Thursday, July 29, 2010

Gilliam Horehound Hard Candies

Yes, I know the word "horehound" sounds like something that best describes aging Disney Channel stars. (Cease and desist letter from Disney in 3,2,1...) But horehound candy is actually one of those old school treats that has been around for so long that your great-great-grandpappy probably got them from his great-great-grandpappy.

Though horehound drops aren't seen much anymore, the folks at Gilliam have been making them since the 1920s -- and they still do. So, what is horehound, you might ask? Excellent question. My rather exhaustive research on Wikipedia says that it is a bushy herb in the Lamiaceae family, which is a fancy-schmancy way of saying it's a type of mint. Horehound is also said to be good for colds, asthma and general I-feel-ickyness. It can even be made into a soft drink called horehound beer, which is reportedly drunk in the Deep South (although I don't recall seeing it when I lived in Georgia), parts of the UK, and Australia.

All of the above is well and good, but how does it taste? And does it make a good candy? If candy doesn't taste good, what's the point? Well, we'll soon learn...

Each drop is lightly sanded and roughly the size of a cough lozenge.

As for the flavor? It's an herbal taste that reminds me of a mix of tea and mint -- and that's a pretty good mix. It tastes the best for about the first 20 seconds. After that the mint notes become more subtle, and you start to notice the sadly familiar flavor of the corn syrup that the candies are made with. (These candies also have sugar; and to be fair, pretty much all hard candy -- in the United States, anyway -- includes generous amounts of corn syrup. I just don't care for that taste.)

I wish that the tea/mint flavor stayed strong for a longer time. But even with the flavor drop-off, and even with the corn syrup, this is still a damn good candy. It's just so simple and basic, and...well, nostalgic. It's as if they'd taken the golden parts of the 19th Century, things like Currier & Ives prints, garden-fresh heirloom produce, Great Aunt Euphemia with her apple cobbler, gingham dress, and exclamations of "Land sakes!", and somehow managed to distill it all into candy form -- while simultaneously filtering out the less pleasant parts of the 19th Century; things like slavery, appalling industrial accidents, congenital syphilis, and...well, you get the idea. It's a selective nostalgia, but a sweet and gentle one nonetheless.

I found myself nibbling on several over the course of writing this review...and anytime that happens, it's a good sign. There's definitely a reason why this unfashionable flavor with the silly name has survived through the generations.

If you see these, get a bag. I certainly will.

Sample from company


60 calories per 5 pieces.



J said...

This is very different in taste. I like its taste very much I wish that the tea/mint flavor stayed strong for a longer time. Thanks for sharing.
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Gigi said...

J: I really need to get on the ball with my Gilliam reviews I still have literally dozens of they're items to review. They do fantastic hard candy.

I like being able to remind people of the really old school classic flavors that are still around.