Courantin Liqueur [circa 1920’s/30’s] Marshall, Tallow Ltd. Whitehall distillery 60 Proof
A cold and grey Sunday afternoon saw Chris and I finally meet up to try an old liqueur [circa 1920’s/30’s] he’d spotted in a restaurant/wine bar many months ago. We’d left it so long I was pleased that we’d still got an opportunity to try it before it had all gone. We had been led to believe that this was a rum-based liqueur [available at Lion’s whisky if you are so inclined, who refer to this as ‘a piece of history in Rum heaven’], but further inspection of the label makes no such claims. This may be nothing more than a distilled alcoholic syrup.
The label reads ‘This rare liqueur made in the colony of British Guiana for over 100 years’. However the label also states it was produced by Marshall, Taplow Ltd. at the Whitehall distillery, Stratford, London. Established in 1760, apparently they were still operating in the 1940’s before being conglomerated [Source: WP]. They produced amongst other things, now-collectable Toby Jugs.
- N: Pronounced ‘Korran-tin’, it’s super dark in colour and somewhat gloopy. All the particles settling at the bottom of the glass remind me more of grape sediment than anything else – from [old] spirits such as Brandy, Cognac or Armagnac for example. Could also be bits of cork, glass and/or tin. It’s sugary in a child-like syrup/cordial kind of way, with notes of fig, prune juice, a fruit jamminess, mince meat, clove and a sherried Christmas pudding – a mulled botanical sherry. In fact the more we explore this, the more it appears to be a sherry based liqueur. Whilst being positively laid back after all those decades bottled up in green interwar glassware, I’m appreciating how intact the nose is.
- T: Thoroughly sweet with a syrupy/sugary herbal>medicinal core – one that leans firmly towards Benylin. There’s a touch of caramel coffee liqueur also. It’s even more herbal with water with a dark tannic bitterness from black cherry skins coming through strongly.
- F: We are agreed that this is sherry-based, PX or an Amontillado perhaps. We detect no rum whatsoever. After the herbal rush comes heathery clove. We’ve a herbal/botanical dry all-sherry finish before herbal-sweet cola bottles bed in at the death.
- C: Sure it’s a little hazy but it’s held itself together very well – form and clarity of profile is very much intact. But in the end it’s a somewhat curious yet basic & tedious digestif. As the afternoon turns to evening, i’ve developed mild suspicions about it’s provenance, though i’m not suggesting foul play on behalf of the proprietors for a second. Examining the label reveals it’s got an almost shiny, laminated label without any embossing. I’ve read articles about spotting fakes in whisky & wine, and smooth labels can suggest photocopiers at play – but I am no expert and have no experience. Aside from a bottle at Lion’s whisky shop, there appears to be no other information about this liqueur on the tinterweb.
That herbal cola bottle finish had roused my curiosity. Though not a fan of Coca Cola, I begun to wander what the brand was like back in the day and whether it was more herbal-medicinal that today’s intensity carbonated, chemical corn sugar bombs. A few people [all from the US] have been curious enough to access some to try.
[Very amateur] Coca Cola tastings on youtube [if you can bear them]:
- Late 70’s/early 80’s: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tra_8pQF4zA
- 1966-69: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVamftrrDlg
- 1956: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIb8GxZnRY8
- WW2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IG3JZhFlDo