Review – Grand Marnier
Whilst the orange liqueur market is one with many participants, only Grand Marnier boasts the inclusion of Cognac as part of the base spirit mix. Each year eaux-de-vie is selected for storage in oak casks in the cellar of the Marnier Lapostolle family’s Chateau. After an unspecified ageing the Cognac is blended with essence of wild Bigaradier orange from the Caribbean produced first by macerating the air dried peels in neutral spirit then by distilling the macerate. The final liqueur contains 51% Cognac, with the remaining 49% being a mix of water and neutral spirit, with a touch of sugar of course. In addition to the ‘regular’ bottle, Grand Marnier has also been producing limited edition bottles since as far back as 1927. The latest in the line is Grand Marnier ‘Paris’ which features a midnight blue lacquer on the bottle and a gilded gold frieze of a stylised Paris cityscape.
Nose: A surprisingly understated orange aroma that combines both bitter and sweet elements of the fruit with a slight burnt edge to it. Generally quite fresh-smelling although a hint of artificial orange creams actually works well. Fruity Cognac is evident as the base, but so is the inclusion of neutral alcohol which holds back the level of complexity which might otherwise have been achieved.
Neat: The understated orange profile continues, although it does build through to the finish as the initial (well judged) sweetness fades away. As with the nose, a fruity Cognac profile remains throughout and is this orange liqueurs signature feature. The touch of smoke first evident on the nose comes from nowhere to offer interest and complexity, whilst sitting well with the oak elements which swerve the flavour profile towards the bitter orange end of the spectrum. The finish is marmalade-y in profile and lingers for a relatively long time. Enjoyable, but not knock-out great.
Mixing: Grand Marnier is a trickier ingredient to mix with than might first be thought. The use of Cognac along with neutral spirit as the base to which the orange is added means that it does have a deeper and more complex flavour profile than many triple secs. The suggestion therefore is that replacing the triple sec in a cocktail with Grand Marnier might make for a ‘better’ cocktail. Indeed there are a whole raft of cocktails named Grand …. where just such a thing is done. However, these are not always preferable to the original drink, with the Grand Margarita being a perfect example. In this the lime largely destroys the orange notes which are much subtler than many triple secs, whilst the tequila and cognac clash. Gin is a more friendly spirit partner and so the Red Lion with its boost of orange through the addition of juice makes for a much better option for those seeking a sour cocktail. Of course Cognac is the obvious spirit with which to partner this liqueur, and sure enough the Comet which makes use of some muddled grapes for a touch of freshness is an enjoyable libation that plays to Grand Marnier’s strengths. In fact, it is the non-citrus cocktails that really work best for the liqueur, allowing the full range of flavours to open up. When partnered with a nice floral and not-too-heavy-on-the-juniper gin and a touch of orange bitters in the Marny Cocktail, Grand Marnier is at its best. That said, it can also work well in much simpler serves. Ginger Ale and a squeeze of lime for example in the signature Grand Ginger (recipe below) is a combination worth exploring.
Signature Cocktail – Grand Ginger
1.5oz Grand Marnier, Lime Wedge, Ginger Ale
Pour Grand Marnier over ice into a highball glass, squeeze lime wedge into glass and top with ginger ale. Stir briefly.
Grand Marnier is a unique orange liqueur due to the inclusion of Cognac as a base and a more subtle orange profile than many of its competitors. As such, consideration needs to be given when mixing as it is not always a successful substitute for triple sec. It does however work very well in both simple and more complex cocktails, as well of course as simply served over ice.Rating: ★★★★
Grand Marnier is available to buy from Master of Malt.
★: Terrible, only drink for a dare.
★★: Meh, not undrinkable but best left alone.
★★★: Reasonable, middle of the road.
★★★★: Tasty stuff, well worth seeking out.
★★★★★: Incredible, booze doesn’t get better than this. You need a bottle in your life.