NOTE: the Thomas Kemper Company, or one of their representatives, sent us samples of this product for our opinion.
I normally eschew diet products; there is something about artificial sweeteners that always seems to taste like chemicals. Normal, non-diet products just taste both more natural and more appropriate, and - well, better.
Thomas Kemper's Low Calorie Root Beer falls somewhere between these extremes in terms of construction, calorie content, and taste. It is sweetened with SPLENDA(R), but also with honey (indeed, the company symbol appears to be a honey bee). Honey is a sweetener that I've encountered in some other high-quality root beers, and it does a good job here, but it is battling against two things - one, the Splenda, whose taste does come through, and two, the carbonation. I may have been unlucky with my bottle, but after the first sip most of what I tasted was the carbonation.
The first sip was pretty good though. Creamy, sweet but not syrupy, slightly complex. After decarbonating the soda (through an ancient process including abrupt changes in soda velocity, and perhaps I did it a bit too much) I was able to recapture some of that initial taste, but the soda also lost some of its complexity. That said, I could taste honey, vanilla, perhaps licorice or anise. In any event, the soda was good enough that I'm interested in trying the normal, Splenda-free version, but Thomas Kemper is primarily a West Coast phenomenon at present and I haven't yet been successful in finding it in this area.
Grade: 6d (d for diet); those who enjoy low calorie sodas may well rate it higher.
20 calories per 12 ounce bottle = 1.67 Calories per ounce (very low)
Kosher (Vaad Harabanim of Greater Seattle)