“Black” is an understatement. Black Balsam pours with the opacity and color of dark coffee, and it isn’t out of line to suggest there are similarities in the taste department, too.
Flavored with 24 ingredients, including various herbs and fruits and aged in oak barrels, this is a complicated spirit with few good analogues. Intensely bitter, it is woody and sharp, offering flavors of stout beer, coal, smoky peat, and root beer. The bitterness is huge — though not quite at Cynar level — and combined with the heavy amount of alcohol (at 90 proof it’s much more powerful than most bitter spirits), its power is remarkable.
That said, Black Balsam lacks a certain finesse that should ultimately make a spirit like this refreshing. It’s got so much power, and probably too much booze, too, that it doesn’t exactly complete a meal, it eradicates it.
Note: This bottle was purchased in Latvia. Bottles may differ by region.
B / $21