Saturday, March 25, 2017

Exotic/Disgusting Foods and Beverages Forum--A Scottish Drink and Candy Bar

     These two were yet another Wegman's international aisle find.  Today I'll be discussing Lees Jaffa orange chocolate candy bar and A.G. Barr's Irn-Bru soda.  Lees has been around since 1931, and basically makes desserts.  Snowballs, teacakes, meringues, and confectionery bars.  For the latter, aside from the one I was able to get, they also make macaroon, creamy strawberry, raspberry coconut ice, mint chocolate, Scottish tablet, and Scottish fudge.  Their website also has a place where kids (or adults, I suppose) can play a "Space Invaders" ripoff called "Cake Invaders."
     A.G. Barr started as a cork-cutting business in 1830, but in 1871 they ventured into carbonated soft drinks, then called "aerated water."  The business promptly flourished, partially for depressing reasons.  As reported on the website, many Scottish industrial towns at the time were known for their poor sanitation, and correspondingly bad quality water, so a soft drink made from clean water and ingredients was the safer bet.  (Of course, taken to an extreme this would lead to severe dehydration, but in small doses it seems to have helped.)  In 1901 the company launched their signature drink, Iron Brew.  It became known as "Scotland's National Drink," after whisky (also spelled whiskey in much of the world),  They even made fun of the drink's orange color, by having the slogan, "Made in Scotland from girders."  One of Iron Brew's earliest celebrity pitchmen was Alex Munro, who was a champion in a quintessentially Scottish sport--caber tossing.  Due to World War II's strict rationing of food and beverage supplies, Iron Brew was not made from 1942-47.  When A.G. Barr found out that this rationing would end soon, they decided to change the drink's name, out of fear of reports about the new food regulation labeling laws.  The rumor was that labels and names had to be absurdly literal, so much so that calling their drink Iron Brew might be targeted because while it did have some iron in it, it wasn't technically brewed.  So Iron Brew became Irn-Bru.  One additional odd detail about this is these laws reportedly didn't go into effect until 1964, and when they did they weren't as ridiculous as feared.  So, basically the name was changed for nothing.  Once the drink was produced again, it was as popular as ever.  Currently it's the most popular soft drink in Scotland, beating out Coke and Pepsi, even.  And, like Coke, the recipe for Irn-Bru, using 32 ingredients, is a strict secret, known by only 3 people.  Aside from their signature drink, A.G.Barr also sells fruit drinks, drink cocktail mixes (their Funkin line), original, old timey soda styles, and other soft drinks.  The one that really caught my eye was D'N'B, a dandelion and burdock flavored drink (see the January 12, 2015 and April 13, 2013 posts for more info on these foods).  Irn-Bru does have some controversy, though.  It uses the Sunset Yellow FCF and Ponceau 4R food colorings, which are thought to possibly cause hyperactivity and ADHD in children.  Also, quinine, which in extreme cases can cause nasty side effects like headaches, irregular heartbeat, deafness, and other symptoms, some pretty serious.
     The Jaffa orange bar looked like a typical one, covered in wavy dark chocolate.  The inner portion was a yellowish-orange color, not surprisingly.  Since I prefer milk chocolate to dark chocolate, this bar had that hurdle to overcome, for me.  It was okay--the filling was noticeably orange-y, and it somehow had a York Peppermint Patty thing going for it.  So overall, it was pretty average for a chocolate bar.  Of course those who prefer dark chocolate would probably enjoy it more than I did.
     The Irn-Bru was in a 16.9 ounce (500 milliliter) bottle, and had the expected orange hue.  The 32 secret flavors were hard to pin down.  I kind of associated it most with a root beerish flavor.  Once again, I didn't hate it, but also didn't love it.  Alright, kind of "meh."  Famous Scottish comedian Billy Connolly had a bit on his 1975 album extolling Irn-Bru's alleged benefits as a hangover cure.  I didn't test this property myself.
     In conclusion, then, I wouldn't really recommend either the Irn-Bru or the Lees Jaffa orange bar, but I wouldn't warn against them, either.  If/when I get the opportunity, I think I'll go with other A.G. Barr and Lees varieties.

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