To the uninformed the chunky, caramel coloured bar may look like fudge but to those of us raised in the land of purple clad hills and silver lochs where mythical, or not, monsters bathe, it is heroin for the taste-buds. A sinful, sugar-filled hit that has both the taster and the taster’s dentist sighing with sensual pleasure. Tablet is tablet, nothing else; call it fudge and you’ll be run out of Scotland faster than a politician wearing a Conservative rosette.
An addictive concoction of sugar, milk, condensed milk and butter, it is dangerously delicious. It had been 8 years since I last had my tablet fix but a tour of the Highlands of Scotland provided the perfect opportunity to carry out some important consumer research by tracking down the best tablet in the Highlands. Accompanying me on my quest was another tablet aficionado, my 22 year-old nephew Liam, who has been a tablet junkie since we’d introduced him to the sweet stuff on his first visit to Scotland when he was 11-ish.
Liam has been my Scottish food tasting sidekick for a number of years (Luke McSkywalker to my Obi Wan Dae Ye Ken-obe), gorging our way through events like the Tattie Scone World Championships and Square Slice Sausage Saturday.
First stop was Glasgow. It was a bust. Glasgow’s gritty streets and architectural opulence aren’t really a fitting backdrop for tablet tasting – for that you need rolling hills, crumbling castles and lochs with glassy petrol blue surfaces.
The quest for the Holy Grail of the tablet world didn’t start until our first ‘rest’ stop in the highlands and the judging was able to begin in earnest.
Guide to Scottish Tablet
Gordon & Durward of Crieff’s Vanilla Tablet
It was an impulse buy. Because it was the first – and we were a bit rusty – Liam didn’t read the label. Vanilla tablet is just not the real McCoy and an all round verdict of ‘too vanilla-y’ was no surprise. The texture wasn’t right either. It was a disappointing start. 5/10
Highland Maid Scottish Tablet
The ingredients seemed perfect; bought from a farmhouse shop in a village on the banks of Loch Ness and a picture of pleasingly plump and rather frumpy Highland maid on the front (this was a good sign she enjoyed her own tablet). But the taste didn’t live up to the expectation. The texture was too hard, it didn’t have that melt-in-the mouth factor and there was a hint of vanilla. 6/10
Gardiner’s Scottish Big Bar Butter Tablet
Pitlochrie proved a rich hunting ground with four different bars purchased in the town’s tourist filled streets. The first teased the taste-buds with the legend ‘prepared by hand to a traditional Scottish recipe’. It looked like tablet, it smelled like tablet but when you put it into your mouth it didn’t melt. Even after a few minutes it still kept its shape. This was an unwanted intruder in the tablet world. 3/10
Bought in the same shop as Gardiner’s, Perthshire’s Athole Tablet also didn’t deliver that unique tablet sensation. The vanilla flavouring was overwhelming, but it did melt in the mouth and it did have more of a distinctive flavour than the others in the vanilla gang; it tasted like vanilla ice cream in tablet form. As tablet it was a loser but as something completely different and new it was given the thumbs up. Tablet score 6/10. Taste score 8/10
Ross’s of Edinburgh Tablet
An unassuming label didn’t promise much…and maybe that’s the secret of what to look for in a bar of tablet as the minute a chunk of Ross’s touched the tongue it dissolved and filled the mouth with that essential tablet buttery sugary sensation. For the first time there was a chorus of satisfied MMMMMMs. A big thumbs up. 8/10
Highland Croft Tablet
We’d been fooled by the authentic looking label before but the ‘jist like mithers’ promise on Highland Croft’s tablet sounded good. It was also purchased in a butcher’s shop off the main tourist drag, another plus point. This time we’d really hit the seam. Its texture caressed the lips like a lover before it began to melt slowly in the mouth, the urge to rush it and gulp it down almost overwhelming, before it exploded in a symphony of sweet flavours. This was it, the real deal. We popped another chunk in our mouths and collapsed back into our seats to savour the experience. This is what makes us run the risk of rotting our teeth and it is worth every saccharine soaked moment. 9/10
Highland Croft tablet might have come out tops on this occasion but it didn’t beat the bar that has retained the number one spot for the last decade – Mrs Tilly’s Tablet. Their logo is ‘nobody makes it better!’ and so far we’d have to agree.
Buzz Trips Guide to the Correct Way to Eat Tablet
You might think that it’s simply a matter of popping a chunk of the good stuff in your mouth, but to enjoy the full taste sensation follow these tablet tasting guidelines.
1. Gently bite into a square of tablet. Good tablet should have almost a soft, velvety texture as it touches the lips.
2. Allow the piece of tablet to rest on your tongue for a few moments. It should immediately begin to dissolve sending sugary rivers of exquisite flavours coursing around the mouth.
3. When the intensity of taste is too much to bear, swallow…gasp with pleasure…and repeat.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+