Liqueurs are the most diverse collection of drinks on the planet. Think of an ingredient, and odds on it will have been made into a liqueur. The world's best liqueurs have been made with everything from artichoke, chilli and green tea, to pine and pumpkin. And it’s this variety that makes the liqueur category so fascinating.
One reason for this diversity is their history. Step back a few hundred years to the Middle Ages and you’d have found monks concocting all manner of weird and wonderful recipes by blending herbs, roots and flowers with potent spirits. The ancient recipes have been refined somewhat, but herbal classics such as Benedictine and Chartreuse still exist today.
Social media has had a big role to play in the renewed rise of liqueurs’ fortunes. Any Instagram user knows that big, bold colours attract plenty of likes and shares, and the liqueur market is packed with eye-catching bottles that cover every colour of the rainbow – think blue curaçao, crème de menthe and Campari.
A fine example is W&R’s Limone D'Oro Frambocello, winner of an IWSC Gold Outstanding award, and drawing praise from the judges for its ‘wonderfully intense plump raspberry coulis mouthfeel’.
The other reason why liqueurs deserve their place at the top table is their contribution to the world of cocktails. There aren’t many classic mixed drinks that don’t feature a liqueur in their recipe – think of the Negroni, the Margarita and the Espresso Martini, to name but three.
Here are 10 of the world's best liqueurs from the IWSC’s recent tasting.
English Spirit Sambuca Liqueur - England
A classic style with a solid aniseed nose and complex aromas of caraway, black pepper and cinnamon. On the palate the sweetness is supported by the alcohol and flavours making this a lifted, sweet, bright and flavoursome example. RRP £38
W&R Limone D'Oro Frambocello - Netherlands
Plump raspberries with a little green leafiness on the nose and a wonderfully intense plump raspberry coulis mouthfeel. Beautifully expressive showing natural berries at their best, giving a touch of raspberry preserve on the finish. n/a in UK
Lemon3 Limoncello - Netherlands
Intensely juicy with lovely floral and lemon zest aromas Fantastically rich and plush on the palate with sweet and creamy lemons and limes. A bold example of Limoncello that carries its vibrancy through from start to finish. n/a in UKDistillerie Studer Nussknacker Haselnuss-Likoer
Very expressive with an intense nose of toasted hazelnut with a buttery hint. A bold expression marrying sour, zesty flavours with sweetness on the palate. Amazingly authentic and a very good representation. n/a in UK
Yamamoto Shuzo Nigori Umeshu - Japan
Very expressive and bold with a big sweetness, balanced by zesty green plums. There is a nice, smooth rice note with plenty of ripe and green plums. n/a in UK
Marie Brizard Wine & Spirits Pear William Liqueur
Sweet, fresh, natural pears on the nose. Lifted and vivid on the palate with natural pear notes that have sweet vanilla and floral nuances. Precise and pronounced. RRP £13.99
from ministryofdrinks.co.ukVantana Distillery Mastic Liqueur
Alpine fresh on the nose with a focussed pine resin and herb profile. Intense and lifted in the mouth with a focussed depth of flavour and richness. Long and layered on the finish. The cooling eucalyptus makes this an outstandingly complex and well-balanced example. n/a in UK
Langatun Distillery Bäredräck Liqueur
Strong black liquorice aroma on the nose; salty liquorice on the palate giving a huge intensity and authentic flavour. Luscious and round with a very long finish. Delicately layered liquorice flavours provide a truly natural expression. n/a in UKWenneker Distilleries Red - Original Beetroot Liqueur
Bright and incredibly lively fresh beetroot aroma on the nose. Earthy and vegetal flavours on the palate, providing an authentic liqueur with a pronounced intensity, good sweetness and depth of flavour. A wonderful expression of this type. n/a in UK
A.H. Riise Spirits Pharmacy Liquorice Lakrids Shot
Rich and intense nose. Authentic liquorice. Viscous and powerful in the mouth. Incredibly sweet but with a fresh and concentrated liquorice flavour. Huge mouthfeel and incredibly long finish. n/a in UK
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