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Mandarine Napoleon Grande Cuvee Liqueur

Mandarine Napoléon
Grande Cuvée Liqueur


By Robert Plotkin

Everything about Mandarine Napoléon is enthralling. Even the story behind it makes you want to love the stuff. After the first sniff, sip and swallow, you'll know your instincts were right.

Mandarines from China were first introduced in Europe at the end of the 18th century. Considered a delicacy, they quickly became a favorite of Napoléon Bonaparte and his imperial court. The Emperor even went so far as to eat mandarine peels soaked in cognac. Count Antoine-François de Fourcroy found inspiration in that. It eventually sparked his creating Mandarine Napoléon Grande Cuvée Liqueur.

A member of the imperial court and Napoléon's personal physician, Count Fourcroy began cultivating the tangerine-like fruit on the island of Corsica and soon after created a cognac-based liqueur imbued with the essence of the exotic fruit. That Napoléon was smitten with the elixir is a matter of historical record.

The recipe for Mandarine Napoléon has remained in the family ever since, as has the Fourcroy Distillery in Brussels. Produced since 1892, the liqueur is made from tangerines—mandarine in French—grown in orchards on Sicily and the sun-drenched coast of Spain near Valencia, the peels of which are macerated in fine spirits for weeks to fully capture their essence. That oil-infused alcohol is distilled three times with a secret mix of 27 herbs, spices and botanicals before being aged in French oak barrels for 2 years. The spirits are blended with well-aged cognac, filtered and bottled at 40% alcohol by volume.

No wonder the Emperor was captivated. Mandarine Napoléon has a lustrous amber/orange color, a generous body and an enticing fresh citrus and floral bouquet. The liqueur bathes the palate with a warm luxurious array of tangerine, spice, vanilla and brandy. The finish is warm and lingering. Its persistence of flavor is one reason the elixir is a highly sought-after ingredient in cocktails. In fact, Mandarine Napoléon may well be a beverage program in a bottle.

The Fourcroy Distillery also makes the limited edition Mandarine Impériale XO Liqueur, which is aged in French oak casks for 8 to 10 years. Its smooth, luxurious palate makes a marvelous companion for an evening.