If you were shocked at the thought of paying a pound for a pie, try £1.66. In its defence, the Almond pie is huge, but slicing through it doesn't reveal a lot of filling. Instead, there's a layer of frangipane-like substance between the overly hard lid and the mincemeat. The almond flavour is subtle but the overall taste was forgettable; the pies also stuck to the case and their lids fell off too easily.
Like Santa, Mr Kipling must start working for the Christmas rush very early. Unfortunately, this comes through in the taste, as there's a hint of artificiality. However, there are also pleasant yeasty, malty and syrupy notes to the initially light and uplifting flavour. Most of us settled on 'chewy' as an appropriate summary of the pie; thankfully that's not an insinuation that it was a flea-bitten furball.
It's always gratifying to see our constructive criticism improve products, and so we were pleasantly surprised by this year's Duchys. The horrible end-of-day-sock flavour that was present in previous efforts has vanished, leaving merely a mild (if bland) taste of conventional mince pie. The pastry retains its typical crunchiness, which is neither pleasant nor unpleasant; the mediocre score is this range's highest yet from us.
While we avoided mainstream-supermarket basic pies, we were intrigued to see what middle-class Waitrose could offer for not much cash. We were rewarded by decent pies at a bargain price - the taste may have been slightly musty, verging on earthy, but these pies more pleasing than more expensive pies from more established names.
The only overtly boozy pie on test, the Courvoisier VS cognac added a sublte hint of Christmas spirit rather than the chemical-lab taste of previous alco-pies. However, the flavour is best described as 'old man pie' and the pastry turned into a stodgy mass in the mouth.
We usually look forward to the M&S Classics, as they've a strong track record of award-winning excellence. This is an off-year for the range though, as the pie tasted eggy and overcooked. The nugmeg highnotes might go nicely with a glass of eggnog, but the pie lacked punch and thus received a mediocre score.