I recently got 4 bottles from the highly innovative Matchbook Distilling Co. in New York State. Whether their individual experiments work or not, I am really glad they are doing them! Just as I love the existence and creativity of Empirical Spirits, despite not being that into most of what they make (that I have tried). I am in good part driven by novelty, so bring on the funky, the creative, the brilliant, and the bold!
Here are my raw tasting notes on the 4 bottles I tasted:
Surprisingly agave-like, sweet nose, wet ash and stone, hint of smoke on the nose. Wet ash and charcoal flavor, developing into a smoky-sweet, surprisingly mezcal-like experience, with a lingering, sweet finish. Hint of acetone on 2nd/3rd taste, little bitterness in the ash, a somewhat back of the tongue tangy finish. Overall an interesting but not actually that unusual spirit! Surprisingly reminiscent of your more straightforward mezcals in a sense, or honestly your more boring mezcals perhaps? Hah.
On the nose, intense pineapple candy, then mango, vanilla, hint of smoke. A very sweet smelling spirit. Flavor, however, is surprisingly more mild, although it develops! Initially not so notable, the pineapple flavor opens up and becomes remarkably true to the fruit in the middle and finish. It’s a little subtle perhaps, but notable ! The smoke, meanwhile, is quite restrained. In fact you get a bit more of that smoke and Espadin-like flavor up front, some wet stone, agave notes, and then it develops into the more complex pineapple flavors in the middle and end. Unique! Like pineapple mezcal. I’m not sure if you couldn’t just infuse mezcal with pineapple, like the pineapple rum(s), and get a similar effect, but the way pineapple is captured here really does seem better than anything else I’ve had in a spirit. Better than the pineapple brandy!
Strong nose of strawberry syrup and candy, mostly. On the palate, a notable strawberry flavor, somewhat of a “candy” tinge to it, with slight rhubarb flavors, a little bitterness, especially in the finish. Not as punchy as I imagined, but definitely has a decent amount of strawberry flavor. Not that interesting ultimately, but might make a decent cocktail ingredient, e.g. for a strawberry Negroni (though you’d want to add some other aperitivo to it for punch). Definitely a lingering and reasonably pleasant strawberry flavor though, long finish.
Candied orange peel on the nose, similar to Cointreau, but with a bit more juiciness in it. More complex flavor than I imagined. Blood orange fruit + peel/oils, plus a real impression of the pith, which is interesting. In a way, not sure it was intentional, but it’s like using the pith as an aperitivo bittering agent (instead of e.g. gentian or cinchona). A bit of candied citrus peel. Reminiscent of the other blood orange liqueur I have, which I don’t love, but definitely more interesting and “real” tasting, more true to the fruit, and the pith bitterness element is particularly interesting. Settles on the back of the tongue and lingers. Could make for interesting cocktails! So basically, unlike Solerna, this is a genuinely interesting and more complex orange liqueur than your typical, and a more interesting sub for Cointreau or whatever.