By Jim N. I was bourbon browsing up at Eddie’s Liquors in the Charles Village neighborhood in Baltimore when Jason (a man who has hooked me up with multiple excellent wines and beers) suggested a look at their new shipment of Black Walnut Bourbon Liqueur from Dancing Pines Distillery, which is a very small artisinal distillery out of Colorado. It had a dark caramel color that was about twice what any other bourbon I’ve seen has. And it was batch #1 from this company, so, I was hooked. The aroma of this bourbon was very sweet and interesting but somehow familiar….reminding me somehow of Southern Comfort. Had I just paid over $30 for a better version of SoCo?
So, my first mistake was to not read the label carefully. This is a bourbon “liqueur”, a bourbon derivative if you will, not the real McCoy. So, it was never going to be the dark bourbon I thought I was getting. Beerman Greg and I sat down with some of the DP Black Walnut and did a side-by-side with SoCo. I have to confess, I had forgotten how bad SoCo is. While the Black Walnut only tasted like SoCo in my memory, it is, in fact, a very good extract of black walnut that has been blended into what seems to be a good bourbon. However, while the first sip is interesting, it fails as a neat drink because it is so overbalanced by the sweetness of what I presume is added sugar, that the bourbon is reduced to a faint aroma. It has a strong sweet caramel taste with a small amount of dark fruit overtones. I’m not sure the black walnut taste can be decomposed into other fruits. It’s basically black walnut schnapps made with bourbon. We did accidentally discover a good pairing: DP black walnut with freshly toasted almonds was quite good in small quantities. But so far as being a bourbon drink, I will definitely take a pass on this one.
Black walnut is a flavor that disagrees with many people (but not me). I’m told that I would have been better off with a black walnut brandy out of California that is better balanced with regard to sweetness. But rather than letting the DP Black Walnut sit on my shelf, I’m sending it up to Carma of Carma’s Cafe fame to see what she can make of it. A good black walnut extract shouldn’t go to waste.