When last we left I was on an insane quest to find the autumn seasonal Kit Kat release for 2011–Pumpkin Cheesecake. Released at the beginning of October, the Kit Kats were all over the blogosphere–food and otherwise–because the idea of pumpkin flavouring, cheesecake, and a Kit Kat bar was just enough “weird Japan” to get everyone to sit up and take notice. I’d had two different kinds of cheesecake Kit Kats before, Blueberry and Strawberry as they’re both ‘regional’ flavours and not too difficult to find if you know where to look, and I really enjoyed them both. As did I enjoy the “cheese” flavour Kit Kat. To know that these would be on store shelves when I arrived was a total coup, and I was really looking forward to it!
Of course, I couldn’t find the damned things anywhere. All of the candy specialty stores I visited said that they sold out quickly, and that they wouldn’t be getting any more shipments. Seeing as how they had a Halloween theme and I landed in Japan 4 days before Halloween, I guess I shouldn’t have been TOO surprised, but still.
I still checked more-or-less every single convenience store we walked by, for them, and a few grocery stores too. Super-frustrating. Totally unavailable.
It was on a side trip to Osaka/Kyoto to meet comic creator and ex-pat Ryan Cecil Smith that I finally found them–a week past Halloween. We stopped into a 7-11 just outside the Press Pop Gallery in Kyoto to grab a drink, and there they were in all of their majesty…! Pumpkin Kit Kats! They were in a totally different format than I’d seen online, an “upright” bag with 9 mini Kit Kats inside rather than the “wide” bag with 13 minis, though the packaging had all of the same elements. I immediately picked up 3 bags of them and was giddy with Joy. They had a couple of other random Kit Kats as well including the bitter strawberry bar I hadn’t seen anywhere else and grabbed those too. No idea if that was just a powerfully unpopular 7-11 or if they were as big of Kit Kat fans as I am, but bless them for their foresight!
So, I acquired Pumpkin Cheesecake Kit Kats. Was it worth the stress? Let’s find out!
Packaging: I really like the packaging on these. The overall colour mix of the giant Red/White/Silver Kit Kat logo is complimented by the organge and brown swatches of colour, and the light checkerboard pattern on the top and bottom edges helps the whole thing catch the eye. The photo/illustrations are minimal, one showing the product itself, a white-chocolate Kit Kat, and the other showing an actual pumpkin cheesecake. Frankly I’d never seen a pumpkin cheesecake before, let alone had it, and the photo is a bit nondescript.
The interior, mini package design carries over from the outside with brown, orange, and red. Interestingly they use absolutely no photos or photo-realistic illustrations on the mini-packages. They do use lots of “flat” illustrations of jack-o-lanterns, vampires, witches, bats, ghosts and more still. This is the first time I’ve ever seen varied interior packaging too, but the wrappers of the minis feature six (6!) different designs, each with a different jack-o-lantern and accompanying monster. Well, one of the monsters is a castle, but you take my meaning–neat!
No English writing anywhere on this item, which is interesting as pumpkin cheesecake is a pretty western flavour idea and I’d expect at least a little.
Scent: Unsurprisingly, the main scents are traditional white chocolate Kit Kat, mixed with the tell-tale scent of cheese Kit Kats. This would definitely have some of that ‘cheese’ flavour in it. There were also faint notes of pumpkin spice, or pumpkin-pie spice. Something spicy and warm, though I’m having a hard time telling exactly which spices. They’re very faint either way.
Taste: I actually held off opening the Pumpkin Cheesecake Kit Kats all through my Japan trip, and even after I got home, wanting to taste them for the very first time for this review, so here goes!
Again, the big flavour right off the top is white chocolate, and as usual it’s a bit overpowering. The cheese flavour is very mild compared to other cheesecake Kit Kats I’ve had though, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. The sweet / cheese combo is what really makes those Kit Kats interesting, and lessening the cheese taste isn’t doing these any favours. There is, surprisingly, a good aftertaste of pumpkin. Pumpkin is a sort of subtle flavour at the best of times, requiring brown sugar and spices to bring out its sweetness or olive oil and salt-roasting to bring out it’s savoury flavours, and so I was surprised that the finish is of pumpkin. It’s not terribly strong though, I kind of want more, but it’s there. Also, the spiciness I smelled at first doesn’t seem to be evident anywhere in the flavour profile.
Breaking it down, I decided to try some of the chocolate coating without any of the wafers. Doing this the cheese is definitely much more noticeable, and what the pumpkin aftertaste is still definitely there. It’s a lot sweeter too. A bite of the wafer without the the chocolate reveals… Not much at all! There’s maybe a tiny hint of those spices but for the most part it seems like the wafers and cream between them don’t have any flavour at all.
Verdict: I had a very, very clear expectation of what this flavour should be, and I gotta be honest, it’s nowhere near what I was hoping. A pumpkin pie, cheesecake, spicy-sweet-mouthfilling treat? A Starbucks Pumpkin-spice latte with a touch of the sourness of cheescake, in convenient candy bar form? A quest to find this that literally took me thousands of kilometers?
Perhaps my expectations were a touch high.
On its merits, this is a decent, interesting Kit Kat flavour. It does taste like pumpkin which is pretty unusual, and while it’s on the sweeter end of Kit Kats it didn’t hurt my teeth like some of them have, so that’s a bonus. They’re interesting, inessential candies.
In the end, I probably wouldn’t buy these again if they’re re-released, but I am strongly considering throwing a pumpkin-spice latte and a slice of cheesecake into a blender and making my own milkshake, because I just can’t get what could have been out of my head.