Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao
Review: Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao 90.5/100
a Review by Chip Dykstra (Aka: Arctic Wolf)
Published January 06, 2013
The liqueur we know as Curacao is traditionally made with Curaçao oranges, which are (of course) found on the Caribbean Island of the same name. These oranges are actually descendants of the more familiar Valencia Orange which were brought to the island of Curacao by Spanish traders centuries ago. The Valencia orange did not do very well in the new climate as the oranges which were planted became very bitter as the years went by. In fact, the planted trees were eventually abandoned and left to grow wild. Some time later, somebody noticed that the peel of these ‘wild oranges’ contained oils which were pleasingly aromatic. The wild Valencia orange had become something new and different, and in the 1800s people began to experiment with them by distilling them with alcohol (and blending them with spices) creating the liqueur which we know today as Curacao.
Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao, is a traditional Orange Curacao which is based on an original 19th century recipe. In a recent interview with Alexandre Gabriel (the owner of Cognac Ferrand), (click here for the interview), he talked about his research into the origins of Orange Curacao which led to the inspiration for this new spirit:
” I love history and I also love creativity. I am always doing some research with spirits. Tasting old and new techniques. At Cognac Ferrand we spend endless evenings testing and trying young and historic recipes. Orange Curacao is one of the most traditional cordials in history. It was everywhere in the 19th century. On every back bar in everybody’s cupboard. Then it went wild in the 1970s – it became blue, orange and green. Spirit historian David Wondrich saw the work I had done with orange distillates and laid the challenge to me. Go back to the roots of French Orange Curacao.
I had done so much work with Orange distillation that it was a real pleasure to do this. I have studied more than 50 recipes of Curacao from the past. Our goal was to go back to the authentic roots of the product … So I created Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao. “
According to Mr. Gabriel, his Dry Orange Curacao is what the liqueur was meant to be when the spirit was created. Since I am a bit of a cocktail geek myself, I thought that I would put Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao through the paces of my review methodology as well as build a few cocktails to see how this traditional Dry Orange Curacao stacks up.
In the Bottle: 4/5
The Dry Curacao arrives in a square(ish) bottle with the front label stretched over two of the sides centered over the front corner of the bottle. The back label is stretched over the opposite two sides centered over the back corner. The look is interesting, although the colour scheme of the label is rather bland and lacks ‘pop’.
The front label (if you look for the information) makes it clear that the Dry Curacao is a “triple sec” or three times distilled orange liqueur which has been blended with brandy cognac. The back label makes it clear the intention of the producer is that this is a liqueur meant for classic cocktails.
In the Glass 9.5/10
Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao is an amber coloured liqueur which has an obvious tincture of orange within that amber. In the production of the spirit, the tripled distilled orange liqueur is blended with brandy cognac and aged (or married) for a short time in oak (cognac cask). While the orange and brandy flavours meld together in the oak cask, the spirit is subjected to an additional infusion with the bitter Curacao orange peel. The colours I see in the glass (light amber with an orange tincture) reflects this process. I suspect that the spirit will (as a result) contain the imprints of oak and brandy as well as the flavour and bitterness of the Curacao orange peel.
When I take a sniff at the air above the glass, the scents and smells I encounter are tantalizing. It is not a sharp and penetrating scent, rather I detect the natural mouth-watering scent of a freshly cut naval orange. It is hard to describe the difference between this and other triple sec products, but I guess I would have to say that a natural earthy quality exists in the breezes above the glass which seems very close to a real orange aroma. A light woodiness is in the air as well which blends in and becomes part of that orange aroma. The spiciness of orange zest, a fresh citrus burst, and light sandal wood spices seem to all belong together. This is much nicer than I expected.
In the Mouth 55/60
The spirit continues to surprise and delight me as I carry on with the review. The flavour of this Dry Orange Curacao carries so many nuances. A firm sweet orange flavour is of course predominant, but light flavours of oak and wood spice are carried forward as well. Additionally, I taste wisps of rye and wood spice, hints of ripe green grape, a light reflection of vanilla, and subtle almost intangible imprints of cardamom, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.
A ribbon of sharp orange peel bitterness runs through the overall flavour (just bite into an orange peel and taste those sharp zests and you will know what I mean). This light bitterness tempers the overall sweetness giving the liqueur a lightly sharp, somewhat dry and spicy quality which is delightful. This orange liqueur is quite different from your regular Triple Sec.
Of course, this is a cocktail liqueur, and the real test of the spirit is whether it works well in the venue of the mixed drink. To that end, I mixed a few cocktail recipes (three in all, one each for gin, rum and tequila). What I discovered was that this Dry Orange Curacao seems to impart a good deal of its unique flavour into the final cocktail; in particular that ribbon of lightly bitter orange peel seems to wind through the cocktails. This meant I had to adjust my recipes slightly to accommodate, but in every case I was very pleased with the final result (see recipes below).
In the Throat 13/15
The sweet orange flavour is delightful, and subtle spices linger within that sweetness well after I swallow the liqueur. That ribbon of lightly bitter orange peel flavour also finds it way though to the exit giving the orange liqueur a mildly bittersweet landing. As indicated above, this has implications for cocktail construction as I needed to add just a touch more sweetness into each mixed drink to counter the light bitterness of the Dry Curacao.
The Afterburn 9/10
The Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao is not your average triple sec liqueur. It has a lush orange flavour; but it also carries other flavour nuances not normally found in a Triple Sec Liqueur. Oak and wood spice, hints of green grape and brandy, other subtle spices and a ribbon of bitter orange peel all find themselves melded into the Dry Orange Curacao flavour. I found the result, quite delicious, both when sipped neat, and in cocktails.
If you wish to have some comparison reviews of other Orange liqueurs you may click here.
First with Gin:
Lady of the Empire
1 1/2 oz Citadelle Reserve Gin
3/4 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao
3/4 oz Lemon Juice
1 tsp simple syrup
Flamed Grapefruit zest
Place the first four ingredients in a metal cocktail shaker
Shake vigorously with ice until the outside of the metal is frosted
Strain into a chilled wine or cocktail glass
Garnish flamed Grapefruit zest
Also for Rum:
Red Sky at Night
2 oz Plantation 3 Stars – White Rum
1 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao
1 oz lime juice
1 oz Cranberry juice
1/2 oz Grenadine
Lemon slice for garnish
Shake all the ingredients over ice
Strain into a cocktail glass
Garnish with a small slice of Lemon
And for Tequila:
The Margarita Cocktail (A Traditional Recipe)
1 1/2 oz Blanco Tequila
3/4 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao
3/4 oz fresh lime juice
1 tsp simple syrup
Splash of soda
lime slice for garnish
Chill a cocktail glass and rim the outside with coarse salt
Place the tequila, lime, Triple Sec, and simple into a metal shaker
Shake until the outside of the shaker frosts
Strain into the chilled cocktail glass
Add a splash of soda if desired
Garnish with Lime
My Reviews contain a rating or score out of 100, and these scores can be interpreted using the following scale:
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 spirit. 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)