They told me that Binny’s would be picking up an exclusive new line of liqueurs. They said they would come from a craft distillery in France – Burgundy, actually – that specializes in complex liqueurs to compete in flavor with big brands at a fraction of the price. My cynicism kicked in big time.
There’s a trend going on in mixable spirits; mixologists are moving from the neon colored corn syrup they poured in the 90′s to serious and unique flavors that give today’s cocktails their charm. Can Drillaud compete?
So when the boxes and boxes of Drillaud liqueur finally arrived, I met with Brett and we tasted all ten flavors. Yes, they are honest, thoughtful expressions of flavor that offer big savings compared to more well-known brands. My notes:
The pear is a fantastic place to start this tasting. Pours clear. The nose is wonderful – it smells just like fresh, green pear. I was expecting some sort of candy smell, and was reminded what pears actually smell like. The sugar shows on the palate, though it isn’t too sweet. Fat, broad, clean pear, with no alcohol notes (it weighs in at 18% ABV). Use this to add pear fruit and weight to your cocktails – pear martini, pear manhattan, pear & soda …
The mango weighs in at 25% ABV, but you wouldn’t know it from the smell or taste. It pours an intense orange. The mango flavor is maybe the most extreme of the Drillaud lineup. Tropical, intense mango. Brett says it reminds him of sweetened rye. Along with the tartness of the mango, there’s a sort of perfumy note. Use this to add variety to your margaritas or in any cocktails that need another layer of fruit.
Pours clear. The intensity on the nose on the triple sec is just astounding. You know those orange wedge gummies, the ones that come coated in granulated sugar? This is that exact flavor, completely eclipsing the 35% ABV. The Drillaud triple sec would be perfect as the citrus & sweetening component in your margaritas, especially if you usually pour Cointreau. Not only will you save on the bottle, but you can skip the sweetener, too. Also try it in a cosmo, but not in cocktails that require more subtlety.
Blue Curacao is the electric in an Electric Long Island, the blue in a Blue Hawaiian. Still, people sometimes don’t realize that laraha (it’s a lot like an orange) is the main flavor. The liqueur gets its name from the island that is the lahara’s native home.
Drillaud makes, without a doubt, the bluest blue curacao I have ever seen. The orange flavor is more subtle than in the triple sec, resulting in a softer, fatter, riper orange note overall. The blue is absolutely glass-coating, in part the rich color and in part the thick viscosity. We have to go rinse our glasses in the sink. Blue curacao is admittedly a throwback flavor that will add subtle orange flavor while making any cocktail ridiculously blue. 25% ABV
The orange brandy liqueur is the grownup of these three orange flavors. The spirit base is French brandy, giving this one a lot more class as well as its 35% ABV. The orange is complex orange peel zest with the unmistakable backbone of quality brandy. Use this in the place of Grand Marnier when you need orange with a classy spirit base in countless cocktails.
The Creme de Violette is delicious. This seems unbelievable, but this violet liqueur tastes just like one purple jellybean and one black jellybean side by side. It’s uncanny. I guess that means there’s a little grape candy flavor, but it’s balanced with perfume and a smooth, velvetty mouthfeel. There’s a subtle sweetness and just 16% ABV. Don’t miss this standout.
Now into the heavy berry flavors. These last four all have low alcohol, between 15 and 16% each. There’s some good variety among them; each is true to its fruit base.
The raspberry has the flavor of honest, ultra-ripe red raspberry. I was worrying it would be closer to that fake blue raspberry flavor that doesn’t actually exist in nature. The only thing missing is the weedy brambles of a raspberry patch – this is all about bright, intense fruit with monstrous thickness.
Thick, broad, deep, rich blackberry flavors. Not the simple pancake fruit syrup other blackberry liqueurs offer, the Drillaud blackberry features some of those stemmy, herbaceous notes that I expected but didn’t find in the raspberry. This is compex.
The blueberry pours a deep bluish red. Once again, I was expecting something like the fake neon blue color/flavor that candy companies invented to hijack blueberry. No, this is like real, fresh blueberries, only concentrated. You’ll find some of the tartness of fresh blueberries under layers and layers of fruit and dry stemmy notes. It’s sweet, but the sugar is an afterthought.
The creme de cassis is the earthiest and richest of these dark berry fruits. It is intense and right, with bright fruit, lift, tartness. Some reduced notes of stewed tomato, and a structured mouthfeel like you would get from port.
Drillaud makes spirits that are worth checking out. Across the line, sugar is secondary to flavor and subtlety and texture. Where comparable to more expensive brands, they offer the one-two of great flavor and affordability.
We’re planning more with Drillaud. Keep your eyes here on the Binny’s Blog and The Whiskey Hotline for more info, and for upcoming mixology ideas and recipes. You should be able to taste Drillaud for yourself at most Binny’s stores soon.