Call me basic, call me a white girl, call me predicable, call me whatever – I love pumpkin spice. Not just pumpkin spice, but all things with that lovely spicy-sweet balance that make the autumn birds sing. As big of a fan of the profile I am, I’m not the biggest enthusiast of the crowning jewel of Basic B University – the pumpkin spice latte. While I definitely enjoy having one per year on a crisp fall day over an engaging game of chess, once I have that one I’m good to go, and go back to being a straight-to-the-face coffee purist.
The pumpkin spice backlash can be traced back to the explosion of the PSL in the early 2000’s, with a popularity that exceeded expectations and shook creators of seasonal products to their very core. After a huge wave of companies copying Starbucks’ success, the flavors crept their way into a wash of products that made little to no sense, and thus, the August through October consumer pumpkin onslaught was born. Apparently ten or so years late to the party, Dreyers rolled out a new cafe-inspired quart for 2017 with Pumpkin Spice Latte, which combines pumpkin spice and coffee flavored light ice creams.
The flavor of the pumpkin ice cream is actually pretty good. It’s mellow and sweet, driven by authentic pumpkin and sparkly ginger notes with dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg – all of which are listed in the actual ingredients. There are smooth vanilla undertones to the profile that channel the creamy milkiness of a latte, but unfortunately the other part of the latte, the espresso, is strongly represented as well, and doesn’t quite work for me.
The coffee ice cream has a genuine coffee presence that is impressive but teeters too close to bitter for my taste in a sweet treat, throwing off the lovely balance made by the pumpkin. The darker coffee ice cream is much more prominent in the container and as soon as it comes in contact with the pumpkin either washes it out entirely or creates an unpleasant spicy-bitter combination that is simply not that enjoyable. It needs some kind of caramel swirl or other creamy-sweet component to marry the two flavors together and work more seamlessly, but as it is presented it feels more like the two bases are fighting each other with no cohesion.
Texturally this ice cream is the par the course for lower quality low fat varieties, with that odd gummy sensation that requires a bit more chewing than what I want from a scoop with no mix-ins. It’s not the most offensively gummy ice cream I’ve had, but it’s definitely miles away from super premium that’s more airy than it is dense, and at under 3 grams of fat per serving you can only hope for so much. Even though it isn’t listed as such, the macros and overall vibe of the product are much more in line with the Slow Churned variety than Dreyers Grand.
While the texture isn’t sexy smooth and the zero mix-ins makes it a little boring, the real issue with this flavor is in the execution of balancing all the complex flavors of a pumpkin spice latte. When the legions of teens flock to Starbucks for their PSL’s they aren’t looking for a drink that actually tastes like coffee, and this frozen iteration on the warm drink brings coffee too much into the foreground. Sweetness, creaminess, and a hint of spiciness should all be driving the profile of the coveted scarf-laden beverage, and instead the strong-armed character of bitter roasted beans comes out on top, and makes this seasonal release from Dreyers a bit of a miss.
Found at: Target ($3.99)