Combier and Senior orange liqueurs

April 2nd, 2008

The Great Oh Gosh! Orange Liqueur Showdown

The two liqueurs here each have their own claim to orange liqueur fame: Combier’s as the first triple sec, dating a full 41 years before Cointreau was first sold, and Senior’s as the only orange liqueur still distilled on the island of Curaçao using the islands Laraha fruit. The history is no doubt interesting but ultimately it’s what the liqueurs taste like that count, so how do they shape up? For details on how the comparison was performed, check the notes on the showdown.

Combier Triple Sec

40% ABV

Combier Triple Sec liqueur

Jean Combier began making spirits in his confectionery shop in 1834, and in 1848 they gave up the sweets and concentrated solely on their burgeoning alcohol business. Their Triple Sec was created the same year they began distilling, and is claimed to be the very first Triple Sec ever made – it certainly pre-dates any triple sec I’ve come across. It is made in 100-year-old copper stills using bitter orange from Haiti.

Combier Triple Sec has a mild bitter orange nose with little suggestion of the high-alcohol base. In the mouth you get an initial sweet orange flavour which is quickly overtaken by a powerful bitter orange hit with a medium burn. There is a strong dryness to this middle section, which lasts in to the long finish. There is a lingering heat at the end as well as a slowly emerging mild sweetness and some orange zest notes.

The liqueur is a little too fiery and intense to be enjoyed in sipping, at least to my tastes. However, it is a very interesting drink with plenty of powerful flavours and an interesting profile. This suggests it will make an excellent mixer in cocktails, and I am definitely looking forward to trying this in a Margarita.

Senior’s Curaçao of Curaçao

31% ABV

Senior’s Curaçao of Curaçao liqueur

The Senior family has been producing their Curaçao on the very island the liqueur was named after since the late nineteenth century. While this date means they certainly weren’t the first Curaçao, they are the only remaining company to still use the original Laraha oranges that grow on Curaçao, and to produce their liqueur on the island. The recipe also contains additional spices, and is produced in the original copper still dating from 1896.

On the nose Senior’s Curaçao of Curaçao has a fresh nose of orange peel with a definite sweetness to the fragrance and a touch of bitterness. Upon sipping you get a sweetness and a bright orange flavour which is strangely lacking in bitterness given the fact this uses only the bitter Laraha fruit. The brief finish brings out a slight heat and mild bitterness, which quickly fades in to a syrupy sweetness.

Fairly one-dimensional, the liqueur is nonetheless pleasant and has a decent orange flavour. It is enjoyable to sip, with a very smooth character and almost no burn, though it is unremarkable compared to many of the spirits in the comparisson. In cocktails I imagine the bright orange flavour will work well in many drinks, though sweetness may be an issue.

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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Posted in Orange Liqueur Showdown, Reviews

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9 responses to “Combier and Senior orange liqueurs”

  1. Bunnyhugs Bunnyhugs says:

    Very interesting to read about the Senior’s Curacao. I have always been curious about this one but never had the chance to try. It sounds like I have not really been missing out. It is ‘just another curacao’ rather than being in a different league to the rest.

    I’ll be interested to see if you reach any conclusions on the difference between triple sec and curacao.

  2. Ian R. Senior Ian R. Senior says:

    I am a member of the family that began the COMMERCIAL production of Curacao-Senior Liquer in 1896. This, it is claimed,was being produced from as early as the late 1600 s.
    Governor Jan Donker was in several deals with a member of the family: Philippe Senior-Henriquez. Donker imported the trees that mutated in the Curacao climate, making Lahara Oranges the main ingredient of this Authentic Liquer
    Regards
    Ian Senior (of Trinidad)

  3. Frank Brandao Frank Brandao says:

    I read with interest the Orange Liqueur Showdown.
    As you can see, I’m the Managing Director of Senior & Co.
    If you provide me with your e-mail address, I will send you additional information about our company, the liqueurs. recipees, etc.
    Regards
    Frank Brandao

  4. Mr L.P.Stamp Mr L.P.Stamp says:

    Very interested in your notes on CURACAO. I purchased a bottle of SENIOR C.D.C. authentic CURACAO 76 proof in the mid 1960’s. This was imported by Jules Berman of Beverley Hills. The bottle is still sealed and intact complete with lable. I was thinking of opening it on my golden wedding anniversary on dec 13th 2008. Two questions————— will it be safe to drink, or is it better to keep it as there may be more value to it, left intact. I look forward to your comments, Regards Lou Stamp Portsmouth U.K

  5. Jay Jay says:

    Lou – at 76 proof that bottle should still be perfectly safe to drink, assuming any deals have remained in tact, and if a cork is used that it hasn’t deteriorated.

    As to the value… the contents of the bottle won’t change for the better once put in to the bottle, so it certainly won’t improve in value owing to improved flavour. It may continue to gain in value owing to historical significance, but unfortunately I’m not really an expert in that sort of thing.

    If it were me, if my partner and I were big fans of orange liqueur and would enjoy drinking it then I would probably break it open to celebrate. If I was only opening it because of the anniversary, I’d keep it sealed.

  6. The Concierge The Concierge says:

    Jay,

    Have you any info on the difference between the Senior Curacao Orange colored versus the clear. I have a bottle of Orange, which works well in cocktails calling specifically for Orange Curacao, like the Pegu – it gives it a nice color.

    On a related note, I happened to taste Orange V Vodka at my local liquor store and the word vodka was kind of a misnomer because it tasted so much like a liqueur, just not as sugary.

  7. Jay Jay says:

    The Concierge – All the Senior Curaçaos use exactly the same recipe, and are simply coloured using neutral colourings. So they should essentially taste the same.

  8. Tom Tom says:

    I have a bottle that says ” Senior’s Authentic Curacao Liqueur”, it is blue and white, has a handle for pouring, with a ceramic top with cork. On the bottom of the bottle it has “Koninklyk Goedewaagen Gouda-Holland A-72″, with the date 1862 imprinted on it. Can anyone give me any info on this? Thank you, Tom. E-mail= tommy111xxx@hotmail.com

  9. William Mills William Mills says:

    I have the same bottle as Tom above, but marked A/70. Can anyone tell us the actual year that the bottle was made?
    Thanks!

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