Review: Baltamaro Fernet, Szechuan, and Coffee Amaro

Bitter amari continue to be developed outside of their historical homeland in Italy, with the latest release of this intense liqueur coming to us from the Baltimore Whiskey Company. The distillery is putting out Baltamaro Volumes 1 through 3, a line of three core herbal liqueurs made in very different styles. Volume 1 is an overproof Fernet style amaro, Volume 2 is a Szechuan peppercorn infused amaro, and Volume 3 is made with coffee.

“This line was inspired by the great amari of the Amalfi Coast, but we saw an opportunity to push the boundaries and bring new ideas to the category,” says head distiller Eli Breitburg-Smith. “Baltimore has always been about the intersection of cultures leading to innovation.”

Innovation and culture, what could be better? Let’s dig in and taste this bitter trilogy.

Baltamaro Fernet Amaro – Classically styled, this is an impressively bitter fernet with massive doses of cloves and gentian. While the bitter intensity is unavoidable and overwhelming, in time some notes of dark chocolate and black raspberry emerge, adding intrigue. These sweeter elements linger particularly on the finish (though, of course, despite all of that, the bitterness never really fades to let them take over). 100 proof. B+ / $35

Baltamaro Szechuan Amaro – Don’t be afraid of the Szechuan peppercorns that are infused into this amaro, it’s quite mild on the whole, with some lingering heat on the back of the palate, but definitely something that any Drinkhacker reader can handle on an average weekday night. Not nearly as intense as the Fernet, the hazy-pink Szechuan liqueur kicks off with some of the traditional trappings of amaro — cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon (plenty of it here), and ginger, before fading into a lightly fruity finish, which finds notes of strawberry alongside some milk chocolate and rose petal notes. Fun stuff. 70 proof. B+ / $30

Baltamaro Coffee Amaro – This is a “ten botanical Amaro,” featuring “cascara, orris root, and citrus peel.” And coffee, I presume. This is the least satisfying expression from Baltamaro, the coffee notes never quite gelling with the traditional amaro botanicals. The bitter nose is only lightly scented with coffee beans, but the palate drinks more like a weak espresso that’s been dosed with cloves, licorice root, and dark chocolate. There’s a healthy slug of semi-sweet bitterness on the finish, heavy on the chocolate but with enough coffee to give it a mocha overtone. Interesting, but really just so-so. 70 proof. B / $30

thebaltimorewhiskeycompany.com

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2 Responses

  1. Steven March 26, 2018 / 9:03 am

    Sichuan peppercorns are not truly peppercorns, but the seed husks of a plant in the citrus family. Rather than having a peppery bite, they are characterized by a tingling/numbing sensation on the tongue, with a hint of citrus. Was there any tingling effect from this amaro, or should we understand the Sichuan character more in the eastern flavors?

    • Christopher Null March 26, 2018 / 9:10 am

      I might have interpreted “tingling” as a more general spice — but I think any impact from the peppercorns was probably dulled by the bittering elements. Given that, the overall flavor profile was still rather unexpected.

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