2013 is almost over. It’s been a year of massive change for me, many ups and downs, both personally and professionally. What better way for me to see it out than to satisfy my sweet tooth with some fruity liqueurs I’ve picked up over the last year or so.
For anyone who knows me, to say I like sweet things is an understatement. If often prompts much teasing and feelings of consternation amongst my colleagues and friends.
The three I have chosen to enjoy for this post are the following:
- Berentzen Apfelkorn – the liqueur that got me into liqueurs, I try and pick up a bottle whenever I’m in Germany (which is sadly not as often as it used to be!)
- René de Miscault Liqueur de Mandarine – something I picked up on a trip to Alsace last year
- Rock Town Grape Lightning – Their Apple Pie is my current favourite tipple, but given I have another apple liqueur in the trio, I thought I’d go for another of their offerings this time
First launched in 1976, it has become a perennial favourite of Germans and indeed ex-service personnel formerly based there and has almost legendary status. The Berenzten family began making spirits in their grain distillery in the Niedersachsen town of Haselünne way back in 1758 and the company remained in the same family ownership until as recently as 2008.
Berentzen Apfelkorn is a liqueur I first came across during a trip to Germany about 10 years ago. I ordered one as a postprandial drink after eating at my favourite German restaurant, Früh Am Dom in Kõln, because I liked all things sweet and appley. Expecting a ‘harsh’ style of schnapps, I was surprised to find it deliciously smooth, sweet and fruity.
Colour: Transparent golden honey.
Nose: Quite a spirity nose upon first pour, which blows off after 30 seconds or so, to reveal toffee apples and caramel along with an unexpected note of tart lemons.
Palate: Tastes just like apple juice in flavour – the only clue that it’s not a soft drink is the slight warming sensation on the back palate, its so soft and smooth on the palate it really could be otherwise. As much as I could wax lyrical about the taste, there aren’t really any other flavours than can be picked out – it just does what it says on the bottle!
Finish: A longer finish than may be expected, with the apple flavour lasting for a good 20 seconds or so. Smooth and fruity, this glides over the tongue and is quite moreish.
Overall: A delicious introduction to the world of liqueurs, this is just so easy drinking and deliciously fruity with no sign of any harsh finish that some liqueurs are known to possess.
René de Miscault Liqueur de Mandarine
During a trip to visit some wineries in Alsace last April, I took a detour to visit the Musée des Eaux de Vie, run by producers René de Miscault in the village of Lapoutrie. Having had a wander round the very interesting (and indeed, free) museum, which includes an incredible collection of empty bottles, it was through to the shop for a small tasting, resulting in me picking up a bottle of their Liqueur de Mandarine.
Colour: Rather vivid transparent orange, with a hint of a pink. Dulux would probably say Moroccan Flame.
Nose: Freshly peeled mandarins with a slight spicy note at the back.
Palate: A rich, almost creamy texture that coats the tongue with an explosion of mandarin flavour. Very intense in flavour, a bit one dimensional in profile but then as a single flavour liqueur, one could argue that’s how it’s meant to be.
Finish: Whilst the finish after swallowing is relatively short, the fact that the liqueur coats the tongue means the flavour does linger for quite a while. Delightful texture leads to an enjoyable aftertaste.
Overall: You have to like oranges, but then if you didn’t, why would you be drinking it? Just deliciously fruity and very smooth and silky.
Rock Town Grape Lightning
I was first introduced to Rock Town Distillery, Arkansas’ first legal distillery since Prohibition, in June when I was invited by UK importers The Great Whisky Company to meet owner Phil Brandon (and his family who had come over for the trip). Tasting our way through the range, I was impressed at the quality of the output from a distillery that was less than 3 years old. At the end of the informal tasting, there was the unusual sight of members of the whisky trade and blogosphere asking Phil questions whilst getting top ups of his excellent Apple Pie Lightning. So when October came round I visited the stand at The Whisky Show 2013 to have my first taste of their Grape Lightning, a blend of their Moonshine and natural grapes.
Colour: In Dulux terms, close to a dark yet transparent version of Teal Tension
Nose: Real burst of black grape notes, very similar to the KA Black Grape I’m drinking alongside it, you have to work hard to tel the difference. The sparkling soft drink is more confected, with the lightning being sweeter and more integrated overall.
Palate: Wow! The black grape flavours explode in the mouth, coating the tongue, but unexpectedly leaving a slight almond-like bitterness that I absolutely love.
Finish: As with the mandarin liqueur above, the finish is long, but mainly due to the coating of the tongue. This does mean the almond notes disappear quite quickly, leaving the pure grape taste.
Overall: An interesting take on a fruit liqueur, I still prefer the original (to me anyway) Apple Pie, but this comes a very close second – the only problem is it’s a bit too moreish and not readily available (as far as I’m aware) in the UK yet.
I’m glad I’ve finished 2013 with three delicious fruit liqueurs, a fitting way for me to end the year, the only problem is it’s a very hard choice which of the three to continue with this afternoon.
Happy New Year to all my readers – until 2014…