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:
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!