Almost every ingredient you’ve ever heard of has made it into a liqueur at some point – whether it’s a fruit, a spice, or something more outlandish. This diversity is due to the drink’s long history. For centuries, strong spirits have been tempered with the addition of roots, herbs and flowers, as well as some sugar to make them easier to drink. Just think of the classics, from Grand Marnier (invented in 1870), to Luxardo Maraschino (1821) and Chartreuse (created as far back as 1084).
But liqueurs are still hugely popular today, thanks in part to social media. These bold, brightly coloured drinks look fantastic when photographed and are guaranteed to bump up those likes and shares. But they’re also versatile, forming an essential building block in cocktails such as the Kir Royale and the Cosmopolitan, as well as current favourite, the Aperol Spritz. Cream liqueurs are an after-dinner treat – and sometimes a replacement for dessert itself – and whisky liqueurs are a mainstay of hip flasks and hot toddies in the colder months.
The IWSC’s 2021 winners show off that versatility, too. Top of the shop was Tesco Finest Gingerbread Latte Irish Cream Liqueur, which scored 98/100pts. The IWSC judges were hugely impressed with its caramel aromas, ginger spices and balance of heat and sweetness.
Other Gold winners were Fructus Cherry Liqueur from Croatia, which scored highly thanks to its elegant style and intense notes of black cherry and stone fruit, and Nussknacker Haselnuss-Liqueur from Distillerie Studer in Switzerland, which displayed bittersweet caramel and butter popcorn on the nose, plus notes of pecan tart and hazelnut milk chocolate.
All were judged blind by an expert panel, featuring Master Sommelier Eric Zwiebel, Sacred Spirits distiller Siobhan Feeley and the Negroni Club’s Sara Jane Eichler.
The world of liqueurs is a fascinating one to explore, given the variety and diversity on offer – so get going with this list of ten of the best from the IWSC 2021.
10 of the best liqueurs in 2021
- Niche Drinks, Tesco Finest Gingerbread Latte Irish Cream Liqueur. Northern Ireland, 98/100
- Mozart Distillerie, Mozart Dark Chocolate. Austria, 98/100
- Fructus, Cherry Liqueur. Croatia, 95/100
- William Grant & Sons Distillers, Drambuie Liqueur. Scotland, 95/100
- Distillerie Studer, Nussknacker Haselnuss-Liqueur. Switzerland, 95/100
- Bellaventure, Limoncello Mamma Mia! Liqueur. Italy, 95/100
- DOMENIS1898, Storica Sambuca Liqueur. Italy, 95.100
- The Edwards Potato Vodka Company, Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur. England, 91/100
- Marie Brizard, Elderflower Liqueur. Spain, 90/100
- Halewood Artisanal Spirits, Peaky Blinder Irish Whiskey Liqueur. England, 90/100
HOW DO WE JUDGE THESE SPIRITS?
We run a tightly structured, rigorous spirits tasting process. That means that each spirit sample is pre-poured into numbered glasses and assessed blindly by the judges. Most importantly, our IWSC spirit judges are experts in their field, who work across all sectors of the drinks industry. For evidence, see our full list of judges.
HOW DO WE SCORE THESE SPIRITS?
Only the best spirits sampled receive a Gold or Silver award. For example, to win Gold, spirits have to score between 95 and 100 points. Meanwhile, Silver wines range from 90 to 94 points. Click here to read more on our scoring system.
MORE FROM CLUB OENOLOGIQUE
Club O is an exclusive community and the go-to platform for wine and spirit lovers. Our flagship Club Oenologique magazine offers even more insights for enthusiasts and collectors. Based in London, our editorial team tells informative, inspirational stories from the world of wine and spirits, gastronomy and travel, as well as covering recommendations and the latest trends in drink. You can take a look at our Explained series, for instance, where we’re tackling grape varieties, regions and styles of wine and spirits. Alternatively, visit our Ask the Sommelier section, where experts answer your wine-related questions.
Top Rated Bottles
Niche Drinks, Tesco Finest Gingerbread Latte Irish Cream Liqueur
Mozart Distillerie, Mozart Dark Chocolate
Fructus, Cherry Liqueur
William Grant & Sons Distillers, Drambuie Liqueur
Distillerie Studer, Nussknacker Haselnuss-Liqueur
Bellaventura, Limoncello Mamma Mia! Liqueur
DOMENIS1898, Storica Sambuca Liqueur
The Edwards Potato Vodka Company, Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur
Marie Brizard, Elderflower Liqueur
Halewood Artisanal Spirits, Peaky Blinder Irish Whiskey Liqueur
Alice Lascelles explores the world’s most unusual drinks
Spirits Handpicked by IWSC
Award-winning gin from around the world
The best spirits in the world
The radical new wave of low and no drinks
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