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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