Taste Test: Gum

Photograph by Levi Brown

It seems that new kinds of chewing gum proliferate daily, with bodega cash registers now besieged by both the classic brands and tortured-sounding variations thereon (Trident, Trident White, Trident White Kiwi-Peppermint Hurricane Explosion, and so on). We decided to determine the best of each genre—mint, fruit, and bubblegum—by doing a comprehensive taste test. We scoured specialty food boutiques and health-food stores and enlisted the giant candy companies (Wrigley, Cadbury Adams) to send us their full range. Then we assembled a panel of enthusiastic, strong-jawed in-house volunteers and started a two-round testing system. In the first round, we waded through 132 kinds of gum, discarding the gross and the bland without hesitation, until twenty worthy finalists (see right) remained. For the second round, we added two prominent tasters—Wylie Dufresne and Alex Stupak, WD-50’s chef-proprietor and pastry chef, respectively. We even added between-round palate-cleansers (Saltines and Poland Spring) to keep our taste buds fresh. Then we chewed for mouthfeel and bulk, flavor intensity, and the general pleasure of the squish-squish sensation going on between our teeth, grading each gum on a scale of 1 to 10. Click here for the final results.

The finalists in the mint category featured flagship offerings of major breath-freshening-industry players like Trident, Wrigley’s, Orbit (a Wrigley’s subsidiary), and Dentyne doing battle against one newcomer—the eco-friendly Glee Gum—and a selection from Trident’s huge new line of fruit-mint “twists.” The natural peppermint Glee Gum (average rating, 3 out of 10)was found to have disconcerting crunchiness and overly small pieces. Trident Original (3.6) had what Dufresne called “weird soapy notes.” Tasters felt Dentyne Ice (4.1) was overmentholated (“It’s like eating three candy canes at once”). In the middle of the pack was Trident Minty Sweet Twist(5.5) (“Too sweet, but a vast improvement on original Trident”).

At the head of the category were Wrigley’s Doublemint (6.5), Orbit Sweet Mint (7.7), and Wrigley’s Spearmint, the overall champion at 8.4. The last was praised for nostalgia value, “near-perfect consistency,” appropriateness for chewing in the brisk fall air, and, most of all, its honest spearmint-oil flavor. Other gums tasted fake in comparison, said Dufresne, who held Spearmint above every other gum in the tasting, adding that gum producers, despite the availability of much-more-real-seeming artificial flavors, “try so hard to make everything taste like something aliens dropped off.”

Winner: Wrigley’s Spearmint … … . . 8.4

Fruit Stripe Rainbow (5.9) fared decently. Trident Wild Blueberry Twist (5.5) and Orbit Lemon-Lime (4.25) received middling reviews: Tasters noted that Orbit tasted like Pledge, while Stupak criticized Trident for overuse of the artificial sweetener Xylitol (civilian tasters merely noted a “chemical” aftertaste). Stride Forever Fruit earned average marks for taste—“A nice passion-fruit nose, but it doesn’t follow through with much flavor,” remarked Dufresne—though its claim to long-lasting flavor held true (averaging nineteen minutes versus seven for its nearest competitor in the category). Tasters felt Juicy Fruit’s (5.6) sweetness overpowered the “fruit” flavor. (The exact composition of that flavor is officially a secret, but Dufresne pegged it as artificial banana.) Finding unexpected favor were Icebreakers Ice Cubes Raspberry Sorbet (6.5) and Adams Sour Cherry (7.5). The Icebreakers Raspberry sent tasters on a delightful, dessertlike flavor journey, with an initial burst of mouth-cooling mint followed by “great raspberry flavor” and “the taste of actual cane sugar”; the Jolly Rancher–like intensity of the Adams Sour Cherry easily outclassed the rest of its modern fruity competitors. Said Stupak, “The balance between sugar level and acidity was perfect.”

Winner: Adams Sour Cherry … … … . 7.5

This category involved a great deal of disappointment, as testers were excited and then, moments later, repulsed by their childhood favorites. Fruit Stripe (4.25), while beautiful, was “too mild,” and “not good for bubbles.” Super Bubble (4.9) was “hard to chew” and “rubbery.” Bubble Tape (4.0) was described as “powdery,” “mealy,” and “like eating an eraser,” and the prospect of actual chewing tobacco seemed appealing compared with Big League Chew (3.0).

The Hubba Bubba Max Cherry Lemonade (5.6) featured a “legit lemonade flavor”—Dufresne praised its “nice sourness up front”—and allowed for the creation of “sturdy bubbles.” But the clear victor was old standby Bazooka (6.6), praised for its “classic” flavor, chewy texture, and thick bubbles. And there was even some mild chuckling at the wrapper comics—still featuring the same zany gang, but now updated for the modern world with lines like “’Tis better to have instant messaged and lost than to never have instant messaged at all.”

Winner: Bazooka… … … . 6.6

■ Fruit Stripe
■ Super Bubble
■ Bubble Tape Gushing Grape
■ Big League Chew Strawberry
■ Hubba Bubba Max Cherry Lemonade
■ Bazooka

■ Fruit Stripe Rainbow
■ Trident Wild Blueberry Twist
■ Orbit Lemon-Lime
■ Stride Forever Fruit
■ Juicy Fruit
■ Icebreakers Ice Cubes Raspberry Sorbet
■ Adams Sour Cherry

■ Glee Gum
■ Trident Original
■ Dentyne Ice
■ Trident Minty Sweet Twist
■ Wrigley’s Doublemint
■ Orbit Sweet Mint
■ Wrigley’s Spearmint

Taste Test: Gum