The taste test was conducted with Hubby, Sis In Law and Mr JS as well as myself. We're all very different in our likes and dislikes for chocolate so I figured that the group would pretty much cover all the bases. Surprisingly our decision was unanimous.
In the Christmas Stocking you get;
|A milk chocolate Reindeer Lick|
|A box of 8 Tiddly Santa's|
|100g Cool Penguin Slab|
|80g milk chocolate drops|
|As well as the stocking itself|
Lets start with the Reindeer Lick. He was cute, clearly aimed at the child within. The chocolate smelt rather like a dark chocolate which was off putting for Hubby who doesn't like dark chocolate at all. The taste was definitely milk chocolate ... think of advent calendar chocolate and your pretty close to identifying the flavour. A bit of a disappointment, we were all expecting a much more luxurious and rich flavour from the brand. It was less sweet than a normal milk chocolate which myself, Sis In Law and Mr JS were all in favour of, Hubby likes his chocolate sweeter though. I particularly liked that the chocolate was smooth in its finish and didn't coat your mouth with an oily film. The lollipop itself was a decent size for a portion but it lacked a good snap when bitten into and had a slightly dull finish, which may indicate that the chocolate hasn't been tempered?
Next we tried the Tiddly Santa's. I actually thought that 'tiddly' referred to drunken as opposed to diminutive in size. This isn't a criticism per se, it just lead to some confusion until I read the description on the box which touted them as being appropriate for a child to eat! Again the Santa's seem to be aimed at children, or the young at heart, with a very cute little mould used to create them. The white chocolate was smooth and creamy without being overly sweet and cloying at the palate. They were shinier than the Reindeer Lick but were soft to bite into, which again leads me to think the chocolate hasn't been tempered. Being a white chocolate enthusiast I actually really enjoyed these little guys, the rest of the taste testers weren't as keen although at the end of the tasting session all agreed the Santa's were the favourites in taste. I also really liked that the Santa's came snugly sat in little trays rather than just 8 little Santa shapes jostling about in a plastic bag.
The Penguin Slab, or the Cool Penguin as he is packaged, was pretty much were my world started to crumble. I could have tolerated the Milk Chocolate Reindeer Lick and happily eaten the Tiddly Santa's but the Penguin fell far short of the mark. Its a shame really because he was rather sweet to look at. The package for him describes him as 'Smooth 40% milk chocolate with cookie pieces and a laid back caramel penguin'. When I read caramel penguin I thought caramel filled penguin. What I got instead was a 'caramel' flavoured chocolate which was truly disgusting. Grainy, gritty, soft, synthetic tasting caramel and it left a horrible oily coating in my mouth. No thank you Hotel Chocolat, none of us went back for a second taste! One taste tester said it tasted more like cooking chocolate than a high end brand.
The slab was a good size, thick enough to feel like you were being spoilt, the same kind of chocolate as the Reindeer Lick and looked very pretty with white chocolate and an unidentified pinky / red drizzle too. Mr JS wasn't a fan of the pinky / red drizzle though, and as a long time veggie who has only recently started to branch out to the world of meat eating he wasn't quite sure what it represented, we all saw where he was going with it but choose not to think about it! The advertised cookie pieces were a bit of a let down too, they were more like rice bubbles and were far too sparse given the thickness of the chocolate. They lacked the crunch we all expected from a biscuit as well. As they added nothing to either the flavour or the texture we struggled to identify why they had been included at all. To sum it up, the penguin got four thumbs down.
We decided to pass on taste testing the milk chocolate drops after that. We figured that they would be the same as the milk chocolate used in the Reindeer Lick and the Penguin Slab. They will be used in some biscuits further down the line. Sis In Law and Mr JS both felt that it was a random item to include in the stocking given that all the other products seem to be aimed fair and square at children. It seemed more of a product used to pad out the stocking rather than something you would normally look for to be included in a stocking ... if you get what I mean.
But wait there is more moaning still to come! The stocking ... what do you think of it? The packaging describes it as 'beautifully decorated ... bound to [be] filled with lots of Christmas goodies for years to come!' Hmmmmm, I'm not so sure about that. I think it looks like something aimed at Grannies, the decoration is far to tizzy for my tastes, which begs the question of who this product is aimed at? The contents is clearly aimed at children, at the very least it is child friendly, but the stocking seems far too adult to appeal to a child on Christmas morning. Mr JS thinks it looks cheap and he didn't like the canvas material used, he felt the decoration printed on the material was an attempt to make the stocking appear more opulent than it really is. Sis In Law felt that the black and gold printing on the white canvas was bland and unappealing, she would have rathered gold printing on a black fabric. Hubby felt that the overall look lacks the exclusive touch you want when you buy a Hotel Chocolat product. None of us liked the big star smack bang in the middle of the stocking either. It may have been a printing issue but it was garish where as when its printed on the chocolate packaging it is far more subtle and Christmassy. My huge gripe about the stocking was the mount of padding used in the packaging of it, a huge pad of gold tissue in the toe and again at the top. When I first received the stocking I thought the top pad of tissue was actually one of the boxes of chocolates wrapped up just like a gift, so I was really disappointed when I discovered that it was just padding. Once all the padding was removed there was really only enough product to half fill the stocking.
Our verdict? We wouldn't buy this product. In fact, we would think twice before buying any Hotel Chocolat product again, and I'm not so sure I'll ever say yes to a review again, its horrible having to slate a well known brand in public like this! Overall we felt that the product had mixed messages, who is it aimed at? Weighing in at 300g and costing £23 I wouldn't buy this for a child, the stocking decoration doesn't scream child but then the contents doesn't exactly call to me as a sophisticated adult present either. And we were left wondering if Hotel Chocolat have used a cheaper chocolate than they would normally use for the Christmas lines in order to keep the cost down and still get a decent return for their money? I guess its hard times for companies too but for £23 I'd want a nicer tasting chocolate. Why didn't I just ask for truffles??!!
Maybe you would like to make your own mind up though? If so check out the Christmas Range on the Hotel Chocolat website and I wish you better reviews than our quartet managed to muster.