I am a man of habit: I know what I like and what I like are KitKats in a wide variety of flavors. In spite of their vicious attack on the consumer via reduction of the size of the candy last year, I continue to purchase their product because to be honest, I really don’t need to eat too many of these things. Let’s delve into the delicious that 2021 bestowed upon Japan in the form of the humble KitKat!
Whiskey Barrel KitKats
This technically came out in December of 2020 but was unable to procure any due to avoiding the Rona.
The chocolate is dark and you can really taste notes of whiskey all the way from start to finish! It’s a bit smoky and woody, the whiskey taste, almost like a peat whiskey, and I’m here for it! Because it does have so much flavor, I can’t imagine having more than one at a time. Definitely to be consumed slowly and savored, much like a glass of whiskey. In terms of the flavor they were going for, they definitely nailed this one!
Rich Cheesecake KitKats
Remember last year’s normal cheesecake KitKats? Or the Yokohama-exclusive Strawberry Cheesecake? Well, fuck those pretenders! The Rich Cheesecake KitKat is the Dark Souls of cheesecake KitKats, so hold onto your butts!
This one also technically came out in December 2020, but I was able to get them at the same time as the Whisky Barrel KitKats. It’s not a very strong flavor that kicks you in the teeth like the standard cheesecake KitKat, but rather, it’s a much more subtle, almost sublime, flavor. You get a lot of white chocolate with it but the cheese lingers every so slightly in every bite. A much preferred flavor composition in my opinion.
Cacao Fruit KitKats
These bad boys came out in 2019, and introduced an intriguing idea: replace added sugar with mashed, dried, powdered cacao fruit. The fruit is usually used as the sugar for fermentation of the beans, but from what I’ve read, this is the first time the fruit has been used in a KitKat recipe this way. So how was it? The article says you can taste the chocolate flavor more fully and I must say, this was super tangy! You get a swift kick in the taste buds with a strong fruity flavor that melts into a rich, dark chocolate finish. It really does taste more of chocolate and I’m into it!
These popped up in my local supermarket at the end of January. Essentially, it’s a tiramisu but instead of coffee, you have matcha… inside of a KitKat, of course! The matcha flavor is balanced nicely with a buttery, creamy flavor that carries through from start to finish. If you’re not a big matcha fan because of the bitterness, this definitely helps take off that edge. It’s a delightful concoction that I highly recommend!
Japanese Plum (Ume)
I’m no stranger to Japanese plums here, so I was thrilled to see that there was a special Japanese plum (Ume) flavor released in February to coincide with the blossoming of the ume flowers. They were very fragrant and had just the right amount of sourness from the plums packed into the chocolate. The only downside was that the flavor tasted a bit artificial; not nearly as good as some other ume goods you can get around Japan. A valiant effort, nonetheless!
These came out around Valentine’s Day to little fanfare, and they didn’t seem to sell all that well locally. It’s a bit of a peaches and cream idea: You get a bit of an artificial peach flavor in the white chocolate, with hints of cream and white chocolate in the wafer filling. The peace was not that great, if we’re being honest here. It’s not terrible, just not the best peach flavor out there. You can definitely do better for your peach fix with other confections in Japan!
Right, so these are wheat cookies (if you’ve ever tasted McVitties, it’s supposed to be like those). Not going to lie: I really enjoy digestive cookies and this flavor has a really nice grainy, wheaty flavor to it. It even feels like they have a bit of the distinct texture of these cookies in the chocolate. An all-around winner for me, but it might be a bit too bland or uninteresting for some. These debuted in the springtime and lingered around into the summer, and seem to be here to stay, much to my delight!
These popped into shops in June, but didn’t stick around very long. They’re white chocolate with mango flavoring in the chocolate itself. The mango is light and fairly sweet without leaving a sticky aftertaste. It’s a nice, lighter fare for those of us who can’t handle the intense sweetness of some of the other flavors available. It was a nice welcomed flavor into the Kit Kat family, since they don’t seem to stray too often into Latin American / South Asian fruits too often.
Summer Ice Cream
These came out late July and early August, just in time for the traditional Japanese summer vacation for public schools. These are pretty much just the cookies and cream ice cream flavor reskinned with a gimmick: Questions and prompts dubbed “future questions” that you can answer online to keep your imagination and creativity sharp over the summer holiday! I can’t speak to the popularity of the question system, but the Kit Kats themselves are pretty… normal, just a strong white chocolate with a hint of vanilla. Fun to eat frozen on a hot Japanese summer day!
This one came out at the crack of fall, while it was still 88 degrees (31 C) outside! It has this lovely sweetness to it; just a mild bit of the chestnut, but for the most part, it tastes almost like a toasted marshmallow, and I’m here for it! These disappeared from the shelves fairly quickly as well, lasting only about a week or two in my local grocery store before they left just as quietly as they came.
Just in time for Halloween, late September saw these sneakily move their way into supermarket shelves. It has a nice apple flavor: not too tart or too sweet, that balances the chocolate quite nicely. The cinnamon adds a nice depth to the flavor, and the cool purple color is reminiscent of Halloween KitKats of the past (but not these!).
These came about mid-October. They’re white chocolate-based and have a wonderful tea flavor baked in. It has the right amount of sweetness and milky flavor to pretty accurately replicate the flavor of bottled milk tea you would buy out here in Japan. If you want to eat your milk tea, this is definitely the only way to go!
Keeping on that creamy smooth grind, near the end of November, we saw the debut of Strawberry Milk KitKats. They’re white chocolate-based with strawberry flavor mixed in the chocolate and a bit of strawberry powder in the sweet bits that hold the wafers together. It does indeed have that fake strawberry taste one would encounter in strawberry milk! I feel like the strawberry offerings in KitKats really haven’t hit the mark and this flavor continues the trend.
A flavor after my own heart! This one has two great things going for it: First, it has pistachio powder mixed into the sweet wafer cream and it is milk chocolate-based! Holy moly, that milk chocolate makes a world of difference! The chocolate mixes so nicely with the pistachio, which doesn’t get buried under the avalanche of chocolate. Easily my favorite KitKats of the year!
And thus ends 2021! What flavors would you love to try? Which would you give a hard pass? What flavors will 2022 hold? Stay tuned next year to find out!