The final three liqueurs in The Great Oh Gosh! Orange Liqueur Showdown are all triple secs, all housed in squat, square bottles and all about 80 proof. Cointreau is one of the worlds most famous liqueurs, but as I have learned popularity does not always equal quality in the world of alcohol. Is Cointreau really the king of orange liqueurs, or do these newer liqueurs have something to offer? For details on how the comparison was performed, check the notes on the showdown.
Adolphe and Edouard-Jean Cointreau founded a distillery in Angers, France in 1849, and in 1875 Edouard-Jean’s son, Edouard, took over the distillery and began production of Cointreau. Today it is the worlds most famous triple sec, called for by name in many cocktail recipes both new and old.
Cointreau has a strong zesty nose with a clear bitterness and a mild suggestion of heat. In the mouth you get an immediate mix of sweet and bitter orange, all with a very bright, natural flavour to them. The bitter orange intensifies after the initial sip, and brings with it a definite dryness. There is a fairly powerful burn during the middle, and a lingering heat through to the end. The long finish leaves a fresh orange taste to linger, with a bitterness that fades in to a mild sweetness.
Cointreau is certainly one of the most intense liqueurs in the comparison, with a lot of powerful flavours going on. It has a very natural quality to it, and unlike many liqueurs where the flavours are fairly defined and separate during the sip, Cointreau seems to have a lot going on at once. It’s certainly not one for sipping, but you can see why this is called for so often in cocktails – these orange flavours are powerful enough to stand up to a lot.
In 1821 Girolamo Luxardo opened a distillery in Zadar to make Maraschino, the liqueur Luxardo is perhaps still most famous for. Luxardo now produce a huge range of spirits including liqueurs, eaux de vie, grappa and brandy. Triplum is made using three different types of citrus, along with dried orange flowers and herbs. Interestingly, it is aged in white ash casks for at least six months – an unusual step for triple sec.
Luxardo Triplum has a fairly alcohol heavy nose, with a mild orange zest background with perhaps a touch of bitterness. The taste has an initial mild orange flavour, with an almost artificial sweetness. There is a hefty burn in the middle, and the finish keeps this burn along with some mild orange and more artificial sweetness.
The overall orange taste has a definite perfumed quality to it, setting it apart from other triple secs. I remain fairly undecided about Triplum – it has an interesting orange flavour going on, with some subtleties that aren’t present in other orange liqueurs. However, the burn makes it less than ideal for sipping, and the orange flavours seem too soft for most cocktails. I will be interested to see how this works in a mixed drink.
Unlike many of the companies whose liqueurs are featured in this comparison, Patrón lacks a long history and a comprehensive range of fruit liqueurs. The company was formed in 1989 and is now the worlds best selling premium tequila brand. Though you might expect Citrónge to be made using a tequila base, it is in fact made with neutral spirits, though Patrón claim it makes “the finest, most authentic, smooth and delicious Margaritas.”
Patrón Citrónge has a mild orange nose, with a slight sort of mustiness which seemed odd and almost artificial. I’m not even sure if musty is the right word to us, but it’s certainly not a fragrance I came across in any of the other liqueurs though. Upon sipping you get a mild sweet orange flavour, but this quickly fades behind an explosion of bitter, almost burnt, orange which is fairly intense and somewhat surprising. A long burn follows this explosion, along with a fairly short finish of bitter-sweet orange.
To be honest I was expected Citrónge to be a fairly standard triple sec which is cashing in on the Patrón name and the popularity of tequila drinks like the Margarita. However while it starts off very subtle, the mid-taste of this liqueur definitely has something a little different. I wouldn’t really recommend it for sipping, but I am looking forward to seeing how this works in a Margarita.
So concludes the tasting notes for the Orange Liqueur Showdown. I hope you have found my thoughts useful, and I would be interested to hear if my opinions match your own. I will be offering my own conclusions next week, but before that I will be trying out some of the liqueurs in various cocktails, though in a far less rigorous manner than the individual tastings. For those of you sick of orange liqueurs (and if you think you’re sick…) rest assured normal service will resume shortly.
Note: In the interests of full disclosure, the liqueurs included in this comparison are a mixture of bottles I have purchased myself, and samples solicited from their UK distributors.
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