I think that I’ve found the perfect coffee liqueur. It’s not from Europe, nor the Caribbean either. Usually my go/to for coffee liqueur is something from Belgium made by gnomes. Gnomes you say? Yes, it’s named Chouffe but it is not available in the United States any longer. Not imported according to the company. That’s too bad for me because I really liked it and now it is impossible to get.
When I was younger my family owned a yacht. It was moored in the British part of the Caribbean. The favored drink at night, after a long day of sailing was a concoction of ingredients imprinted into my head. Tia Maria (Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee liqueur) good strong coffee and freshly whipped cream was combined together in a pre-heated mug with freshly scraped nutmeg over the top. This trifecta of goodness has never left my memory. But as I’ve grown up and my tastes have become more sophisticated with age. Not that I’ve really ever grown up, my taste buds have become demanding of the very best of each genre of liquors.
So I’ve found myself searching, like King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table searched the world around for the Holy Grail. My quest, if you can call it that… was to find a coffee liqueur that was as good as my memories. But now my memories have changed. What I seek is small producer and artisan, not that Tia Maria is a bad product, but the products with caramel coloring and artificial flavoring just doesn't fit my lens any longer.
I seek handmade with the emphasis on small producer and artisan. Craft is the word that is misused so often when marketing companies have over utilized the process and not the product.
Enter from Seattle Distilling something truly unique and ever so salubrious. I think that I’ve finally located the Grail!
They have a product available that is a true “Craft Spirit”. This coffee liqueur as good as it gets. Or… It’s as close to the product that defines quality to me as I’ve found. (La Chouffe)
It’s not made from someone else’s distillate made in an un-named factory, it’s 100% handcrafted from Vashon Island coffee and real grains, not something from a chemical factory made in massive quantities. This product is the finest I’ve ever enjoyed. Even as fine as the coffee liqueur of my dreams- was it the La Chouffe coffee liqueur or Tia Maria? Even I am not sure any longer, I’ve been searching so long, perhaps a lifetime. But one thing that I do know, the Seattle Distilling Coffee Liqueur is just gorgeous. And poured into my extraordinary Bormioli Rocco Tasting Glass, this handmade product really sings.
I’m a fool for craft products. Sure I’ve been fooled before by big companies masquerading themselves as small producer and handmade. But this dear reader is the real thing. It is made from “grain to glass” on Vashon Island, which is pretty near Seattle. As we know- and I’m still learning, the coffee in the Pacific Northwest is different than that stuff that is roasted here. As in wine with specific Terroir to the vineyard: the taste of the place, if you will, the atmosphere of this region is salty! I really have never heard anyone else discuss the effect of salt in the air on taste, but this is just my theory. Salty air makes food and especially coffee taste differently!
This is similar in many respects to the coffee roasters that I tasted up in Portland, Maine. The air is just drenched in salt spray- this salt loaded humidity that you breathe has to affect the aromatics of coffee. I know when you add salt to food it perks up the flavors and offers balance. When you add salt to a cocktail it does the same thing.
Sometimes I add a pinch or so across my vanilla gelato, it does the same thing. A mere pinch of Maldon and … well it deeply enriches the flavor the creamy confection. The fact of my mini- dissertation is simple.
I want you to smell what I smell in this coffee liqueur.
When I opened the handsome 375ml. bottle of Seattle Distilling Coffee Liqueur, I immediately smelled the ocean. It filled my head and my mouth with a robust flavor profile that just said made by people who are really passionate about what they do.
I tasted salinity in the first sip, this aforementioned fabulous coffee (marked on the label as the Vashon Island Coffee Roaster, Orca Blend-I WANT to order some and taste it side-by-side NOW) the tides rushing in and out. This is what I taste. Millions of gallons of salt soaked molecules- the water fill the air in the Pacific Northwest.
It bursts onto the rocky coast (just like up in Maine) and becomes a mist. This mist burrows itself into your nostrils and makes everything you taste and smell better. There is something utterly refreshing about the smell and taste of the ocean. I’m drawn to it and each sip that I’ve enjoyed of the coffee liqueur from Seattle Distilling brings me to a place of contentment.
The old-timey label appears to be similar to something produced on a letterpress with all the information that you want. The type set is carefully chosen and it’s easy for older eyes (Ha!) to read. I love that there is a story on the label- it’s authentic and in their words, intentional. Yes, my friends- your liqueur is all about the coffee. You’re right on there, and although I’ve never been to Vashon Island, nor had your coffee before you read these words, know from my heart that you captured the place in each sip.
Ok. I think tasting notes should be in order. And then a recipe like in the old days- the place of my imagination. As strange as it may seem to you!
Freshly minced pipe tobacco frames a voluptuous nose of freshly crushed coffee beans. There is bitter chocolate dripping in the back of my throat, it’s unmistakable and I feel the ever-present alcohol burn- now enveloping the sides of my jaw. The finish is pure, lush and inviting. My mind is filled with possibilities for mixing with it, but for now I am content sipping metered sips from my tasting glass. I breathe in the aromas and am transported to the deck of a yacht off Jost Van Dyke. The music from Foxy’s floats over the water- seemingly very far away, but just far enough groove with the swells. The drink in my hand is stuff of memories. Unlocked by sips of Seattle Distilling’s Coffee Liqueur and brilliantly roasted hot coffee, thickly melting whipped cream and a crown of freshly scraped exotic nutmeg.
The coffee element is not an afterthought as much as it is the only contemplation, sure there is alcohol in there, but the coffee is the key to the success of the product. This is serious stuff in the world arena of coffee liqueurs. This liqueur is unique in its Terroir and it is authentic in every way.
In burnished copper on the bottom of their label: Purpose & Joy in Kettle and Coil
A personalized, Cocktail Whisperer cocktail – important to unlock the past and move forward into the future… Oh, I did notice the hand numbered bottles with batch and bottle in pen. Nice touch!
“An Archer, A Thief and a Shipman”
2 oz. Seattle Distilling Coffee Liqueur
½ oz. Barrell Bourbon Batch: 003
Freshly whipped cream to the very soft stage
Fresh Nutmeg-and scraper
Preheat your mug with boiling water, pour out
Add the Barrell Bourbon
Top with the softly whipped cream
Scrape some nutmeg over the top and call it a night…