all of the dough pieces are hard on the outside, which is not what I’ve come to expect from my boys Ben and Jerry. It feels like the dough was about to be baked, popped in the oven for 45 seconds, and then *SIKE* pulled out and plopped into ice cream. It’s very odd, and not appealing in the slightest.
If Half Baked is your favorite Ben & Jerry’s staple (what’s wrong with you – it’s Phish Food, baby!) then this one is probably worth a shot as there’s a good chance your dough won’t be weirdly hard. If you’re looking for something complex and unique and tantalizing you’re better off skipping it, even though the brownie batter swirl is *chefs kiss* perfection.
I am not a keto guy, if anything I’m a bit of a keto skeptic. My philosophy towards diet, exercise, and carbohydrates is all about balance, and I personally couldn’t imagine a life without carbs. I am, however, a big time ice cream guy, so when Enlightened hit me up about trying their newest Keto pints I absolutely stepped up to the challenge.
Although the calories are a hit higher than normal Enlightened “light” ice cream pints, which usually clock in at 400 calories, I decided to review and rate these against other light ice cream rather than real full fat full sugar ice cream. As a whole, because I’m not concerned about carbs, I would rather have the 400 calorie pint with more protein than the 600+ calorie pint with more fat, but there’s no denying that this latest line has some bangers and a couple of surprises.
Chocolate Peanut Butter
Chocolate ice cream with peanut butter swirl.
Somehow this base manages to be both light and bitter at the same time, like some odd artificial sweetener hybrid of milk and dark chocolate. It’s not inedible but I’m not a fan. I was never a fan of Enlightened’s chocolate base in their normal “light” ice cream so I’m not surprised that the flavor doesn’t work for me here either, but it’s worse. The texture is impressive though. After a decent 15-20 minutes of tempering the higher fat content really shows with a pleasantly silky mouthfeel that makes the flavor profile a little more bearable.
Fortunately for this pint the peanut butter swirl is fantastic. It’s pretty much on par with any PB swirl from a grocery brand — thick and fatty and salty with an irresistible perfect peanut butter taste like it came straight from the jar. There’s a decent amount of the swirl too, popping up in admirable chunks that really do a LOT to drive the somewhat redeemable quality of this pint.
P.B. Cookie & Brownie Dough
Vanilla ice cream with chunks of peanut butter cookie dough and brownie dough, plus chocolate chips and a peanut butter swirl.
Much the same with their initial, now called “light” pints, Enlightened’s vanilla base is much better than their chocolate, and the added fat only improves upon the original formula. Surprisingly rich with a nice floral vanilla flavor it comes together pretty well when tempered, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — you MUST temper the HELL out of these pints (the texture is awful from the freezer). The peanut butter swirl in this vanilla base is a home run, but there isn’t as much as there is in Chocolate Peanut Butter to make room for the other mix-ins.
The other mix-ins are pretty solid too. The peanut butter cookie dough is the standout for me, with a noticeable nutty pop that stands out against the vanilla. The brownie dough didn’t deliver as impressively, with a harder chew that doesn’t really channel brownies, but it doesn’t ruin the pint either. I would leave them on the table for more chocolate chips which are simpler but more effective, and maybe a little more PB too. It’s no surprise that the pint with the highest calories has such a high ceiling.
Ice Cream Cake
Vanilla and chocolate ice cream swirled with birthday cake dough bites and a fudge icing swirl.
I know I bashed the Enlightened chocolate base and I stand by that but it’s WAY better when it’s split 50/50 with vanilla. The harsh bitter flavor is greatly reduced and I actually enjoy the two of them in tandem, creating a milky and sweet light chocolate that’s a nice foundation for some mix-ins.
Speaking of mix-ins, the birthday cake dough bites are AWESOME. I think these might be the best mix-in I’ve ever had from Enlightened (not counting swirls). They taste exactly as they should – like little pieces of yellow cake dough with a sweet crumble and touch of grit. I love them. Enlightened tends to knock it out of the park with their swirls and the fudge icing in this one was kind of weird. I still enjoyed it but it was very thick, almost chunky, and felt more like a part of the base that a swirl.
Classic butter pecan ice cream with the crunch of roasted pecans.
Their description has the word “classic” in it and that’s all you really need to know, this is butter pecan ice cream, nothing more, nothing less. The base is nice and creamy like the others with a mild nutty flavor and a surprising maple flavor akin to breakfast syrup. There are a pretty epic amount of pecans and they have a gentle roasted flavor and mild crunch that add some much needed nuance and texture as the sole mix-in.
I like Butter Pecan but when it comes to OG scoops I’m more into Pralines and Cream, and even if they didn’t candy the pecans a caramel swirl here would have been awesome. I know the keto label limits what can be done with ooey gooey-ness but Enlightened does such a great job with caramel in their light pints I can see, and wish I could taste, the potential. Without a swirl it’s a touch savory for me to crave again but it’s an admirable keto-friendly rendition of an old school staple.
Big thanks to Enlightened for sending me these pints, along with some others which I’ve posted about and will post sporadically on Instagram. Although I received these items for free it in no way shaped my review of them. If you’re interested in trying these yourself, Enlightened can be found in most grocery stores or shipped straight to your door on their website with FREE SHIPPING when you spend $50.
When I read that Salt & Straw collaborated with R.L. Stine to create a Goosebumps ice cream the 90s kid inside of me animorphed into a baby tazmanian devil and started space jamming my head into the wall with excitement. Okay…maybe that’s a bit much, but I was STOKED, and even more stoked when I saw the scoop shot covered in green goo that instantly conjured up memories of the book series’ dripping logo. I could even hear the menacing sleuth-like synth notes and crawling piano line from the 1995 TV show’s theme song; good memories. Created in conjunction with the latest book in the SLAPPYWORLD series, Monster Blood is Back!, the ice cream of the same name combines a salted mango ice cream with streaks of fruit punch flavored “monster goo”, and strawberry bark fangs.
Popping off the lid this pint instantly looks the part, with a deep pool of green goo staring me in the face, and it’s beautiful. The salted mango base was a smart choice, bringing a strong fruity flavor without being too sweet, as often mango ice creams can be. It’s an authentic taste with notable creaminess that feels fresh and expertly balanced, as Tyler and the team at S&S have a tendency to do with their namesake: salt.
It’s wonderful that the base is slightly salted because the goo is SWEET. Super sugary and thick with amazing viscosity that clings to the spoon as I scoop. Fruit punch is a pretty accurate description as it’s no doubt fruity but there aren’t any distinct, or real, dominant fruity notes. Definitely some citrus (I get more orange than anything), mixed with some tropical pineapple flair followed by boatloads of sugar. It reminds me of something that I would squeeze out of a tube straight into my mouth in 1997, and for this chilling creation that’s pretty much flawless. When the goo combines with the base they compliment each other in a very refreshing and summery way, and for how off-the-wall this ice cream looks, it tastes really natural and bright.
The strawberry bark fangs are the least notable part of this pint but they play a very important role: texture. The flavor is much more white chocolate than it is strawberry, and their gentle chew reminds me of softened chocolate chunks, not quite as soft as ganache, but not super crunchy either. It’s ideal that the flavor is subtle because the base and swirl have so much character there’s potential to clash. When I isolate a fang away from the other components I get a slight tart strawberry flavor and it’s nice. The fangs are studded with Pop Rocks for the occasional burst of extra explosive mouth fireworks, and while not as wild as in S&S’s Pirates of the Caribbean ice cream, it’s still a playful and satisfying touch.
Eating this ice cream is FUN. It pulls at the nostalgia strings while simultaneously pushing the creativity forward, presenting something legitimately scoop-able and worthy of a visit to your local Salt & Straw, or delivered to your front door via their website. As a big fan of both the Goosebumps franchise and crazy craft ice cream, my only complaint is that this didn’t come in a limited edition pint container adorned with 90s-era Goosebumps artwork that I could add to my ice cream shelf…but I’ll let that slide for the sake of this supernatural success.
When I first wrote here about emerging lactose-free artisan ice cream queen Bad Walters I mentioned the amazing base quality and massive potential with a desire for more mix-in density. Those qualms have been answered beyond my wildest dreams with the latest monthly masterpiece and absolute BANGER of a pint in Slumber Party: Ritz Cracker ice cream with Nutter Butters, Reese’s Pieces, and a thicc fudge swirl.
The base is absolutely perfect. I have yet to scoop a base from BW that doesn’t deliver on what it’s aiming for and I loved every moment of this rich and salty ice cream that shines with golden buttery Ritz cracker flavor. It tastes and even smells exactly like the red-boxed titan to the degree that if you didn’t tell me what it was and I was blindfolded I would be able to nail it on one bite.
The Nutter Butters are an amazing mix-in choice and were chopped up the perfect size — big enough to yield a substantial chew but not quite taking over the entire spoon. The texture is exactly like nice Oreo chunks in a proper cookies and cream, softened like they’ve been dunked in milk but still hard enough to be a really fun textural contrast against the base.
The thicc fudge swirl was exactly as described – more akin to frosting than a typical fudge swirl, and it would have stolen the show if the base wasn’t so damn good. I loved it. In the best way it reminded me of the Duncan Hines chocolate frosting my mom used to finish my birthday cakes with growing up; I would eat this swirl by the jar. Anyone who’s had the seasonal Fudge Covered Ritz Crackers during the holidays knows how perfect this combo is.
The only part of this pint that didn’t work for me were the Reese’s Pieces, and despite how cool they look and sound, I wasn’t surprised I didn’t love them. When frozen, Reese’s Pieces lose their creaminess and become kind of waxy, and unfortunately none of their salty PB flavor stood a chance against the perfect and salty base, so they didn’t taste like much either. I did appreciate their chomp as the sole crunchy mix-in but I don’t need them here as they mostly got in the way of the other stars of the show.
This pint will be available again TODAY at 6:30 PM PST for pickup this weekend. If you’re in the bay area set your alarms and be ready to act quickly because they’re out now in less than 5 minutes, and it’s worth every penny.
Krispy Kreme and Oreo set out to prove that team work really can make the dream work with two new doughnuts paying homage to America’s favorite cookie.
Oreo Cookie Over-the-Top is an Oreo Cookie glazed doughnut topped with Cookies and Kreme filling, drizzled with chocolate icing and finished with an Oreo cookie wafer.
Oreo Cookie Glazed Doughnut is an OG glazed covered in rich Oreo cookie glaze, filled with Cookies and Kreme, and finished with an icing drizzle and Oreo cookie pieces.
Does the Oreo cookie glaze taste like an Oreo cookie? No, not really, but it tastes like chocolate and chocolate is delicious so I’m totally on board. I can say with relative certainty that it IS different from the once-a-year (ish) Chocolate Glaze that KK started rolling out in 2017, as it has a thicker more pronounced body to it akin to novelty Donettes. It’s not as waxy as the finest Hostess and Little Debbie variety but the similarities are there and I am down.
The Over-the-Top is my favorite of the two, with its massive novelty-sized wafer being not only downright cool to look at but tasty and texturally intriguing, too. I eat doughnuts for dessert, so by the time I got to it the wafer was a bit softer than I would like but still tasted fantastic. Another element that set this one apart for me was the Kreme. The description says both are the same but if you look at my pictures the color is notably different and much lighter on the Over-the-Top doughnut. My KK tends to do a solid job with their filling but I can’t help but wonder if it’s a different batch or a different Kreme entirely?
Rating: 8.5/10 Over-the-Top and 8/10 Oreo Cookie Glazed
Every year Ben & Jerry’s seems to come up with a new theme. Better yet, a new scheme, to get people like myself to seek out and try 5+ new flavors of tantalizing ice cream at the same time. In 2014 it was Cores, followed by Cookie Cores in 2015, in 2018 it was Truffles, and then to Cookie Dough Cores in 2019…you get the point. For 2021 Ben & Jerry’s said screw shoving stuff INSIDE, we’re going to put the goods on TOP; and thus, the Topped line was born. Each of these 7 pints are topped with either a regular or white chocolate ganache and some sort of chunk or cup mix-in, followed by regular B&J mix-ins and swirls.
This lineup delivers a pretty impressive array of flavors with a little something for everyone. The effectiveness comes down to, as it often does, the quality control of the pints. I had some that were PACKED with mix-ins and others that were missing key components to bring it all together; but fortunately there were no outright flops. So let’s get into it, here are all seven of Ben & Jerry’s Topped flavors ranked and reviewed:
Brown Butter Bourbon Ice Cream with Blonde Brownies & Whiskey Caramel Swirls Topped with White Chocolatey Ganache & White Fudge Chunks
This is a super unique and very well-executed flavor that, unlike 2017’s Urban Bourbon, nails the balance of boozy and sweet in a very harmonious and enjoyable way. The brown butter bourbon base is creamy and mildly boozy, with a much more significant oaky eruption coming from the whiskey caramel swirl. The two play off of each other well, resulting in a sturdy but not off-putting amount of whiskey presence.
Blondies are one of my favorite rare B&J’s mix-ins, and their appearance is one of the reasons I still go back to Salted Caramel Core a couple of times a year. They’re dense and gently chewy with a nice buttery brown sugar flavor that compliments the alcohol notes swimmingly. The finishing touch on this pint is the white chocolate ganache, which is a bit harder and thicker than I wanted and experienced in other Topped pints, but maybe I was just being impatient. The ganache isn’t as necessary here as it is in some of the others, but I have no problem at all with it being here: this one is a winner.
Mascarpone Ice Cream with Fudge Swirls & Shortbread Pieces Topped with Espresso Fudge Chunks & Chocolatey Ganache
Coming from someone’s who favorite Italian dessert is Tiramisu, this ice cream came together even better than I expected. It’s not a perfect replication of the light and airy espresso-kissed cake but it conjures the right feeling and level of satisfaction I get when enjoying a proper slice. The mascarpone base is excellent, with a slight tang and sturdy density that reminds me a bit of cake batter and forms a solid foundation for the swirls of fudge that bring added sweetness with a touch of bitterness to scoop. The coffee flavor is mild here and I’m okay with that. The espresso fudge chunks slide their way into every other bite with a nice chomp that provides more of an aromatic flourish than it does an aggressive espresso push, and it’s just the right amount for someone that loves coffee but prefers his desserts to be sweet (me). If you get a chip in isolation it tastes spot on like an extra thin chocolate covered espresso bean…delicious.
Despite all of the other solid components, the real star of the show here are the shortbread pieces, which come impressively packed into the pint and have a soft chew and beautiful vanilla flavor that hits much closer to cake than shortbread, which is perfect for a tiramisu experience. And oh yeah, there’s a layer of ganache on top too, this pint rules. Somehow when all the components come together it reminds me of a coffee-kissed yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Is it my birthday? Cause it hella feels like it!
Salted Caramel Brownie
Vanilla Ice Cream with Salted Caramel Swirls ＆ Fudge Brownies Topped with Caramel Cups ＆ Chocolatey Ganache
There’s something about a brownie sundae that just really gets me in my feelings, and this pint does a helluva job replicating that experience. The vanilla ice cream is pure and creamy with ample salty swirls that keep the base from being too repetitive or boring. The ganache on top is soft and smooth with a gentle crunch and mouthfeel that does well to mimic the ribbons of fudge I like my brownie sundaes smothered in.
And the brownies – the brownies – one of B&J’s strongest mix-ins, come in spoonfuls-a-plenty with their soft chew and sweet cocoa flair to really bring this flavor home. Sometimes the wheel doesn’t need to be reinvented, it just has to be executed with finesse, and this new scoop simply smacks.
Mint Ice Cream with Chocolate Cookie Swirls & Mint Chocolate Cookie Balls Topped with Chocolate Cookies & Chocolatey Ganache
This pint is easily better than the year round available Mint Chocolate Cookie and is on par with the wonderful winter seasonal scoop Minter Wonderland, although it is very different. Thick Mint is a textural paradise full of crunchy cookies and chocolate that is just downright fun to eat. Ben and Jerry are definitely coming for the Girl Scout’s with this flavor and absolutely succeed in replicating one of the organization’s shining cookie accomplishments.
The cookie balls are the real star of the show and do a great job of elevating the mint flavor in the relatively mild mint base. When you get a bite with balls and ganache the variance in all the chompiness is awesome and absolutely worth picking up if you’re a fan of the chocolate mint tandem.
Chocolate Caramel Cookie Dough
Chocolate Ice Cream with Caramel Swirls & Gobs of Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Topped with Caramel Cups & Chocolatey Ganache
These caramel cups SMACK! They have way more caramely-impact than their peanut butter counterpart and bring a seriously sweet burst of character that this pint desperately needs. I didn’t notice the caramel cups as much in Salted Caramel Brownie, but maybe that’s because that experience was simply stronger than this one. I got a pretty decent amount of B&J’s classic cookie dough but not as much caramel swirl as I would like. The cookie dough doesn’t pop as hard here as it does when vanilla is present like in Half Baked, and without the more glaring contrast from the base it isn’t as compelling of a mix-in.
There’s actually so much heavy chocolate that the cookie dough can’t really be tasted as much as felt, and more caramel cups would have helped break up the overlap. As I ate this I couldn’t stop thinking about how important the marshmallow swirl is to Phish Food, because this pint shouldn’t be too far off from that, but it doesn’t hold a candle to my precious Phishies.
Strawberry Topped Tart
Sweet Cream Ice Cream with Strawberry Swirls & Pie Crust Pieces Topped with White Chocolatey Ganache & Candy Sprinkles
Strawberry is pretty under-represented in the Ben & Jerry’s catalog, and while it isn’t my favorite I’m always down for a nice bright berry scoop. Unfortunately this pint is severely lacking in what I came to it for: strawberry! I like the sweet cream base, it’s mild and creamy, and the pie crust was very abundant with a nice chew perfectly reminiscent of something straight from a metal tin. But the strawberry swirls were so few and far in between I was really missing the sweet acidity to tie the experience together.
While the swirl from the pint’s namesake really left something to be desired, I really liked the combination of the white ganache and candy sprinkles. The medley of crunchy and creamy is pure sugary bliss that I would have welcomed another layer of. I can see some serious potential with this one if it packed more of a berry punch but as it is I wouldn’t return to this one again.
PB Over the Top
Chocolate Ice Cream with Peanut Butter Swirls & Peanut Butter Cups Topped with Mini Peanut Butter Cups & Chocolatey Ganache
Peanut butter and chocolate is one of the greatest combinations of all time, and sadly this is not a good representation of that amazing combo. As much as I love PB and chocolate, this interpretation comes across as extremely one-noted, in particular the way the swirl blends in with the base to give no textural contrast or fatty mouthfeel is pretty disappointing.
The Topped line is fun because there are so many different components in the mix, but here they overlap in a way that just becomes redundant without the intensity. Change the swirl or change the base and this could be fun but as it stands it really just tastes like chocolate ice cream with small PB cups mixed in that never have enough peanut butter inside. This flavor is far from inedible but I’ll stick with PB World when I need a B&J’s PB fix!
Bay Area I’ve gotta let you in on a little secret – there’s some cool underground ice cream shit happening in Oakland. Bad Walter’s Bootleg Ice Cream began as a quarantine hobby for owner Sydney in the spring of 2020, and has snowballed into churning out weekly limited pints since October. From what I’ve been able to sample, I’m impressed. Bad Walter’s makes super premium custard bases that are, wait for it…lactose free! I know, I’ve never had anything like it either.
Last week’s limited run flavor was “46”, inspired by today’s inauguration. It features a brown sugar ice cream with chocolate dipped Ruffles and a peanut butter swirl. Y’all know how I love my sweet and salty so I HAD to taste this.
Truthfully, this was the most impressive and authentic brown sugar base I’ve ever had. It’s incredibly smooth with a decadent mouthfeel, but what really took me by surprise was the depth of the brown sugar flavor. Initially it reminded me of an epic brown sugar cereal milk, but the more it stacked the richer the flavor became. By the end it reminded me of the filling in a See’s Bordeaux truffle, which is one of my favorite chocolate’s of all time. Less-typical bases, like brown sugar, tend to fade away after the initial bites, but this one never let go.
Bad Walter’s peanut butter swirl is exactly how I like my peanut butter swirls — more salty than sweet with a slick fatty texture but thin enough to actually temper with the ice cream. Just as satisfying as sticking your spoon in the jar! My only issue with it is I wish there was more. The top superficial layer of the pint had the swirl’s best showing, and while the swirl never entirely vanished I would have loved a couple more epic spoonfuls to allow the saltiness to play off of the stunning sweet base.
Similarly, the chocolate dipped Ruffles were executed very well – nice and crunchy with a salty potato taste highlighted by just a touch of bittersweet chocolate. Once again, perfect execution, just lacking a bit on the actual quantities to make this pint something undeniably out of this world. I was reminded of this same mix-in being used in one of my favorite ice cream’s of all time, Salt & Straw’s Chocolate Caramel Potato Chip Cupcake, and how if I got some chunks akin to the boulders found in those pints I would have been in sweet and salty heaven.
Despite the slightly underwhelming density of the mix-ins, which is largely a preference thing, I really loved this ice cream, and I love the entrepreneur spirit of Sydney and her ice cream company named after her pesky pup. If you’re interested in grabbing a pint of what she comes up with next make sure to follow Bad Walter’s on Instagram and place your order on Sunday night for pickup the following weekend. And fair warning: it sells out quick!
The fourth and final pint from Ben & Jerry’s and Netflix snuck itself into the indulgent holiday season with the least indulgent profile of any in the collaboration; but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. In fact, I think it’s pretty refreshing. Punch Line combines a comedic duo of brown butter bourbon and almond ice creams with roasted almonds and chuckles of cherries.
I’ve always been skeptical of the effectiveness of dual bases, and fortunately here it works, since one does almost all of the heavy lifting. Almond is the most pronounced flavor, one of my favorite flavors that’s terribly underutilized in ice cream, and I really like this take on it. The brown butter bourbon is extremely mild, with virtually no booziness and just a hint of burnt buttery flavor, that again, sits in the background while the almond kingpin calls the shots.
The almonds are nice and toothy with a pleasant mildly roasted flavor that pumps up the volume on the excellent floral and nutty taste in the base. They don’t bring a ton of flavor but their texture is crucial in keeping each bite interesting. The cherries are perfectly sweet and juicy with no iciness and virtually no tartness. They’re naturally sugary and work wonderfully in tandem with the almonds to bring two contrasting textures. I’m honestly surprised by how much I like this pint!
While Punch Line may not be the most inventive of the Netflix collabs, I actually enjoy it more than the bloated-and-confused-doing-way-too-much Boots on the Moooo’n and just as much as the also simple and excellently executed Chip Happens. Punch Line is like an alternate universe spumoni without the chocolate, and much like this whole line has been to 2020, it’s a surprisingly fun way to end the year.
I never thought I would review Salt & Straw without my mouth – but here we are! 2020, right? Smell is a very important aspect of what I do, and for today it is THE most important, and only, resource when picking apart the new holiday collab from Salt & Straw and Imaginary Authors. Imaginary Authors is a unique “unisex perfume” company that specialize in telling stories with their fragrances. They come in at a solid Eau de Parfum concentration of 12-20%, matching the high quality density of their collaborator Salt & Straw, known and loved for their high butterfat and richly innovative ice cream.
Walking into Salt & Straw is one of the best smell-gasms in town. Warm caramelized vanilla meets your nose nearly a block away, and it makes standing in those typically long lines a bit more exciting (and tolerable). “Whiff of Waffle Cone” aims to emulate that experience, which honestly is something I’ve joked and dreamed about for years. It’s no tall task to capture that magical essence in sprayable form, so I had to find out if it it was possible.
Let’s cut to the chase – does this smell like walking into a Salt & Straw shop? No. Does this smell like a nice caramel-forward perfume? Absolutely. I’m surprised by how sharply caramel this sniff-sperience is, rounded out by a little cinnamon, sweet (heavy) creaminess, and some more traditionally perfume-y aromas. The major component missing here is vanilla, which is the most dominant scent when going into Salt & Straw for a perfectly scooped cone or pre-packed pint. That’s not to say there’s zero vanilla, it’s just much more caramel-y and musky than it is vanilla-y; and those scents easily overpower the more gentle vanilla. A whiff of waffle cone, in my book, should be a caramelized vanilla rounded out by sweet cinnamon, and this is more of a caramelized caramel, think, slightly burnt caramel, rounded out by what I would consider more traditional “cologne” notes.
This is a unisex perfume, but despite its sweet intentions, this smells more traditionally masculine than feminine. It has a much more aggressive “manly” vibe than I expected. Maybe I just love my Bath & Body Works Vanilla Bean Noel Body Spray too much, but this has a pretty heavy and lasting musk that stands tall above the more gentle and subtle aromas. It’s absolutely nostalgic and inviting, if not even a bit mysterious, and very wearable. But to me, it doesn’t quite nail the magical wall of smell that welcomes me when I make my bi-monthly trips to my favorite scoop shop. Like most perfumes it’s not cheap, but I’m really happy to have this in my cologne collection, as it will always remind me of going to one of my happiest places with my favorite people.
I don’t generally talk about caffeine here, but I love it just as much as ice cream, and consume way more of it. I drink black coffee every single day, and throw in a sugar free energy drink 3-5 times a week, too. I swore these types of drinks off for most of my adult life after becoming nearly addicted to Monster in the mid 2000s, but a couple of years ago they caught my eye again and I’ve found quite a few that I really love. I’ve never really been the type of dude to review beverages (except that one time I wrote about Diet Coke), but as someone that drinks a helluva lot of them I couldn’t help but write about this new collaboration from GHOST energy and two very notable candy brands. GHOST is a supplement company that makes a ton of solid health-related products including some killer protein powder (my favorite is Blueberry Toaster Pastry). For their first line of read to drink (RTD) energy drinks they’ve come in swinging with four flavors, including a partnership with Sour Patch Kids and WarHeads.
First things first let’s cover the similarities. All four flavors are clear-ish (more of a light tinted brown), with nice tight bubbles that accentuate the flavors (and sourness) in a way that compliments and excites my palate without being overly bubbly. They all come in at 5 calories each with no sugar, one carb, and a shit ton of vitamins. 100% of your daily Vitamin C, Thamin, B6 and B12, as well as 200 mg of natural caffeine from coffee beans to get you amped, and 1000 mg of taurine for enhanced focus. The primary sweetener used is sucralose, which is my favorite and has no disgustingly bitter aftertaste like Stevia or monk fruit.
Sour Patch Redberry:
This is the flavor I was most excited about and it’s nearly perfect. Sour and sweet, this one carries that distinct Redberry flavor that’s so accurate I can sense the squish digging into my molars. Not quite cherry, not quite strawberry, but all the way red berry. The carbonation is perfect and it’s nearly impossible to stop drinking. Every sip I take I think “is this real? Let me drink some more to check.” Yep, it’s real, and it rules. The only thing holding this one back from a perfect score is a bit of a vitamin smell that pops out from the can when you first drink it. Those first couple of sips can be interrupted by the vitamin presence and kinda takes you out of the candy-sipping experience, but doesn’t really effect the taste as much as it does the aroma. Luckily it’s only temporary, and the journey is largely rewarding. Amazing.
Update: the people at GHOST heard the noise and changed the formula and there is no longer ANY vitamin taste or smell. Original rating was a 9.5/10 and it has been upgraded to perfection.
Sour Patch Blue Raspberry:
The first Ghost Energy follow up flavor came in swinging with another Sour Patch fan favorite, and much like its Redberry forefather, absolutely crushed it. It has the same beautiful sweet and sour balance that gets accented by the drink’s tight effervescence that shines with true blue razz razzle dazzle. There isn’t a ton to say here, if you’ve had and like Sour Patch Kids you will love this drink, and thanks to the V2 formula there are no funky aromas or aftertastes at all. This is going to come down strictly to flavor preference and since the blue Sour Patch Kid was never top tier for me, I still prefer the Red Berry, although this is no doubt one of the best sour blue raspberry’s on the market.
A flavor called “Citrus” could go so many ways but this one is easy to describe – Lemon Lime Gatorade. This stuff tastes so much like the classic yellow thirst quencher that if this had a little lightning bolt on it it could be another slam dunk brand tie-in. As far as I know Gatorade doesn’t have a bubbly energy drink on the market but if they ever wanted to give it a go, collaborating with GHOST would be the way to do it. I love yellow Gatorade so I really enjoyed this flavor, even though it doesn’t have the wow-factor of a Sour Patch experience.
This is the most underwhelming of all the launch flavors and the only one I probably won’t revisit. The flavor profile is true to its name with a somewhat mellow mango flavor accented by pineapple and a little orange. It’s a totally fine flavor but not nearly as exciting and juicy as Reign’s Mang-O-Matic and at the price point and limited accessibility of the GHOST drinks I don’t see myself craving it.
WarHeads Sour Watermelon:
Did someone say sour? Yeah, they ain’t lyin! This drink knocks it out of the PARK! Perfectly sour and watermelon-sweet, just like the candy used to do to me when I wanted to torture my tongue in middle school. If you like watermelon candy this drink will make your head explode, so long as you’re okay with the back of your jaw tingling in activated tartness. This isn’t the type of drink I would have every day, but I’ve already had two and have three more in the fridge. It’s devious and perfectly executed to the degree that I am AMPED for what GHOST follows up with in this line next year.
All flavors were bought at GNC for $2.99 per pack and can be found online in cases of 12 through their website for $29.99 or Campus Protein for $31.99.