Luxardo Maraschino Original Liqueur
This is a spirit of legend for me, in that I’d seen it in a million cocktail recipes before I could ever track it down. Now that it’s finally appeared at my local ABC store, I can explore it. And it’s full of shockers. Per Luxardo’s website, the spirit is distilled from the marasca cherry and aged for two years before being diluted and sweetened. When I think maraschino, I think of the dessert topping and thus (1) sweet and (2) reddish-pink. This spirit is neither.
It’s clear as it can be for one. And there’s nothing sweet about the nose. The smell is a blend of cherry and almond that makes me wish it were in ice cream form, like now. I’m not talking toppings. I’m talking the main event.
Okay, the Gourmez, just drink it already! Fine, fine. So about that sweetness…it’s there, but its taste is pure sugar in undissolved, granular form. The sweetness bears no resemblance to most mixers’ almost plastic taste and its very light. Vanilla notes are strong, but it’s the spirit’s nuttiness that’s most surprising. Cherry comes across as the least of its ingredients.
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Bernheim Original Wheat Whiskey
This winter wheat, small-batch whiskey is made in the same style as bourbon but the wheat is 51% of its makeup rather than corn. Its color is lovely, reminding me of opaque almond brittle, not the creamy stuff. It is significantly sweeter to smell than most bourbons. That sweetness sucks me right in and doesn’t let go even after the alcohol fire roars to life. The nose also has mellow cinnamon. Star anise comes to mind but so gently that licorice haters should not worry.
The sweetness coats my throat while sipping. It’s floral first, sweet blossoms like honeysuckle. Then the flavor segues into rich pecan and ends with classic bourbon notes and butter that lingers on the tongue. The body has an airy quality like taking a bite of Laffy Taffy complete with the filminess of that candy. But I like bourbon a lot more than I like taffy, and it’s no distraction here.
I don’t want to mislead you with candy comparisons; this is a strong whiskey. But it achieves a balance that makes drinking it entirely more pleasurable than the hard stuff often is.
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