Which Kiss Is Best?

Hershey’s Holiday Kisses

Hershey’s Holiday Kisses

I Paid: $3.19 per 10-ounce bag (prices may vary by region)

Taste: 2 stars

Marketing: 3 stars

The main appeal of the lump of mass-produced chocolate that is the Hershey’s Kiss is that it has, until recently, remained unpretentious and dependable. Not the world’s best chocolate, no doubt. But the streamlined little dollops are universally recognizable and as consistent as any mass-marketed confection made in the history of humanity. “I am,” says the Kiss, “what I am.”

Like all brands, however, the Hershey’s Kiss is determined to extend and extend until all possible niches and repackagings have been accomplished. Thus we now have three holiday-branded incarnations: Candy Cane, Mint Truffle, and Cherry Cordial. These seasonal candies have been around in one form or another for the past two to four years, and this year I decided to give them a whirl.

Described as “mint candy with stripes and candy bits,” the Candy Cane Kiss smells uncannily of peppermint. Made with white chocolate (rather than the milk chocolate of a typical Kiss) it has a waxen texture that’s improved by the inclusion of crunchy little candy pieces. The overall impact is butter meets mint meets festive candle. These Kisses aren’t fantastic, but they’re surprisingly good considering the inglorious mix of ingredients they’re made from: sugar, vegetable oil, nonfat milk, corn syrup solids, and milk fat.

Mint Truffle is a more solid concept. If you crossed an Andes mint with a Hershey’s Kiss, this would be the offspring. The texture is a bit more interesting than a regular Kiss’s, thanks to the creamy truffle filling, some actual chocolate (as opposed to the Candy Cane variety), and a nice balance between the two complementary flavors. This is not the candy of the century, but it’s respectable for the price.

Sniff a Cherry Cordial Kiss and you’re immediately transported to the magical world of Boone’s Farm, where artificial fruit flavors are applied liberally to questionable wine. The interior of these candies is filled with a pink gel-like substance that tastes like cough syrup. If you’re still interested in buying these after all that, you’ll certainly get what you deserve.

One thing that can be said about all three varieties of holiday Kisses, however: They have cool-looking wrappers. Cherry Cordial comes in maroon and black foil; Mint Truffle in dark green with silver snowflakes; and Candy Cane in silver and red stripes. Should you happen upon a holiday bowl filled with these things, gravitate toward the dark green and silver snowflakes.

James Norton edits the Upper Midwestern food journal Heavy Table. He's also the coauthor of a book on Wisconsin's master cheesemakers. Follow CHOW on Twitter, and become a fan on Facebook.