You might be surprised to learn that this is the most expensive box of chocolates we’ve ever reviewed on Chocablog. But this box of 28 Thorntons chocolates retails for a stonking £100. Made by hand by Thornotns master chocolatier Keith Hurdman and his team, the box is a celebration of traditional flavours and some of the new ideas that Keith has brought to the company.
But perhaps the most impressive thing about this particular box is the packaging. There may only be 28 chocolates inside, but the box itself weighs in at a whopping 5kg, and it’s something most people will want to keep long after the chocolates have gone.
Inside the intricately designed and cut-out cardboard sleeve is a a dark red box made from an unidentifiable material that has the feel of bakelite. This is where the bulk of the weight comes from. Inside, the box is divided into two distinct halves, containing a “Heritage Collection” and “Contemporary Collection”.
You also a little card which tells you the number of your box in the limited edition run of 250. I’m number 12!
The first thing you notice when you open the box is that you get two of most of the chocolates. That’s a little disappointing, given you only get 28 in the box and only 15 of those are unique, and while it looks as though there are two layers, there is only one. In fact, given the way the chocolates are supported on cardboard inserts, it looks like the box may have been originally intended to contain two layers, but for whatever reason, the final product ended up with only one. If I’d actually paid £100 for this box (mine were a free review sample), I think I would have found that disappointing.
That gripe aside, let’s move on to the chocolates themselves, starting with the ‘Heritage’ side.
One of two white chocolates in the box, although the leaflet describes it as milk chocolate. In fact, this is nothing like how the leaflet describes it. It’s a simple white chocolate with a white chocolate and lemon creme filling. A little sweet but very pleasant.
A Grand Marnier truffle in dark chocolate. This one tastes like every other Grand Marnier chocolate you’ve ever had. It has a buttery texture and a bit of an alcoholic ‘kick’ to it.
Apparently, this was a big hit when it was launched 30 years ago, but it’s not really my thing. A whole Brazil nut, dipped in butterscotch, then in dark chooclate, then rolled in icing sugar. I’m not a great fan of nuts, particularly whole ones in chocolate, and this was just a little chewy and sweet for my tastes.
The recipe for this is apparently from the original Thorntons Continental recipe book; Hazelnut & Marc de Champagne mousse in dark chocolate. This one’s too sweet for me.
An old-fashioned (unsalted!) caramel in milk chocolate. Apparently this is reminiscent of Norman Thornton’s first caramels back in 1921, but it’s clear to see that tastes have changed. The caramel is buttery and ultra sweet, without much flavour. You don’t get much caramel inside, but even so, it’s way too sweet for me.
Caramelised almonds in milk chocolate with a touch of orange peel. Simple, but tasty.
Crudo Chocolate Block
A solid block along the lines of Thorntons current range of mini-blocks. The texture and flavour of this bar are supposed to replicate the kind of chocolate that would have been available 100 years ago. It has a rich chocolate flavour with added cinnamon, nutmeg and sea salt. The texture is much coarser than you’d find in most modern chocolate, and the overall experience is really quite interesting.
And so we move on the ‘Contemporary Collection’.
Raspberry and Rose Ganache
This chocolate won a gold medal at this year’s Academy of Chocolate awards. It’s a layer of raspberry jelly with a raspberry and rose creme in a dark chocolate shell. A very pleasant chocolate with a sharp, refreshing flavour.
Mango and Orange Créme
A mango and orange creme with a layer of orange confit in milk chocolate. Although quite sweet, I enjoyed the zingy fruitiness of this one. I think there’s a bit of a clash going on with the milk chocolate, but overall it’s a very refreshing, fruity chocolate.
Lime and Chilli
A modern classic – lime and chilli ganache in milk chocolate. I’ve tried many versions of this chocolate over the last couple of years, and this may be one of my favourites. You instantly get the zesty lime flavour, then the heat of the chilli builds slowly. Very nice indeed.
Crunchy Salted Praline
Hazelnut praline with sea salt and crunchy croquant in dark chocolate. A very nice, simple prlaine with a lot of flavour. I think the whole hazelnut on top may be superfluous though.
Nougatine Tile Gianduja
Nougatine with hazelnut gianduja in Maricaibo dark chocolate. Sweet and crunchy, but not really my thing. Also a very odd shape, consisting of four discs of nougatine arranged to form a kind of pyramid. A little to sci-fi looking for me.
Crunchy Caramel Praline
Another praline – one of three in the ‘Contemporary’ side. This one features has pieces of caramelised sugar and is wrapped in Swiss dark chocolate. The texture is much drier than the others, and there’s a strong coffee note going on. Interesting, but a little sweet for me.
An hazelnut praline with almonds, orange peel and waffle in milk chocolate, topped with white chocolate. I really liked the freshness the orange brings to this praline. One of my favourites.
Strawberry and Balsamic Ganache
A milk chocolate & balsamic vinegar ganache with a layer of strawberry jelly in dark chocolate. One of my favourite flavour combinations with a very pleasant, smooth texture.
Is this value for money at £100? Well by most measures, absolutely not. It’s a beautiful box with some great handmade chocolates, but with only 28 in the box, working out at roughly £3.57 each, that’s still basically double what you would pay for the finest fine chocolates. And not all of these chocolates are out and out winners.
But this isn’t about the chocolates. It’s a unique item that has been produced in such low numbers that I’m quite sure Thorntons aren’t making any money from them even at £100. I think that if you’re at all tempted by these chocolates, you have to put aside the cost and think of it more as a work of art. It could be a collectors item that you could keep untouched and hand down to future generations if it weren’t for the fact that the chocolates will probably eventually go mouldy and consume the box. So maybe best to just eat the chocolates and save the box.
They aren’t widely available – partly because they’ve given so many of the 250 to press and bloggers, I assume. They are listed on the Thorntons website as ‘available soon’ though. If you do manage to get hold of one, it would make an amazing gift for a very lucky chocaholic. But best not to tell them how much it cost.