Maraska isn’t just the distiller of my favorite brand of Maraschino liqueur, it also makes a variety of other fruit brandies and nut liqueurs in its homeland of Croatia. Today we look at two of them, both traditional offerings but new entries into its catalog, a Slivovitz plum brandy and a green walnut liqueur. Let’s dig in. Živjeli!
Maraska Slivovitz (Sljivovica) Plum Brandy 10 Years Old – Slivovitz plum brandy is a traditional spirit in Croatia, but few in the U.S. (of non-Balkan origin) are likely to have encountered it, except in the most obscure of old cocktail books. This new expression from Maraska carries a 10 year age statement (vs. the more typical 2 years of age), time whiled away in 500 liter wooden barrels. You wouldn’t know it from the color, which is a shade of pale yellow. The nose carries no clear wood character, coming off as rather harsh and astringent, with more notes of dried flowers and mothballs than fruit. Over time, the heavily perfumed aroma becomes thick with fruit tree blossoms, just hinting at the plum fruit within. On the palate, the fruit is more evident, but it’s fairly astringent, with a surprising degree of youth and a camphor note that isn’t wholly appealing. The finish is drying, rustic, and rough, though again quite floral (with elusive fruit). Clearly an acquired taste. 80 proof. Kosher. C+ / $35
Maraska Orahovac Green Walnut Liqueur – Orahovac is a traditional (even ancient) Croatian liqueur made from green walnuts, which Maraska sources from local Croatian farmers. The nose is surprisingly fruity, recalling kirsch and (ironically) plum wine. A savory element is just underneath all the sweetness, reminiscent of green wood and cedar box. The palate is quite sweet — not just from the sugar but from the sweetness of the immature walnuts — offering a soothing and lightly nutty character that folds in notes of chocolate, nutmeg, and raspberries — and just a hint of bitterness on the finish. While the Orahovac can have a slightly medicinal cough syrup character to it, the overall experience is actually quite soothing and nostalgic, a bittersweet taste of a bygone era brought to you from the other side of the world. 56 proof. Kosher. B+ / $21