REVIEW: Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference All-Butter Mince Pies (2018)

Welcome to the first mince pie review of 2018.

In September.

Yep, I’m going to some serious lengths this year to give you all the info you need about where to go and what pies to buy. So, no messing about, let’s tuck in…

Sainsburys_TTD_2018 - 1

Packaging

The packaging is almost identical to last year with a couple of subtle differences. The imagery of the mince pies has changed and last year, the pies were “infused with brandy’ whereas this year, they are “laced with brandy”. I’d much rather something laced with it, than infused by it…so this is a positive.

As before, I maintain that they don’t feel THAT Christmassy, but the gold colour is nice enough. The window to the pies demonstrates confidence in the quality of the baking and the box does look particularly classy.

There is a big label at the top shouting about their NEW RECIPE. Which, frankly in the world of mince pie reviewing, is exciting!

It’s worth having a little peak at the nutritional information versus last year on that basis:

This year’s pie is on the right of the two. So, we’re 26 calories less, a smidge less salt, less sugar, fat…less pie? I reckon so, because per 100g there is 396calories versus last year’s 389 calories.

Yup, you got it, last year was 370g for the box, and this year 325g. And still £2.00. Bargain!

7/10 – Probably should stay consistent with the 2017 packaging. It’s not bad at all though.

Presentation

I do think, genuinely, that these look wonderful.

Sainsburys_TTD_2018 - 13

The tray is a nice matching colour, doesn’t feel cheap and the star design on top with the snow flake design is genuinely lovely. It’s well defined and these pies are buried in a mountain of sugar either.

Sainsburys_TTD_2018 - 9

There are a couple of minor issues, the filling on a couple of them is pouring out, they look maybe over full? And the one at the top left of the above picture is slightly mis-aligned. Quality control issues perhaps? Or am I a bit fussy here?

Sainsburys_TTD_2018 - 6

To compare against last year by the way, these are significantly improved.

9/10 – Top quality presentation, only let down by a little lid mis-alignment and filling overflow.

Filling

Now then…really a mince pie has two factors we are bothered about. The pastry and the filling. And I’m just going to focus on the filling in this cunningly titled “Filling” section of this review.

Wow.

Seriously flavoursome, fruity and very boozy. There is such a whiff of brandy when you open the pack, it’s like an “Am I drunk already?” moment!

There is a generous helping of the filling in each, but don’t let the overflow on the images fool you, they are about half full which is about the only disappointment here.

9/10 – I’m hugely impressed by the filling on these. If you like a boozy pie, this is that!

Taste Test

Sainsburys_TTD_2018 - 7This is slightly confusing to me really. Biting into these pies, and especially if you remember last years, will be a bit of a shock. The pastry last year was quite heavy, very buttery and had a very slight stick to the roof of your mouth feeling. This year, the pastry has a touch of the Mr Kipling about it. It’s quite thin and doesn’t have anything in the way of a crunch or a bite, it’s very insubstantial. You can see where the weight decrease has come in the pack this year, 370g down to 325g is quite a lot split between six mince pies and this is definitely where the loss is.

So, how about the rest of it…how do the pastry and the filling work together? Well, it’s honestly decent. The filling is really good, it really is nice and boozy, has good lumps of fruit and I’m fairly impressed. There is no soggy bottom either, so that’s quite a good trick by Sainsbury’s for such thin pastry (might be a different story in November when these have sat on shelves for 2 months).

14/20 – Filling tastes great, pastry not so much. Together, no more than decent.

Overall

Sainsburys_TTD_2018 - 10These are pretty good, they aren’t disappointing for a premium mince pie but if they’d added a smidge more to the pastry mixture these could have been outstanding.

39/50 – Bizarrely, considering it’s a whole new recipe, it’s the same score as last year!

Fortnum & Mason Almond Topped Mince Pies

The final review of 2017 now, hopefully everyone has had a lovely Christmas so far, we do still have a few days to go and of course, New Year’s Eve is coming up for a final blow out before the next 4 or 5 days of trying to stick to a diet before the next weekend comes along and you go for a takeaway and a beer.

Anyway…I picked these up shortly before Christmas in the St Pancras store but didn’t get around to eating them until a couple of days ago, so let’s crack on.

1.jpg

Packaging
Pretty much re-visiting everything I said about the traditional Fortnum and Mason Mince Pies here, the only difference being that the packaging here is gold rather than red. Both colours are gorgeously shiny and reflective, which is a nightmare for photos, but I do actually prefer this colour over the red. The pattern on the front is similar too, but with more purples than green this time.

The box is just as heavy at 500g (and the price just as heavy at £12.95).

8/10 – Basically, same thing different colour to the traditional variety.

Presentation
Sliding out the tray, what do we see…

4.jpg

The tray itself is this lovely gold cardboard creation, and it’s very nice. Much nicer than the plastic trays you see everywhere else. It’s deep too…

5

Interestingly though, the pies themselves are decorated quite differently to the traditional variety. Before, we saw the F&M logo on top with a very light covering of granulated sugar, now we have something a whole lot messier. Is it icing sugar? Almond dust? Don’t know, but it looks quite snowy and therefore Christmassy…so it works for me.

7

9/10 – Lovely presentation generally, but missing a decoration of some kind.

Filling
So, the filling…

9

I had high hopes here, especially after the previous F&M pies were so SOOO good.

But, you know what, there is something missing here.

The lid on these pies sits on top despite appearances and is a bit of a dome inside. The pie is about half full of mince. And worse, they taste a little bit bland. The mincemeat is quite wet, has a little kick of brandy if you give it time to appear…but overall, disappointing.

5/10 – A bit bland and not as much as there should be

Taste Test
Ok, so the mince itself is bland, but what about the pie overall. After all, we’ve got some premium pastry and premium almond topping here right.

So, my first tasting went badly…the top of the pie is quite crunchy and solid, being embedded with the almonds. The rest of the pie though, especially with the wet filling, is very soft. This resulted in my fat hands squashing the pie and the lid hitting the kitchen floor, creating a dusty mess (and expensive dusty mess at that).

Take two then…and the pastry itself is the good stuff from the traditional mince pies, but this time the filling really is doing it no favours, the wetness is too much and you end up folding it into your mouth, leaving the lid behind on the plate. The almond lid is nice, very crunchy and almondy, and I liked that, but it was just physically tricky to eat it all together.

So, i’m torn for a taste test…in the end, the filling is killing it!

10/20 – Two of the three core elements here are good, but the bad one hurts everything!

Overall
Shocker then…

6.jpg

They look the part, everyone thinks you are distinctly middle class at dinner parties if you’ve got a plate full of them…but just don’t let anyone eat them…because real middle class people have cleaners and you’ll be picking up the pieces yourself with these.

32/50 

REVIEW: Coop All Butter Luxury Mince Pies (2017)

This review is going to refer back to the 2016 version of these pies quite a bit, the review for those is here: https://themincepie.co.uk/2016/10/08/mince-pie-review-coop-irresistible-all-butter-luxury-mince-pies/ and it’s worth a read to remind you how I’ve always been a fan of these pies.

16.jpg

Packaging
So, this looks just like last year’s box…but let’s do a side by side:

1 fullsizeoutput_3758

On the left is 2017 and on the right is 2016. When I bought these, I genuinely thought they were the same. Check out the layout of the pies on the box, it’s almost the same. It’s very clever, but I can’t think really why they’ve done it like this.

Notable differences though on the calories, 2017 are 246 calories and 2016 are 254. The composition is different too, and you’ll note that last year the salt count was orange and this year it’s green. The weight is the same though, so really it just suggests a different recipe. The blurb at the top makes mention cherries too, which it didn’t last year.

Notable too the absence this year of the crimped edges, and the less defined spring of holly on the pastry design.

Pretty much though, my comments from last year still stand. It feels fairly premium as far as these things go, but not very Christmassy.

8/10

Presentation
So, last year, we had some fairly nice things to say about these, being quite pretty to look at. I also noted the bucket of sugar chucked at it too.

Guess what…

91.jpg

Well, personally, I think these look really quite untidy for a start. They look really quite uneven, not exactly consistently circular. The sprig of holly is no so indistinct, suddenly they really not so pretty. The removal of the crimping around the edges from last year also really takes away from the overall impression.

51.jpg

Worse though, they’re no longer chucking a bucket of granulated sugar over these. Instead, they’ve poured two buckets of icing sugar all over them. That’s right, they’ve binned off the granulated sugar, replaced with icing sugar. Horses for courses to a degree, but it’s just massively over done.

12

So, all in all…a massive fall from grace for these from last year.

3/10

Filling
Now, we’ve had a fall from grace on the presentation front…what next..

This:

141.jpg

That’s a whole lot of air in there!

So, you can see the mincemeat is quite fruity and chunky, but the very fact that it’s not even half full is a disgrace. No wonder these are less calories!

It’s not an isolated problem either, although this is marginally better:

161.jpg

Overall, the filling is also quite “wet”, which means it’s a surprise that there is no soggy bottoms here (unlike Aldi).

It really needs to taste good though given the limited quantity of it.

5/10

Taste Test
So, how do these taste then? Well, the answer isn’t totally straightforward.

When you munch in, the pastry is very buttery, but very dry. This results in the pastry immediately applying itself to the roof of your mouth. 100% requires a cup of tea to wash these down. Now, I remember, that is quite similar to last year, but with the lack of filling here, there is less of something to mix with the dry pastry.

For what it’s worth, the taste of the filling is really excellent. It’s fairly fruity and has a good kick of brandy in there, definitely a boozy type of pie.

All in though, you eat these and you feel that you’re having to work hard eating not great pastry with little reward. Really really disappointing.

They’re not awful though, the filling is fine, and if they added a bit more of it they might not be so bad. They could be decent warm with custard, at least that would help with the dryness.

10/20

Overall Score
A real disappointing outcome here after the middle of the road outcome last year. This is a huge fall from grace as a couple of years ago, I swore by these pies as the best around.

26/50

Mince Pie Reviews – November League Table Update

Figured it was worth updating the league table and because some people do miss it (it’s linked seperately either in the hamburger menu on a phone or up top on desktop).

Miles away at the top is the Fortnum & Mason pies, but it’s looking like a strong list.

For reference, the columns in order are “Year of Review, Packaging, Presentation, Filling, Taste Test and Overall Score”. The table is ordered by Overall Score, with Taste Test as a tie breaker (then Presentation then Filling and finally Packaging if all of those are equal).

No. Name YR Pa Pr Fi TT OS
1 Fortnum & Mason Traditional 2017 8 9 9 20 46
2 Tesco Finest All Butter 2016 8 8 7 18 41
2 M&S Star 2016 6 10 8 17 41
4 Aldi Specially Selected 2016 4 9 8 19 40
5 Iceland Luxury 2016 6 6 9 19 40
6 Aldi Sloe Gin Mince Tarts 2017 6 7 7 19 39
7 Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference All Butter 2017 7 8 8 16 39
8 Aldi Specially Selected 2017 4 9 6 19 38
9 Iceland Luxury 2017 6 6 9 17 38
10 Coop Irresistable Luxury 2016 8 7 7 16 38
11 Lime Tree Pantry Mince Pies 2017 4 9 8 16 37
12 M&S Christmas All Butter 2016 6 5 8 17 36
13 Greggs Sweet 2016 6 6 7 17 36
14 Spar Luxury All Butter 2016 8 8 7 12 35
15 Sainsbury’s Mini Ecclefechan and Mincemeat Tarts 2017 6 9 8 10 33
16 Tesco Mince Pies 2016 9 2 4 17 32
17 Waitrose All Butter 2016 5 5 7 14 31
18 Sainsbury’s Iced Topped 2017 9 5 4 12 30
19 Sainsbury’s Deep Filled 2017 9 4 5 10 28
20 Coop Bakery Shortcrust 2016 5 1 4 10 20
21 Coop Puff Pastry 2016 6 6 1 5 18
22 Heston Spiced with Lemon 2016 3 9 3 1 16

 

REVIEW: Aldi Sloe Gin Mince Tarts

Well, this is new…and also, I realise I said I’m taking a mince pie reviewing break but, these were seen and must be had.

Let’s get on with the show.

3.jpg

Packaging
Very much like the other Aldi mince pies these, similar styling of box and branding. It’s classy enough, but doesn’t shout Christmas to me quite enough. There is a nice window to the pies and these are unusual looking pies.

Worth noting, the box is quite slim, so these are going to be flatter pies than usual.

The note to serve warm or cold is interesting me…I shall give them a warm go over the weekend, but as all of these pies are reviewed cold that’ll be merely a footnote.

6/10 – Nothing wrong here, window is good but just not Christmassy enough

Presentation
Worth remembering, these mince ‘tarts’ (not pies apparently) are retailing for £2.29 a box of six. That’s 38p a pie, sorry tart, ish. Now, put in context, everything else at Aldi seems to cost 99p according to my Mum, so this is some optimistic fayre here (fayre isn’t apparently in the dictionary on my Mac and it’s underlined in red, vaguely irritating. In fact, so irritating I diverted for 15 minutes or so looking it up. It’s in the dictionary, it seemed to irritate a Telegraph journalist a couple of years ago, it’s old fashioned, only used in Britain, if any Americans read this, apart from having a real hard time with sweet mincemeat generally, this word will throw them a bit more…).

I digress…

6

Anyway…they’re plastic bagged. That’s because the window in the box is an actual opening to the box. This means, to keep these things fresh for a few days and to stop them falling out while walking with your arms doing windmills holding the box, don’t lose this bag!

Once out of the bag…

8.jpg

So, I’m not sure what to say here…are they messed up or is this what is supposed to happen with fancy tarts from budget supermarkets?

The almonds are liberally chucked on with nay a care in the world, but most concerning, what’s happened to the pattern on the middle row? Weirdly, I can’t tell if it’s deliberate variance considering both of the middle ones look like this and the end ones are kind of consistent in the hatching they have on top. And is it me…do they look a bit like Yorkshire puddings?

The hatching on the ones on the left looks very good and neat, the right side much less so.

12.jpg

There are no trays to be seen here, so you’ll need a plate unless you are rebellious like me. It’s a very even bake all of the way around, but the slight leakage on the right here is not ideal.

All in though…I kind of like the look, they are appealing to me and that’s really important.

7/10 – Probably way too high considering the problems…but I like them even so!

Filling
So, as I said before, these pies tarts are quite large, but flat. This is never a good sign for including lots of filling. Let’s take a look:

14.jpg

Is that a lot?

I tell you what, it’s got plenty of fruity chunks within and all of the way around the pie tart it goes right to the edge on this level.

All in, I’m willing to bet there’s at least as much here, if not more so, than the regular supermarket pies around.

It’s got a lovely smell too, the sloe gin aroma in the filling really comes through.

7/10 – It’s actually good and more than it might appear considering the flat nature of these.

Taste Test
As usual, it’s all down to taste really.

9

Let’s break it down a bit.

The pastry is good. It’s very much in the “cakey” nature of the Fortnum & Mason pies really, and worthy of the ‘tart’ title over pie. It’s very solid and holds together well without the tray. When approaching the first bite, it’s hard to know if there is going to be some crunch or it’s soft and it’s surprising therefore, that it is lovely and soft yet solid enough to not fall apart. This is some skilled bake work.

The almonds really add a nice little flavour extra, but aren’t strictly needed in my view.

When you get into the filling, it first hits you with the aroma and then the sweet fruity flavour of sloe gin is distinctly there. It’s got a marginal gin-like sensation as you eat, and the fruity flavour really makes it work. The spices and come across really well and it makes the overall taste here massively satisfying. These are top drawer pies tarts and are a great secondary mince-based treat alongside whatever regular pies you go for.

19/20 – Outstanding, just maybe could do with a bigger gin type hit!

Overall
No getting away from it, I really like these pies and are the best so far to come out of Aldi. There are a few issues though, and the presentation could probably use a bit of work, but I’m massively impressed.

39/40

10.jpg

REVIEW: Fortnum and Mason Traditional Mince Pies

So…I ummed and I arrred and eventually, decided to go for it. What am I talking about? Well, buying these bad boys is what…bought from the Fortnum and Mason shop at St Pancras Station as I passed by on my travels…the price, a cool £10.95.

That’s £1.83 per pie!

I mean, there’s premium.

There’s luxury.

There’s posh.

And then…there is this:

114.jpg

The single most frustrating packaging to photograph ever….look, you can see my hands taking the photo…anyway…let’s get on with the review.

Packaging
The box is heavy, super heavy, 500g. For comparison, the Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference pies come in at 370g and the regular Sainsbury’s pies at 355g so there is some real extra here with these.

The packaging is red, reflective and really shiny, hence my hands on the photo above.

There is a lovely looking window, with the branding nicely displayed, showing off the pies, it’s a really attractive presentation of the pies.

1 (1)

The rest of the packaging has a colourful green pattern design, not sure what it is, but it kind of looks Christmassy. It’s maybe a bit of holly and horns and things. Who knows, I think it could do with being a bit more obviously Christmassy and maybe then it’d be perfect.

8/10 – Pretty lovely generally, but just not that Christmassy!

Presentation
So, you open the packaging and slide out the tray. And it’s not just any tray.

53-e1508185531260.jpg

First thing you see is more of the reflective stuff, this time it’s gold coloured.

And then…it’s made of cardboard, none of that plastic tray action here. I figured I’d get a different angle on it.

9

It honestly feels really special and looks different too. It’s much more interesting than any other box of pies I’ve had for a long time.

On the pies themselves, they are emblazoned with an “F&M” logo. It’s a little bit self-aggrandising I guess, but it’s still quite attractive. I’ve said before, the lack of “christmassyness” does seem to increase alongside the price. The cheaper the pie, the more of the normal Christmas thing you get.

The quality of the bake here is outstanding though as you can see. Extremely even and well presented. Look closely and you can see copious amounts of sugar on top here and just look how deep that pie is. You can see where the extra weight in the box comes from, there is a lot more here than regular pies.

12

9/10 – Not getting 10 simply because of the me me me thing of adding their logo to the top.

Filling
So, getting to the real meat of the matter now, what’s the filling like.

Well, the ingredients list is something to behold and it’s all on show when you get into this monster.

142.jpg

It might not look chock full, but it is a bit mis-leading on this picture. This is very high quality stuff here, massive chunks of fruit, but it’s not the look, it’s not the amount, it’s all about the smell. It smells like sweet apples, brandy, and cinnamon. Genuinely astonishing!

But you know what, if there is a complaint, there could be a smidgen more, although when you taste these, you probably won’t think so.

9/10 – Almost perfect, just needed a tiny bit extra to fill that air gap!

Taste Test
Well so far, this review could really have been any more complimentary could it? What is the taste test going to bring…

8

Let’s just say, these are the single greatest mince pie I’ve ever had. Full stop, hands down they are incredible.

The F&M website describes them like this:

There is nothing quite like a traditional mince pie, warm from the oven and eaten on a crisp, winter’s afternoon. To make ours especially good, we put quite a lot of butter in the pastry, and we make each pie extra-deep, to hold generous helpings of mincemeat. And, of course, we use our own mincemeat, made with plenty of brandy. Serve warm with a spoonful of Fortnum’s Cognac Brandy Butter or Rum Butter eased gently under the lid.

Everything about that paragraph is entirely accurate.

Let’s start with the smell. When you slide them out of the box it hits you, as described above, that sweet alcoholic flavour. It’s an amazing smell that engages your taste buds before you even taste them.

Then you bite into the pastry and it’s genuinely unlike anything you’ve had before. It’s buttery, flakey and very slightly “cakey”. It’s also very sweet, all of that sugar is right there, available to taste.

Then you tuck into the filling and the warmth of the brandy really comes through, there is cider, brandy and cognac in here, with fruits and spices. Oh my, it’s wonderful.

So, where does that leave us?

Perfection is where!

20/20 – Does not get better than this.

Overall
Right, so these are clearly not for everyone. The cost is pretty eye-watering when you consider some of the alternatives. Even Harrods are only asking £8.95 for their mince pies, so these are genuinely decadent.

Luckily, I don’t actually consider the price in these reviews, if I did there would probably be a negative multiplier in there. They are by far the nicest mince pies I’ve ever had.

Should you buy them?

If you can afford to go down the pub and spend eleven quid on a pint of ale and a white wine for the wife, and you think that’s worth it, then why can’t these be worth it too?

It’s Christmas, treat yourself!

46/50 – I will be buying more in December for certain.

REVIEW: Lime Tree Pantry Mince Pies

Now…look…I know you’ve not heard of them…but check out the website here:

https://www.limetreepantryfoods.com/

I picked up a box of these from the Hardwick Hall Food and Drink Festival where the Lime Tree Pantry folk had a stand. I was told by the lady on the stand that these pies are the very same as those you can get from a Thornton’s Cafe. Which, depending on your point of view, could be a good thing or a bad thing.

Let’s crack on anyway…

Packaging
Let’s just say this is on brand for Lime Tree…

32.jpg

It’s not Christmassy, the end.

At least there is a window to the pie so you can see what you’re getting.

4/10 – It’s a local type of bakery, feels harsh to criticise too much.

Presentation
One of the interesting things about these pies is the total utter lack of a tray. That’s right, there are six pies in the box, completely loose.

Is that something worth marking them down for? I’m not sure, but let’s take a look at the pies themselves:

6

All six totally identical, extremely pretty with the star on top and a nice sprinkle of icing sugar to colour it up.

It’s a very even looking bake too, very evenly baked.

9/10 – Would have been perfect with a tray I think…even a cheapo red one!

Filling
This is a very full pie.

72.jpg

You can see on the picture above, the filling is filling up the pie and the star sits on top, no air gaps in these things.

The mincemeat filling is very chunky, doesn’t have a particularly potent boozy smell, but it looks substantial.

8/10 – An excellent amount of filling with what appears high quality filling.

Taste Test
This is it then…how do they taste…

Not boozy. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, they are cafe mince pies really and supposed to appeal to a wide audience and go well with a flat white.

The pastry is solid and tasty, there is a buttery edge but it’s not the kind of pie that sticks in your mouth and needs washing away.

The filling is fruity and tasty, but as I say, misses a real kick but it’s very pleasant.

In the house though, there was a mixed opinion, I was a little more enthused than others who thought it was a little tasteless.

16/20 – It’s good, but lacks some punch in the filling

Overall
A local bakery with a mince pie, apparently used in the Thorntons cafe’s, that scores well is definitely a good thing. Stunningly good quality baking, if they could drop a little bit of brandy or some other warm and fuzzy alcohol flavour…this would be top drawer.

As it is, it’s still right up there!

37/50