Orange Liqueur Throwdown

Due to this post on the Tiki Central Forums I decided to go through my orange liqueurs to taste-test, note, and compare. Come to find out I had 10 orange liqueurs lying about, and it took me two nights to go through them all and write this.

Yes, I know that this is an odd first post for a blog that purports to be for reviews of rums, but I’ll get to them. Don’t worry, I will certainly get to the rums.

The Orange-Cognac/Brandy Liqueurs

Grand Marnier – $43, 80 proof
The original liqueuer created in 1880 by Louis-Alexander Marnier Lapostolle. A delicate blend of fine cognacs and distilled essence of tropical oranges with the addition of “the Marnier Lapostolle secret.” Slow ageing in French oak casks gives it incomparable roundeness and subtlety.

Mild scent of bitter oranges with cognac. Pleasant smell. Very nice orange taste, very natural, with a mild cognac behind it. Perfect mouthfeel, just a little thick but not cloying, but thick enough to remain in the mouth for some time. A slow finish with a very mild burn, but lightly lingers in the mouth for some time. A high quality liqueur that is extremely sippable. Wonderful. In a cocktail I would think it a bit mild when looking for orange flavor, but it’s high quality and cognac flavor would greatly benefit the right cocktails.

Marie Brizard Orangero – $20, 76 Proof
Cognac based orange liqueur. Andalusia is one the prestigious parts of Spain where they traditionally grow the sweetest and juiciest oranges. If you distill the blend of sweet and bitter fruit, the result will be nothing else but Orangero.

(I think this product is under a new name, Grand Orange.)

The only clear one of these cognac/brandy liqueurs. Very nice natural orange smell, not too strong, with hints of bitterness. Pleasing taste, again not overly powerful. Slightly sweet, but a nice balance tending towards bitterness, with a little bit of heat. Slightly thick mouthfeel, a touch of burn, and a fast finish. This is very well done, and a pleasure to sip, but doesn’t have much place in a cocktail due to it’s weak taste.

GranGala – $26, 80 Proof
Imported from the House of Stock in Trieste, Italy since 1884, GranGala draws its proud heritage from the Italian beauty, culture and tradition of an earlier century. Its orange flavor is always exceptionally smooth and pleasing to the palate. Remarkably versatile, Imported GranGala is delicious in Margaritas, Cosmopolitans, straight, on-the-rocks or in shooters. It is also great when mixed with vodka, gin, vermouth, flavored brandies, fruit juices and even other liqueurs. GranGala’s sophisticated orange flavor can enhance the flavor of foods ranging from appetizers to entrees and desserts and is used by five-star European chefs to delight gourmets.

One with color, it’s a mild orange color, like a yellow-orange mixed with a light brandy (which it is). Smell is a odd thing, with some orange but something else, almost nutty. Taste of orange but not too much, more of the fruity brandy coming through. Pleasant enough, but not awe-inspiring. A larger sip brings more orange to the roof of the mouth, and finishes a little longer with a very very mild burn. The orange definitely comes through after letting it linger, something that doesn’t really happen with a smaller sip. A fine, quality liqueur, very good for sipping if it catches your fancy, but it has some oddness – in the brandy I’d say – that would appeal to some and definitely not appeal to others. I also think that this would be a bit odd in most cocktails.

The Triple Sec Liqueurs

Cointreau – $40, 80 Proof
One of the world’s most renowned brands, Cointreau is a unique premium spirit made from orange peels, which has been enjoyed around the world for more than 150 years. Cointreau’s subtle complexity can be appreciated simply over ice, with freshly squeezed lime juice mixed with sparkling water in a refreshing Cointreau Bubbles, or, shaken for an indulgent and sophisticated cocktail such as the Cointreau Cosmopolitan or the original Margarita.

Strong smell of natural oranges, like twisting a fresh orange peel – pith and rind – under your nose. The bitterness come through quite a bit, but it’s not unpleasant at all, just strong. Strong orange taste, quite sweet, smooth at first with a taste that fills the mouth with orange. A bit thick, but a pleasant mouthfeel to it. Very long finish that burns quite a bit, and for a long time. For sipping, this is quite overpowering assault of flavor and a burn that is not exactly conducive to sipping. It has a powerful taste for a cocktail, and would need to balanced to suit it’s strong orange flavor.

Marie Brizard Triple Sec – $20, 78 Proof
The best bitter oranges are harvested from Haiti. The orange skins are dried under the hot Caribbean sun to concentrate all their exotic flavors. While distilling them, Marie Brizard preserves their flavor and the acute aromas that are typical of this fruit.

Quite mild smell of oranges, much milder than Cointreau. The taste is of a sweeter, milder orange-like flavor. This is not the taste of orange peels, but rather a very strong orange slice. Almost as thick of a mouthfeel as Cointreau, but a bit smoother and more pleasant. Finish is much much shorter than Cointreau, and much milder – almost no burn at all. This is a pleasant sipping liqueur, though it might not have enough flavor for some. It does not seem like a liqueur that would be very noticeable in a cocktail.

Patron Citronge – $24, 80 Proof
Patrón Citrónge is a premium reserve, extra fine orange liqueur. It is the only pure, natural orange liqueur that is distilled in Mexico and exported to the United States. No artificial flavors or chemical enhancers are ever added. Citrónge is excellent straight or in a premium cocktail. It also adds a unique flavor to gourmet cooking recipes. Citrónge and Patrón tequila make the finest, most authentic, smooth and delicious Margaritas.

Smell is stronger than MB and milder than Cointreau, with a mild sense of artificial ingredients. Initial taste is strong on the front of the tongue, with a noticeable amount of alcohol taste in the back of the nose. Mouthfeel is extremely pleasant – smooth and fine. Perfect in fact. The mid-taste bursts and fills the mouth and sides of the tongue with a very pleasant flavor which subsides into the finish. However, a sneaky little burn follows down the throat – not unpleasant, just noticeable. The mid-taste is by far it’s best point, and this extra burst of taste would warrant a cocktail that could handle it.

Allen’s Triple Sec – $7, 30 Proof
No useful information found about this liqueur. The bottle says “Allen’s Liqueurs are made using the finest quality ingredients, resulting in an exceptional product to be savored.

Smell is of a medium orange, somewhat artificial and smells a bit like a candy ingredient. It’s an enticing smell and makes you want more. Taste is nothing special to speak of – barely orange, with a good deal of sweetness but surprisingly not over-powerful. The finish starts with a hint of bitterness and is over suddenly, with no burn. I really can’t see this doing much in a cocktail. There’s just not enough smell or taste or alcohol for this to be very worthwhile.

The Curacao Liqueurs

Senior Curacao Of Curacao – $26, 62 Proof
We named it “Curacao of Curacao” to differentiate it from other brands of Curacao liqueur that are not original. We are the only original since we have the only Curacao liqueur processed with the dried peels of the “Laraha” (bitter orange native of Curacao).

Smell is a not-too-strong one of mildly bitter oranges, with tints of sweetness. Sweet taste, good orange strength, less bitter than the smell but very mildly artificial-tasting. Perfect mouthfeel, with a subtle bit clinging to the mouth to extend the taste. Very smooth, medium finish, only a tiny hint of burn. Very conducive to sipping. This seems like a good balance of orange flavor and sweetness for many cocktails.

DeKuyper Curacao – $11, 54 Proof
No useful information found about this liqueur. The bottle says “Our curacao is produced in the Old World DeKuyper tradition. The result is a smooth, naturally delicious product.” It also says “Natural Orange Flavor.”

Decently strong orange smell, with a bit of artificial sweetness, though not unattractively so. Stronger orange taste than the smell, with even more artificialness in it’s sweetness. Thick mouthfeel but not overly so, and not clinging. Very smooth, medium finish and no burn at all. For less than half the price of the Senior Curacao this should be considered, though the Senior is definitely in another class the DeKuyper is far more than half the quality. This should be very good in most cocktails calling for Curacao.

Leroux Curacao – $9, 30 Proof
No useful information found about this liqueur. The bottle says “Natural Fruit Flavor.”

Strong orange smell with some bitter detected, though somewhat artificial. Less orange taste, more sweetness, and quickly finished with no burn at all. Relatively unremarkable, though this has enough orange taste to be considered for the inexpensive, sweet cocktails.

Summary
The first thing that keeps coming to mind is the burn at the finish of the Cointreau. No other liqueur in this review came anywhere close. This shouldn’t be of too much concern in most cocktails though. It was by far the strongest orange taste, and by a lesser margin the most natural tasting.

The Patron Citronge surprised me with it’s quality and mid-burst of extra taste. I look forward to using this in cocktails that need a bit more complexity, and the Mai Tai would be one of my first choices.

The similarities – and price difference – between the Senior and DeKuyper made me go back for a showdown between the two. The Senior definitely wins in this showdown, with more orange flavor and much more natural. The DeKuyper should not be overlooked though, especially since it’s less than half the price.

The high quality of the Grand Marnier makes it a staple, but it’s cognac base and somewhat mild orange flavor means it needs the correct cocktail, and should not be used in any old cocktail that calls for orange flavor. By the time the orange was strong enough the cognac might be too strong. Alone, or in the right cocktail, it’s outstanding.

Best Orange Flavor
Cointreau

Best Overall Quality
Grand Marnier

Best Bargain
DeKuyper

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15 Responses to “Orange Liqueur Throwdown”

  1. Rick Says:

    Very interesting observations!

    I’m disappointed you didn’t include Marie Brizard Orange Curacao; it’s easily my favorite. I wanted to do a tasting of this sort, but acquiring orange liqueurs in PA would have required me to buy cases of stuff that I probably wouldn’t end up using.

  2. scottes Says:

    I wish that I could find Marie Brizard Orange Curacao! Everyone says it’s their favorite, over and over. But in ways I’m glad that i didn’t find it – if I had found it I never would have accumulated so many orange liqueurs…

  3. Rick Says:

    Marie Brizard is pretty good about shipping single bottles to stores. If you have a shop in your area that can do special orders, give it a try.

  4. TileGrout Says:

    Excellent run down! I was looking to get my wife an orange liquor to make her Cosmos, but was not sure if Cointreau or Grand Mariner was the right call. Instead, I think I will get the Patron Orange based on price and your review and see how it goes!

    Thanks

  5. Luke Says:

    Scott, enjoyed the post. I’m in the process of doing my own taste test for Orange Liqueur when I found your blog. I only have the Cointreau, Patron Citronge, DeKuyper Triple Sec, & GranGala, but I found it interesting that your comments were exactly the same as what I had determined. Cointreau: best overall. Citronge: excellent & almost half the price of Cointreau (It’s $21 around here). DeKuyper: artificially flavored orange candy. GranGala: strong brandy presence. For me, since price is a factor, the Patron was the winner. Cointreau is just too expensive…and even the Patron pushes the limit of my hospitality. Take care.

  6. Scottes Says:

    Yes, I really like the Citronge. I did manage to find some Marie Brizard Orange Curacao, which many mixologists say is the standard curacao (considering that Cointreau is a triple sec and Grand Marnier is cognac-based). I have to compare that against the other one of these days. I have yet to open the bottle.

    I think I found another orange liqueur too, but I’m damned if I can think of which one. And I’ve been intrigued by many new ones – La Belle Orange and a couple others I can’t think of right now. But I have 11 orange liqueurs right now, so I won’t buy them until I find them in minis.

  7. Lloyd Says:

    Hi Scott, first, did you ever get around to trying the Marie Brizard?

    Also, what amount of Citronge do you use in your Mai Tai?

  8. Scottes Says:

    I did, and it is excellent. Alas, I didn’t attempt to do a comparison to any of the others, but I would consider it to be up there with the Senior Curacao of Curacao. Less sweet, not as smooth (but not be much), a a little bit more refined. I’d be hard-pressed to decide between the two without a proper showdown, but I think I’d grab the MB if it were next to the Senior.

    As to the Mai Tai recipe, I follow Beachbum Berry’s $100 Mai Tai recipe: http://www.beachbumberry.com/100dollarmaitai/
    Thus, 1/2oz (though I make sure it’s a “heavy” 1/2oz since I like the extra sweetness).

  9. Lloyd Says:

    I like the possibility of using Citronge over Curocao since the Citronge would also go nicely with Tequila… I take it at this point you prefer this over other orange liqueurs for your Mai Tai.

    When shopping for Patron Citronge I noticed a bottle simply called Citronge. If you have noticed this I wonder if they are the same.

    Thanks for all the (enjoyable) work you do.

  10. Tim Says:

    I like the Marie Brizard Curacao also. I had a layover in the Amsterdam Airport recently and bought a bottle of a DeKuyper Bitter Orange liqueur in the duty free shop. It is very good, but I’ve not seen it anywhere else.

  11. Steven Salkow Says:

    Five miles from Gordon Town is WORLD’S END home of Sangster’s liqueurs. The hillside distillery has recently been expanded to satisfy a growing international demand, but still retains a charming Heath Robinsonish atmosphere. Free factory tours are available and you can sample the liqueurs sitting on a small paved patio, complete with an ancient cannon and a fine view of Newcastle. Personable sales manager Carolyn Ritch presides in a tempting gift shop where you can purchase liqueurs of Wild Orange and others. Formerly called Sangster’s Wild Orange (60 proof), this is smoother and more orangy than Cointreau and absolutely my favorite. My daughter just back from Jamaca had trouble finding it. I am working on that.

  12. Jalis Says:

    I have to agree with Steven Salkow: Sangster’s Wild Orange is by far my favorite as well and nothing comes close to it. I bought one bottle about 10 years ago at Green’s in Columbia SC and immediately went back for more. Green’s carried it for about a year more and then it disappeared. I found it once on a Web site and I believe the company at that time would ship you a bottle for upwards of $55. As good as it is, I couldn’t bring myself to shell out that much. I still have the ceramic bottle in which it came, but the last of its contents was consumed about the time I found it on the Web – and it was for a very special occasion. I keep the bottle for a simple reason: It’s much like the situation in an animated film several years back (“The Last Unicorn”) in which a skeleton chugs down the “contents” of a wine bottle. The main character of the film says, “There’s nothing in the bottle!” The skeleton replies, “Ah, but I REMEMBER!”

    Someone is missing a very good bet if they don’t export it. On the other hand, it may be the Jamaican tourism industry’s method of bringing business to the island: “The only way you’re going to get more Sangster’s is to come and get it yourself.” More’s the pity.

    – Jalis

  13. Mark Hebert Says:

    I’m also a big fan of citrus flavor, especially orange, lemon and lime. Cointreau is still my bitter orange standard and the bitter aspect is what makes it so great. Given you’re liking for Grand Marnier, you should give Bauchant Orange Liqueur a try. It’s very similar to Grand Marnier in that it includes cognac, but it’s more subtle and slightly less sweet… a definite winner for me. It’s also about $23 for 750ml around Dallas, which is cheaper than Grand Marnier.

  14. Harry Says:

    Some years ago and British expatriate friend of mine living in Jamaica brought me a bottle of Sangster’s Wild Orange as a gift and I have been a firm believer ever since. For several years I would order up a couple of bottles for delivery when he came to the USA for annual visits. When it changed from Sangster’s to World’s End I thought I detected a small variation in flavor but that was probably just in my head. Sadly my friend no longer comes to the USA, and I’ve just opened my last bottle. I have also come to enjoy Gran Gala, but only to make the last of my Sangster’s last a bit longer.

  15. Charlie Briggs Says:

    Despite much effort during many trips back to Jamaica, I’ve become convinced that the wonderful “Wild Orange” is no longer
    available. Has anyone been able to copy it at home? I’m still trying.
    Charlie


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