GSN Review: Cointreau vs. Hiram Walker Triple Sec

A few weeks ago, I received an interesting package in the mail.  A bottle of Cointreau and a bottle of Hiram Walker Triple Sec with a note to compare the two.  To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from the latter.  I decided however to go one step further and throw in a few other orange based liqueurs into the mix.  So, without further ado, here are my impressions of a variety of triple secs and curacaos.

Cointreau: The granddaddy of them all.  An elegant liqueur with an impeccable nose.  This smells like delicious oranges and tastes even better.  The slightly bitter quality is perfectly balanced by the sweetness.  Very little burn and a wonderfully bright finish.  This is totally deserving of the cult status it has among top mixologists.  Good Spirits Rating: A+

Grand Marnier:
This is a darker liqueur in character than any of the others I tried.  A fantastic after dinner drink on the rocks, or even heated.  It doesn’t mix as well as Cointreau, but that doesn’t preclude it from several great cocktails.  The overall impression I have is of an aged
version of curacao.  It works great on its own, but also adds depth of character to a drink like a margarita.  Rich, velvety and impeccably smooth.  Good Spirits Rating: A

Hiram Walker Triple Sec: First of all, I must point out that this is only 60 proof.  Undoubtedly not only to save money, but to
cover up the lack of distillation quality. The nose put me right off, smelling not really like fresh orange peel, so much as stale orange candy.  Upon tasting, I was greeted with an oversweet orange-like syrup.  Really, this could pass for orange simple syrup but for the fact that there is alcohol in there somewhere.  This is flat, one-dimensional and really only something a mixologist worth his shaker would use in a pinch.  Good Spirits Rating: C

Patron Citronge:
This has been my “go to” mid-shelf triple sec for a while now, but tasting it alongside of the others in my collection, I discovered that it really isn’t as close to Cointreau as I had originally thought. The nose is very similar, bringing a nice orangey brightness that gets
the mouth-watering.  But, the taste is bitter to the point of reminding me of Campari in an odd way.  Granted, this is about $15 less per bottle than Cointreau, but it is not an equal by any means.  Still, it can be used in cocktails without embarrassment, and when blended with other spirits, it loosens up the unpleasant bitter quality.  Good Spirits Rating: B

Senior Curacao of Curacao: On Ted Haigh’s recommendation, I sought out a bottle of this in the clear version.  The only curacao still made on the island of Curacao and darned hard to find in the USA.  This is an older style liqueur with a heavy thickness that works well in turn of the century cocktails.  There isn’t a lot that I can say to the negative about this spirit.  Very orangey, balanced, sweeter than Cointreau and smooth.  I like it! Good Spirits Rating: A-

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2 thoughts on “GSN Review: Cointreau vs. Hiram Walker Triple Sec

  1. Pingback: GSN Review – Cointreau Noir | Good Spirits News

  2. Pingback: GSN Alert: October 16th – National Liqueur Day | Good Spirits News

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