Well I said on Monday how much I like trying brand new companies. They’re not always great (Elizabeth Shaw’s stuff at the start of the week was pretty disappointing) but there is the chance that it could be great, which is enough to energise me. Maybe that’s because I’m an optimist…but the way I see it, every new company you try could well be brilliant. And that is what I’m hoping for from Lily O’Brien’s and their Salted Caramel Chocolates.
I bought these from Waitrose all the way back in November…but ended up getting a little bit snowed under (well, ‘chocolated under’ really) over Christmas and haven’t got round to reviewing them until today. For any long term readers, you’ll be aware by now that I’m a huge fan of sweet and salty flavour combinations- and when salted caramels are done well there is very little better for my taste buds. So I decided to purchase them on the grounds that I love salted caramels, and also because I hadn’t really seen Lily O’Brien’s stuff ever before.
Lily O’Brien’s story is more than a little inspiring having read about it online. The founder Mary Ann O’Brien managed to overcome a debilitating illness and when she was well again decided to start a chocolate company from scratch (which is named after her daughter Lily). It has grown from that point on to the stage now where, despite the company being based in Ireland, I was able to wonder into my local supermarket and buy a box of these Salted Caramel Chocolates for about £5.25 if I recall correctly. And perhaps the nicest thing for me is that Mary Ann O’Brien is still working at the company. Well…until Kraft inevitably come and buy it I’m sure.
I was very pleased with how these looks taking into account their price tag. Just over £5 isn’t too bad for the 12 large chocolates (198g) that you get here, but it appears better value for money still when you stop and look at the box. I thought it was tremendously attractive and definitely looked like something that you could give as a quality-looking gift without having to break the bank. The ribbon is a lovely touch with a tied bow, giving it an extra special feel whilst the floral paper isn’t bad on the eye either. For the medium price range it is in, I think these really are great looking.
What are the chocolates exactly? Well they’re ‘sweet smooth caramel smothered in rich dark chocolate topped with crunchy rock salt’. The dark chocolate is 55% cocoa solids whilst the salt granules were big buggers. I had been perturbed when I got the box home and it was making a maracas noise at me…I thought I’d managed to ‘break’ the chocolates. Thankfully it turned out to be stray salt pieces which were shaking around in the box slightly!
The best way to describe their smell is like eating dark chocolate at the seaside! Well, I’ve never actually eaten dark chocolate at the seaside before…but I’d imagine it’s like that anyway. There were the predominant scents of the semi-bitter dark chocolate combined with the very savoury saltiness of the crystal coloured salt granules that adorned each chocolate. It definitely isn’t a smell for kids but I found it extremely appetising.
The whole Lily O’Brien’s Salted Caramel Chocolate experience is so smooth in every aspect. The melt of the chocolates is excellent, whilst the caramel is like velvet. This gives them an indulgent feel as they are a cut above most other caramels I’ve tried with regards to consistency.
Now, the caramel tastes absolutely luxurious. It is heavy on toffee and vanilla flavour and infinitely better than most other caramels you’ll be able to buy in an English supermarket. It doesn’t just beat Cadbury and Galaxy’s offerings, but Lindt and Green and Black’s too. It really is excellent stuff and one of the best flavoured caramels I’ve ever eaten.
Dark chocolate-wise, it is less outstanding. The slightly bitter cocoa flavour does balance the sweetness of the golden caramel well, but I thought that it could have had a more defined flavour without taking away from the overall taste. It was a grade B chocolate when there was room for it to be grade A in taste.
The salt element is a bit hit and miss. 5 or 6 of the granules give the chocolates an incredible combination of sweetness and saltiness with a small scattering of the granules being the perfect amount. But some of these chocolates were loaded with far more salt than others…meaning if you get a chocolate with 10-15 pieces of salt on top, it’s too salty even for me because of how powerful the rock salt is in flavour.
I ended up ‘shaking off’ a few of the chocolates to reduce the amount of salt on top. But obviously if you were passing these around at a party or something…you couldn’t really do that. So there is a slight problem with the salt portioning on some of these Salted Caramel Chocolates.
But I’m not going to moan too much about that. Namely because along with the Lucky’s Toffee Groove Tweedle Twins, the salted caramel here (when you get the right chocolate!) is just about the best I’ve ever had. It is just about the perfect flavour and consistency for me with loads of toffee notes and a little vanilla flavour on top of that. The product does have a couple of niggly problems- the dark chocolate is good but could be better whilst there is an overdose on salt on a few of the 12 chocolates in my box. But in general…these are superb.
I don’t often see Lily O’Brien’s stuff around. Having eaten these Salted Caramel Chocolates, I am a bit gutted about that because I was genuinely surprised at the quality of these. I’d definitely recommend them and I think, for about £5.25, they are super value too.