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Southern Comfort

Review: Southern Comfort 81/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted January 22,  2014

Southern Comfort is a spirit which has been part of my liquor cabinet for some years now. I use the liqueur as a cocktail spirit to dress up some of my long tall bar drinks. I received a small bottle as an advent gift about four days before Christmas this year, and I decided it would be fun to put this drink through the paces of my review system.

When I went to the Southern Comfort website to learn a bit about this spirit, I was quite surprised when the web button on the bottom of their product description page linked me to Wikipedia for a more complete description of their spirit. According to that Wikipedia page, Southern Comfort is “an American liqueur made from neutral spirits with fruit, spice and whiskey flavorings”. It was created in 1874 by an Irish American bartender named Martin Wilkes Heron, and its original name was ‘cuff and buttons’.

Today the brand is owned and produced by Brown Forman, and in Canada, it is bottled and sold at 35 % alcohol by volume.

sc1In the Bottle 4/5

Southern Comfort is sold in the 750ml bottle shown to the left. I remember seeing this bottle in my Mom and Dad’s fridge over 35 years ago, and if there have been major changes to the design since then, they have been minor as I haven’t noticed them. When a brand becomes entrenched into the consciousness of the consumer, it is perilous to make radical alterations.

The only major distraction for me was the closure which on my fresh bottle had gummed up somehow and required a tremendous effort on my part to open. I rinsed the plastic screw cap under hot water afterwards and did not have a problem again.

In the Glass 8/10

The liqueur has a thickened appearance in the glass with a colour which reminds me of butterscotch candies. The initial aroma from that glass was lightly astringent, but also quite pleasing with a menagerie of herb-like and lightly spicy aromas rising into the air. Vanilla, cinnamon and butterscotch seem to be predominant; but I also catch glimpses of orange and lemon citrus, some red BC cherry stones, a bit of nutmeg, spicy clove, hints of something herbal and grassy like heather with perhaps a light dusting of mint.

It is that astringency which keeps the score down a little. In a sweet 35 % alcohol by volume liqueur, the light sharpness was unexpected.

In the Mouth  49.5/60

My parents used to sip Southern comfort over ice and/or mix it with ginger-ale. I suspect that the ice and ginger-ale were employed more to sooth the initial sharp burn I feel as I sip the spirit than to quell the sweetness which really isn’t as strong as I suspected it would be sipping neat. My initial impression is that the liqueur reminds me of a spicy version of Galliano (which for those who do not know) is a brandy based vanilla liqueur. I taste many of the same dominant flavours, vanilla, and honey, butterscotch, anise, ginger, and orange and lemon citrus. However, this is spicier than Galliano, and I also taste a light touch of cinnamon, a bit of cloves, and a sprinkling of black pepper which heat things up just a little. Some other flavours are less obvious; but I do receives suggestions of mint on the palate and a vague hint of lemongrass.

In the Throat  11.5/15

The finish is medium of length filled with a combination of vanilla and spicy citrus flavours. The vanilla lingers for a minute or two upon the palate, and when it vanishes only a glowing spiciness is left behind. Unfortunately I notice a light burn as well.

The Afterburn 12/15

I like the overall flavour profile of Southern Comfort, but like my parents 30 years ago, I find myself adding ice to soothe the light astringency that runs through the spirit. For me, Southern Comfort is a nice indulgence; but it seems to be more suited to a cocktail menu rather than a sipping venue (see suggested recipe below).

You may read some of my other Liqueur Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.

Suggested Recipe

Many variations of the Alabama Slammer exist, and the common ingredients are usually Southern Comfort, Amaretto, Sloe Gin and Orange Juice. I add a portion of vodka and a little sweet and sour which seems to make the cocktail just a bit nicer for my taste.

Alabama SlammerAlabama Slammer

1/2 oz Vodka
1/2 oz Southern Comfort
1/2 oz Amaretto
1/2 oz Sloe Gin
tsp Lemon Juice
tsp Sugar Syrup
Orange Juice

Fill an 8 to 10 oz glass with ice.
Add the Southern Comfort, Amaretto, Sloe Gin, Lemon Juice and Sugar Syrup
Fill with Orange Juice
Stir gently until a the outside of the glass frosts.
Garnish with an Orange slice if desired.

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original 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)

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