Review: Mandarine Napoleon Orange Liqueur

Was Napoleon an orange liqueur man? My sources say he drank Burgundy and Cognac — like a good Frenchman should — so how would he feel about an orange liqueur being sold in his name? Well, guess what: This liqueur was made especially for Napoleon Bonaparte, and wasn’t offered to sale to the public until 1892.

Mandarine Napoleon is a Grand Marnier clone, a blend of straight orange liqueur and Cognac. The mandarins used are sourced from Sicily and Corsica. The Cognac used is a 10-year-old edition, which is quite aged and which, I would imagine, is used sparingly in the blend due to its relative cost. Artificial color is used to give it a deeper orange character.

The nose is pure orange, undercut with alcohol notes — understandable since this is bottled at 76 proof.

On the body, more oranges, with a rich, lightly oxidized body. Spices including cinnamon, licorice, and cloves, with plenty of sugar to sweeten the pot. The brandy mellows and enriches the concoction, giving it a warming, woody, and more exotic flavor. The body is a bit on the syrupy side — common for orange liqueurs — but it isn’t cloying. The finish is of course quite sweet, and lasting like an orange hard candy. I really enjoy margaritas made with Grand Marnier in lieu of standard triple sec, and I expect this would exceed in one much the same way.

I don’t have any Grand Marnier on hand (surprisingly) to compare this to directly, but if memory serves this is a pretty close approximation. Moderately sweet and enjoyable on its own and as a mixer. The retro bottle is a bit off-putting, but look beyond the tinted, textured glass and to the liquid within.

A- / $30 /

mandarine napoleon

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8 Responses

  1. Edoc February 13, 2012 / 8:07 pm

    Sadly, not a whole lot cheaper than GM.

  2. Hector Maldonado February 14, 2012 / 9:35 am

    Has this changed in formula? The bottle I have, purchased about 5 years ago (and before the label was updated) is clearly tangerine/mandarin in flavor, nothing like grand marnier which is distinctly orange.

  3. Christopher Null February 14, 2012 / 3:08 pm

    Hector – You may be better versed with the intricacies of orange flavors than I am. MN does say mandarine oranges are used (as noted above, and hence the name of the spirit), but I don’t get a distinctly different flavor from this from the oranges. I think the cognac imparts most of the exoticism to the spirit. That said, I don’t think mandarines (i.e. clementines) taste that much different than navel oranges, either. Tangerines, more so, however.

  4. Hector Maldonado February 14, 2012 / 4:25 pm

    Very interesting- I will have to break out my bottle of MN and GM and compare blindly. I remember seeking the MN out specifically because it was a mandarin flavored liqueur, and I felt that it was true to it’s claim. That being said, I think tangerines and mandarins are interchangeable, but both very distinct from oranges. Who knew citrus flavors were so subjective!

  5. Cognac J February 15, 2012 / 4:40 am

    Ah – and what kind of glass should you drink this from? A cognac glass, a liqueur glass? This site shows lots of different options And for sure I’m going to try MN and compare it to GM :-)

  6. Christopher Null February 15, 2012 / 9:10 am

    Cognac J – I think you’d be fine in any tulip-shaped glass. I used my whiskey tasting glasses, actually.

  7. Robyn February 25, 2015 / 3:51 pm

    It is most definitely NOT a Grand Marnier “clone”. It does not taste of orange but rather of mandarin/tangerine, it is nowhere near as sweet, and it is much headier due to being made with high quality brandy. Honestly, if a person can’t taste the difference between oranges and tangerines, they should not set themselves up as a reviewer. :-(

    Drink it from a brandy snifter. The Cognac deserves it, and the aroma of tangerine in the glass is just heavenly.

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