GSN Review: Riga Black Balsam Bitter

A pharmacist named Kunze crafted the famous Riga Black Balsam recipe in 1752. The first balsam (herbal extract) recipes in Riga were found dating from 16th century, however pharmacists’ records do not keep the exact date. According to the tradition only the Head Liquor Master and his two apprentices know the secret recipe. The recipe was utterly lost in 1939 when the German population left Latvia before the Soviet occupation.

After WWII, the recipe was carefully restored from shreds by a joint effort of former employees. Since 1950, the recipe hasn’t changed.

Riga Black Balsam is made from 24 all natural ingredients, including 17 botanicals. The ingredients include common roots and herbs such as Valerian, Wormwood, Black Pepper, and Ginger, as well as rare ingredients such as Gentian and Peruvian Balsamic Oil.

The final ingredient in the Riga Black Balsam formula is the bottle itself. Once the herbal infusion has matured and the rest of ingredients has been added, the resulting black liquid passion is bottled in the same type of clay bottle historically used for this purpose. Clay is a natural material and for the first six months after bottling the flavor of Black Balsam continues to develop as the ingredients interact with the bottle.

Riga Black Balsam (90 proof)
Visual: Dark brown.
Nose: Strong pine-like nose with a more subtle fruit/herb base.
Taste: Tannic, bitter and strongly flavored. The flavor is well-balanced with a coffee/bittersweet cocoa sensibility.
Finish: Long with a lingering bitter character that cleanses the palate.
Overall: A very interesting and flavorful bitter. Highly recommended for use in cocktails to add depth and intrigue.
GSN Rating: A

Riga Black Balsam Currant (30 proof)
Visual: Deep purple.
Nose: Fresh currant on top, with a gentle hint of balsam and herb.
Taste: Quite fruity and luscious. The currant flavor carries the heavy lifting, but there is also a refreshing counterbalance from the balsam/herb potpourri.
Finish: Long with a berry-like fruit finish.
Overall: I really like this a lot. In some ways it reminds me of port, but it is its own beast. A lovely after dinner aperitif.
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Riga Black


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