November 21st: Hotel Chocolat Alternative Mince Pies

It's about time we got down to serious business with this years Christmas reviews so kicking us off this week we have one of Hotel Chocolat's newest seasonal offerings. Taking centre stage this fine Monday morning we have these Hotel Chocolat Alternative Mince Pies which have been developed entirely for the new 2011 season. Hotel Chocolat caramel and praline chocolates have come in for some serious praise here on ChocolateMission in the past, so the billing of 'milk chocolate cups filled with layers of praline and salted caramel' filled me with great excitement and anticipation.

I'm going to endeavour to factor price increasingly into my reviews this year as I understand its significance has grown considerably as of late. These six chocolates came in a pack that weighed 95.0g in totality and are listed up on the Hotel Chocolat site (See HERE) priced at £7.50. I wouldn't say value for money was a strong point of this product given the £/Kg ratio looking rather lopsided on the £'s side of things - for only six chocolates even I think Hotel Chocolat are pushing things here. Pricing issues aside I liked the look the packaging and presentation. I don't think it can be argued that these didn't look very appetising - just look at the photograph the 'Old Man' captured with the caramel ooze.

With Hotel Chocolat's 40% and 72% recipes being involved here, I never had any qualms about how delicious the chocolate was going to taste - in a nutshell both were of course simply delightful. Indeed both types provided rich tasting initial base flavours - the milk obviously more cream and sugar derived, and the dark a little more subtle with it's strong cocoa tones and more refined sweet milky undertones. Whilst both chocolate types provided compelling flavour journeys, full expression of the woody praline and salt noted butterscotch caramel fillings were allowed to take steer of the taste. The flavour experience provided by these chocolates was one of luxury and progression, and these were given the rubber stamp of approval from all those lucky enough to nab one before the six count packet was fully scavenged.

Overall these were some high quality chocolates, though they were not received without a few pretty relevant questions being asked by the JCM tasting panel. Firstly the name of the product was called to question - why were these called 'alternative mince pies'? On reflection I have to agree the name is partially misleading, as apart from their shape these weren't anything to do with the aforementioned festive treat. Secondly the small sized chocolates (10p coin size) proved to be sufficient served as after dinner coffee chocolates, but the issue of price at £7.50 was seen to be an area of potential contention with some wanting a little more 'bang for their buck'. Those minor issues aside these were received well for what they were i.e. tasty chocolate praline caramels. Judging them on that basis alone I would be prepared to give them a JCM thumbs up.

8.1 out of 10

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