In a stunning turnaround from some of the dross we have had to work through lately, we are happy to review a liqueur that we do, genuinely, like.
Note: Solerno is made and bottled in Sicily from local produce in three separate small batch distillations using copper alembic (read cognac pot type) stills.
First is the distillation of the meat of the Sanguinello orange – referred to here in the US as the blood orange – (for those unfamiliar with its appearance, watch the opening sequence on HBO’s Dexter).The second distillation is of the zest or outer skin of the orange to capture the citrus oils. The third distillation is of Sicilian lemons (some of the finest in the world) to balance the liqueur and give it a bit more structure (read so it isn’t just some overly sweet juice/syrup with alcohol like many of late). It is made without any dyes so the color is all natural and honest – clear.As to sweetening it is made with sucrose from sugar beets, not the devils sweetener, corn syrup, which ruins a lot of liqueurs with it’s taste and body.
Appearance: Brilliant, clear, on swirling makes a extremely light uniform coat on the glass that then very languidly starts to scallop on the meniscus/edgeline and then, eventually, very uniform legs. Blending of such disparate ingredients to a harmonious amalgamation doesn’t get much better than this.
First Impression: Intensely and yet pleasantly strong aromatic citrus component -a playful blend of the blood orange and lemon with the alcohol component in background rather than foreground providing both structure and transmission through volatility of the citrus oils. This is in stark contrast to some other liqueurs who at the opposite end of achievement have somehow managed to combine muddied, disparate and cloying in their attempts at synthesis of bouquet and fragrance.
Taste: Sweet oily entry with light sweet candied, sucrose taste (quite distinctive from cloying corn syrup), luscious citrus blending, with a tang and acidity from the skins of the citrus to provide a delicate balance and interplay that yield a drying acidic backbone that gradually plays out across the midline and back of the tongue like a drying sunrise evaporating dew.
Drinks: Not a lot of specific drinks for it but here are some guidance/ideas:
A much less bitter analog of Campari or Aperol, much more acidic analog of Limoncello without the stickiness and the addition of Blood Orange (more subtle orange than standard), much more distinctive and citrus forward analog of Grand Marnier or Cointreau -much more lively, not as sweet as St. Germain and more citrus than flowers.
Personally, even as wonderful as we think it is I wouldn’t use it as a base spirit but as a modifier or accent.
Bottle: Inspired by Murano glass, so they say. Beautifully proportioned cylindrical shape with rounded shoulders and a small lipped neck corked with a natural cork which is topped by a bakelite looking foot.The bottom pommel is shaped like a old fashioned glass citrus juicer. Color shifted from almost clear to ruby from top to bottom. Script is silk screened on in white for main characters and back panel, and a bronze gold for subscript on the front- Très elegant! Or should I say bellissimo (molto bello) ?
Final Thoughts: Aromatically and gustatorially intoxicating , a wonderful achievement in terms of taste, balance and usefulness as a cocktail ingredient.
Sadly there is not a dedicated webpage for Solerno (yet, we assume). This link will, however, take you to the importer’s main webpage where you can peruse their other, multifarious, offerings.