Review – Vestal Amber Elderberry Flower Liqueur
All things considered, the elderberry and its flower are a rather aesthetically understated piece of flora. Ubiquitous in hedgerows around the world, such is the plain nature of their looks, it would be very easy to never give them a second thought. That is until one realises that contained within is the most delightful perfumed aroma and flavour that cried out to be turned into a beverage of one sort or another. Many products make use of the flower but Vestal Amber goes a step further than many by including the berry, and I’m told even the stems in the mix to create this liqueur. These are gently turned into a syrup which is combined with their rye vodka to create this richly coloured liqueur.
Nose: An intense bouquet of elderflower cordial greets the nose which is pleasingly honeyed in its sweetness. Delving further there are notes of marshmallow and potato, whilst a touch of orange loiters on the edges. A dash of water opens things up a great deal to reveal even greater complexity with some woody and even musky aromas.
Neat: After an impressive nose, the palate does not disappoint at all. The cordial-esque notes are tempered by an almost tangy edge to the sweetness and some chewy nutty notes add complexity. This liqueur has well and truly captured every last ounce of elderflower and its berry flavour to create a deep and warming, almost spicy taste profile. A little dilution increases the perception of sweetness slightly and interestingly reveals a delicate bitterness as well.
Mixing: Getting the balance right in cocktails is more of a challenge than might be expected given the very successful neat tasting on account of the fact that most cocktail recipes available have been created with an altogether lighter competitor product in mind. The use of the berries as well as the flowers in Vestal Amber means it offers a much more pungent and deep taste profile. The upshot is that most recipes need a little modification if the Vestal is not to overpower. Get it right however, and you’re in for a treat! Vestal Amber has the depth and complexity of flavour to make for some great cocktails. Cocktails making use of aged spirits are particularly successful, where the boldness of the spirit stands up to the Amber. Glenn’s Bride and the In Seine cocktails make excellent use of this liqueur; but equally lighter drinks such as the Periscope are excellent when the proportions of Vestal are reduced slightly compared with the original recipe. Perhaps the only downside (and it is a small one), is that this liqueur does not make for a great partner for spirits with a very light taste as it has a tendency to dominate. Select something with plenty of character however and it’s all good.
Signature Cocktail – Potatoes and Dreams
40ml Vestal Kaszebe, 30ml Sauternes, 15ml poire william, 10ml Vestal Amber, dash peach and grapefruit bitters, 4 mint leaves, 10ml apple juice
Lightly muddle mint leaves then add rest ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into a chilled highball glass. Garnish with mint and apple
Vestal Amber is a full flavoured elderberry liqueur that is both delicious on its own and a successful cocktail ingredient. It offers something uniquely different compared with the competition and as such should be considered a worthy investment.
★: 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.