Coffee Liqueurs Round 1 – Kahlua VS. Tia Maria

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Greetings! Tonight we have one well-known coffee liqueur going up against one that you don’t normally see served in bars, clubs, etc.. ABVs are identical in addition to price, at least here at the BCL stores. Note also that the they also have common ingredients. (At the end of this tasting I ended up with a pulsing headache…strange?)

1) Kahlua –20% ABV – 750ml, Mexico, ~$27 CAD

  • Ingredients: sugar, kahlua concentrate (coffee extract, rum, caramel, vanillin); water

VS

2) Tia Maria – 20% ABV – 750ml, Scotland, ~$27 CAD

  • Ingredients: sugar; water, alcohol (Jamaican rum), coffee extract, coffee flavour, vanillin, citric acid, caramel

Criteria:

Nose: Taking a whiff of the Kahlua, I get sugary medium-roast coffee mixed with very detectable tingly medium-burn invasive alcohol.  I have to say that alcohol eventually overpowers the pleasant coffee aroma and becomes offensive after several more nosings. With Tia Maria I get much cleaner coffee, caramel, and slight nutty vanilla nose with only minor alcohol detection, about a 1/5th burning level of the Kahlua. No doubt the winner is Tia Maria.

Taste & Texture: The Kahlua in my mouth has a syrupy mouthfeel. It goes down with 9/10-sweetness, cascading waves of roastcoffee flavour, caramel mixed with nasal numbing from the alcohol, light-medium burn (which is a surprise since the nose was so aggressive in alcohol) and finishes sugary cloying. Tia Maria is noticeably thinner in viscosity. Going down Tia Maria starts off with more intense and bolder flavours of coffee, caramel, chocolate, vanilla, nuttiness, 7/10-sweetness, with the mid-palate and finish consisting of medium alcohol warmth and and long bittersweet roast coffee finish. In my mind it’s crystal clear: the winner by far is Tia Maria.

Final Notes:

  • Kahlua is more syrupy, aggressively sweeter, less smooth/more nasal burn, less depth and length of flavour, and a sugary cloying finish. I WILL NEVER BUY KAHLUA AGAIN
  • Tia Maria has a better nose, better flavours, and goes down smoother.

WINNER = TIA MARIA

シークァーサーのお酒 – 南の果実 (Miyakobijin), 10% ABV, (Japan)

My Notes:

  • My Rating: C+
  • Why it’s not awesome: strong alcohol (sake) taste
  • Where I got it: Tokyo, Jan 2012
  • How much: ¥1000 ($13), 500ml
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: No
  • Would I recommend this to liquor afficianados: No

Tasting Notes (straight, chilled): pours cloudy lime juice colour, slightly thicker than water viscosity. Strong lime and calamansi on the nose. Strong alcohol (from the sake) taste from start to finish muddles the overall experience. Flavours consist of half 5/10 sour lime, aromatic calamansi, bitter lime peel, 2/10 tart finish.

かぼす梅酒 -天女のしずく (大分県産かぼす・梅使用), 12% ABV, (Oita, Japan)

My Notes:

  • My Rating: C+
  • Why it’s not awesome: tastes of sugar, alcohol and juice
  • Where I got it: Tokyo, Jan 2012
  • How much: ¥1000 ($13), 500ml
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: Yes
  • Would I recommend this to liquor afficianados: Yes

Tasting Notes (straight, chilled): pours honey yellow, slightly cloudy, thicker than water viscosity. Tastes of 7/10 sweet and 3/10 sour kabosu (yuzu+lime flavour) but mainly umeshu, a bit of honey and 50% grain alcohol in the background. Not terribly smooth but decent kabosu and a nice variation of normal umeshu.

梨園 (なしのお酒), 12% ABV, (Oita, Japan)

-四季を通して日田の梨

My Notes:

  • My Rating: B+
  • Why I like it: natural fruit flavour
  • Where I got it: Tokyo, Jan 2012
  • How much: ¥1000 ($13), 500ml
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: Yes
  • Would I recommend this to liquor afficianados: Yes

Tasting Notes (straight, chilled): pours lime juice coloured cloudy green, unfiltered fruit, thinner than grenadine viscosity. Half asian pear, half alcohol burn on the nose. Clean 6/10 sweet asian pear up front, immediately followed by grain alcohol bitterness down the back of the throat, and again finishes with pear aroma. Strong green apple notes in there as well. Made with 100% Hita pears. Overall tastes of juice + grain alcohol but high quality pear juice at that.

やたがらす桃にごり, 11% ABV, エキス分 24%, (Nagano, Japan)

My Notes:

  • My Rating: C+
  • Why I don’t love it: fruit juice, sugar, and grain alcohol basically.
  • Where I got it: Tokyo, Jan 2012
  • How much: ~¥1500 ($20)
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: No
  • Would I recommend this to liquor afficianados: No

Tasting Notes (straight, chilled): pours opaque cloudy white peach flesh colour, unfiltered peach pulp clings to the side of the glass, half-syrupy viscosity. Grain alcohol and peach juice on the nose, no surprise here. Very alcohol forward for 11% ABV, 7/10 sweetness, decent genuine peach flavour but overwhelmed by the alcohol burn. It’s best on the rocks or as a mixer. Cool bottle.

実りのリキュール 日向夏、8% ABV, エキス分 17%, (Nara, Japan)

My Notes:

  • My Rating: B
  • Why I enjoy it: unique yuzu/lemon/tangerine flavour
  • Where I got it: Tokyo, Jan 2012
  • How much: ~¥1500 ($20)
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: No
  • Would I recommend this to liquor afficianados: Yes

Tasting Notes: pours lemon juice cloudy, thicker than water but not quite syrupy viscosity. Strong citrus honey on the nose. 8/10 sweetness, lemony-citrus mixed with yuzu and mild honey, hints of yellow grapefruit, , clean finish. Very fragrant and would be fab as a mixer.

山のきぶどう酒 - あさ開, 7% ABV, (Iwate, Japan)

50% 果汁 – made with 清酒、山ぶどう (Sake and grape juice)

My Notes:

  • My Rating: C
  • Why I don’t love it: plain
  • Where I got it: Tokyo, Jan 2012
  • How much: ¥1580 ($21)
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: No
  • Would I recommend this to liquor afficianados: No

Tasting Notes: cloudy reddish-purple, unfiltered juice-like viscosity, bits of pulp at the bottom of the glass. Grape juice and a bit of floral sake on the nose. Grape sweetness up front, 6/10 tart purple grape finish with 4/10 sourness in the mid, alcohol hits at the end. Very smooth (but low ABV) and drinkable. Nothing special though, just quality grape juice and clean sake. Too thin to use as a mixer.