Luxardo Maraschino (Originale)
Review: Luxardo Maraschino (Originale) 84/100
A review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published March 20, 2014
Luxardo S.P.A. was founded in 1821 in Zara, a port city on the Dalmatian coast of what is now the Republic of Croatia. At the conclusion of World War II and as a consequence of the borders within Europe having been redrawn, the company transferred its holdings to Torreglia in 1947, and has remained an Italian Company, 100% controlled by the founding family. Luxardo is one of the oldest European firms which produce liqueurs, and now almost 200 years after it was established, it remains in the control of the sixth generation of the original Luxardo family.
About a year and a half ago I met Matteo Luxardo, who is the Export Manager of Luxardo S.P.A. and part of that sixth generation who are still active in the ownership and management of the distilling company which bears their name. We met at a small gathering sponsored by Lifford Wines who bring a wide range of the classic Italian liqueurs produced by Luxardo into the Alberta Market. A few of these products include, Amaretto, Grappa, Sambuca, Limencello, and of course Luxardo Maraschino.
The unique flavour of Maraschino Originale is a product of the fruit of the Marasca cherry (exclusively cultivated in orchards owned by Luxardo). Matteo explained to those of us at the gathering that Luxardo Maraschino (Originale) is one of the very few liqueurs in the world which is produced through distillation. As well he explained that the distilled fruit (which includes the crushed pits) is aged for two years in Finnish ash wood vats. Apparently this type of wood does not impart any colour during the maturation process even after several years of aging which is why the Maraschino retains its clarity. After the spirit is allowed to age for two years in those Finnish vats, it is diluted and sweetened before it is bottled at 32 % alcohol by volume.
In the Bottle: 4.5/5
Luxardo Maraschino arrives in the tall green bottle shown to the left. The straw covering upon the green bottle implies to the consumer that, like the hand-woven straw covering upon the exterior of the bottle, the spirit inside the bottle is also a handcrafted product. The beige label includes pictures of medals won in various international competitions from the mid 19th century to the present adding to that impression of quality within the bottle. Although it is not shown, the rear label displays various serving suggestions with the aim of helping the consumer enjoy this spirit further.
My only quibble is with the red plastic screw cap which can easily become gummed up and hard to open. It’s hard to argue with a bottle presentation which has become iconic over time; but if I could suggest a small change it would be with this closure. I believe a synthetic cork closure might work better.
In the Glass 8.5/10
The spirit is clear in the glass with a somewhat syrupy texture. The air above the glass is very sweet with the somewhat penetrating scent of the Marasca cherry. This scent resembles Turkish Delight with a lightly spicy twist. There is also a bit of an earthy almond-like scent underlying that cherry aroma which seems to bear a resemblance to the aroma crushed apple seeds.
The aroma (and flavour) of the Marasca cherry is very unique, and as a result this spirit is noticeably different from other cherry flavoured liqueurs I have sampled in the past.
In the Mouth 50.5/60
The liqueur is very sweet to the point that I would perhaps describe it as a syrup rather than as a liqueur. Within this sweetness is the telltale sharp flavour of the Marasca cherry. There is a bit of sandalwood spice as well, which I suspect is a result of the ashwood aging. An underlying earthy quality exists (which is ever so lightly musty) and the spirit has very almond-like undertones. Again that almond character reminds me of crushed apple seeds.
This Maraschino spirit is perhaps not meant to be sipped neat as I am doing (although over very cold ice it is not too bad), rather this is a liqueur which has become quite popular as a cocktail ingredient. The sharp Marasca cherry flavour lends itself well to the mixed drink when used judiciously. The Martinez, and the Aviation cocktails are just two classic recipes which call for Maraschino liqueur. My own experiences with Luxardo Maraschio indicates that it is a spirit which is easily overdone in a cocktail, but which provides a very interesting and delicious compliment when used with discretion. (See recipe below)
In the Throat 12/15
When sipped, the Luxardo Maraschino has an intensely sweet, penetrating finish which must be tempered with ice to be enjoyed. However, when used in a cocktail, the unique Marasca cherry flavour will linger on the palate thereby tempting you to make another mixed drink.
The Afterburn 8.5/10
Luxardo Maraschino is (for myself anyway) strictly a cocktail spirit. Although the Luxardo website encourages you to pour it over ice-cream or to sip it over ice, I find the flavour too sweet, and the unique Marasca cherry flavour too intense to enjoy the spirit in those venues. However, as indicated in the review, when this spirit is used judiciously in a cocktail, that intense Marasca cherry flavour reaps major rewards; which (like aromatic bitters) can take your cocktail experience to a whole new level.
You may read some of my other Liqueur Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.
Here is a nice recipe where a few dashes of Luxardo Maraschino elevates the cocktail to a new level of enjoyment.
Bluebird of Happiness
1 1/2 oz Vodka
3/4 oz Bols Blue (Triple Sec)
3/4 oz Lemon juice
3 dashes (about 1/8 oz) Luxardo Maraschino
Add the first four Ingredients into a cocktail Shaker with ice
Shake until the sides frost
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Add a splash of Soda
Garnish with a lemon slice
(Note: The original Bluebird cocktail is credited to W.J. Tarling. My more modern version is similar, although I suggest Blue Curacao is a better choice than Tarling’s Cointreau and blue food colouring, and of course I like to add a splash of soda that Tarling did not. )
Note: If you are interested in more of my cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!
I am sometimes asked what my numbers actually mean. In order to provide clarification, you may (loosely) interpret the scores as follows.
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)