2009 Proof66 Liqueur Tasting Results

2009 Proof66 Liqueur Tasting Results

On February 28, 2009, Proof66 held its third tasting featuring the fine and variegated liquid art that is... the liqueur.

Where the two prior tastings (vodka and rum) were done blind and under controlled circumstances, the format for the liqueurs was much different. Think: cage match. Think: king of the mountain. Think: teeming masses of baby turtles struggling for freedom where only a few - a very, very special few - will survive.

First, where before we chose specific categories of tasting here we featured a free-for-all in what we selected to taste. A whole zoo of fruit liqueurs, expensive liqueurs, cheap liqueurs, herbal liqueurs, cream liqueurs... just about everything had representation. There were no categories: every bottle had to live and die on its own merits. Did anyone cry for Max in the Road Warrior? Did HE ask for some kind of category in the thunderdome? No. And so it was for the liqueurs.

Where before we tasted blind here we let the bottle speak for itself. Each participant was given a treasure hunt or assignment list, which itemized out the tasting inventory; and then they were released! They were allowed to taste bottles in any order, mix them with anything they liked from coca-cola to cream and from fruit juice to other spirits such as gin or bourbon and even other contestant liqueurs. Most enjoyable, they tasted in public and openly criticized their peers' palates. It was like a mixture of Christmas morning and an Easter egg hunt with adults rushing about the field of play displaying the full array of raw, human emotion.

The contestant bottles were as follows:

  • Absente-one of the modern absinthes now being produced of intense, anise (licorice) flavor.
  • Bailey's Irish Cream-no tasting would be complete without this most well-known of Irish creams.
  • Caravella Limoncello-these Italian liqueurs are exploding in popularity, so we thought we'd try one out.
  • DeKuyper Creme de Menthe-why not? Sure, people usually put this in cookies but how does it compare straight up against the others?
  • Disaronno-surely one of the most infamous of all cable advertisements with a supermodel sucking the liqueur off an ice cube... alas, that didn't happen at our tasting.
  • Drambuie-surely one of the most famous of scotch-based liqueurs would fare well... wouldn't it?
  • Frangelico-the familiar monk-shaped bottle that reminds everyone of Mrs. Butterworth syrup was one of three intensely nut-flavored liqueurs (hazelnut, in this case).
  • Galliano-made renowned for Harvey Wallbangersthis is a light and sweet anise flavored liqueur.
  • Godiva Caramel Milk Chocolate-predictably, everybody at least gave this Valentine's Day treat a try.
  • Kahlua-this popular Mexican liqueur that represents all the flavor in a White Russian.
  • Kahlua Hazelnut-and their flavored offering - Kahlua was the only distiller to have multiple entries in this tasting.
  • Licor 43-this was Spain's only offering with their traditional and popular herbal liqueur.
  • PAMA Pomegranate-this liqueur led the charge in the emergence of pomegranate as a potent player in the spirits market.
  • DeKuyper Peachtree-a mixing favorite all across the world for its sweetness and pungency.
  • Qi Black Tea-one of a new line of tea liqueurs.
  • St Germain Elderflower-the winning liqueur of the 2007 San Francisco World Spirits Competition has been turning heads across every critical circuit it has come in contact with.
  • Trader Vic's Macadamia Nut-in a beautifully elegant bottle a very sweet, almost syrupy liqueur from the outfit that made rum drinks (Mai Tai!) international.
  • Whidbeys Loganberry-this unusual berry liqueur has been discontinued for some time... we may have had the last bottle on earth.
  • Zen Green Tea-our second tea entry from the people of Suntory over in Japan.
  • It was a long, long list. But our participants were stalwart and gamely sallied forth employing all manner of stratagems and ploys to best uncover the intricacies of these offerings.

    Most tried each liqueur neat to assess it. Here, contestant bottles met divergent fates. Some went straight to the sink. Others went straight to the stomach. Most often, they were fed to a gauntlet of testing in various conditions: ice, hard alcohol, orange juice on top of cranberry juice on top of lemon... it truly was survival of the fittest.

    Massive thanks to all involved - it's not small feat to rate so many different liqueurs. It was a great time where the dessert lovers loved Godiva and the whiskey lovers were sent fleeing to the dark corners to surreptitiously sip bourbons to rinse their mouths of sweetness. It was a time where the untutored palate met the unvarnished truth of herbal liqueurs splayed naked upon the tongue.

    And who won, do you ask? The winning liqueur - that bottle that emerged victorious from the alcoholic mosh pit of competitors - was PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur! Congratulations to Heaven Hill Distilleries for their refreshing liqueur that was considered to stand equally well as a mixer or on its own.

    Our first honorable mention must go to St. Germain Elderflower liqueur. This particular spirit was met with loud acclaim but was emptied so fast that not everyone got a chance to try it. Had we had more than a single bottle or judged the contest by total volume consumed, this gift from mountain bohemians might well have won.

    Second honorable mention goes to Zen Green Tea liqueur... congratulations Suntory for a spirit that reminded people of spring and sunny days. Clearly in this darkest time before the end of winter, the light and fruity tastes of each of these spirits were very compelling.

    We are very pleased to have the opportunity to introduce so many people to so many new flavors and different spirits. Keep watching the website for announcements regarding future tastings.

    And always remember: Elitism Rules!

    Published by Proof66.com