Words by: Simon Difford
Crème de cassis is a blackcurrant liqueur which originated in France and is made by both infusion and maceration. The original recipe for a crème de cassis was thought to have been formulated by Auguste-Denis Lagoute in 1841 in the French Dijon region. Many of the best examples are still produced in this region which is now famous for cassis.
Some French brands are labelled "Double Crème de Cassis", this refers to the sugar content which is typically 400g per litre compared to the standard 200g per litre. Although the term 'double' is not officially recognised, the flavour of the double cassis tends to be much more intense hence less is needed to flavour a cocktail such as kir.
EU law states that crème de cassis must have a minimum of 400g of sugar per litre and a minimum alcohol strength of 15% alc./vol.. Unfortunately no minimum is set for the fruit content although the best brands will contain as much as 600g of blackcurrants per litre. An indication of the fruit content is by taste and a rich colour. Also try performing the following tests:
1. Turn a bottle of cassis upside-down and then back again. Note how the liqueur clings to the glass. An inferior crème de cassis will leave little or no colour on the glass, while a quality brand will cling to the glass for some time.
2. Add water to the cassis and see how dilution affects the colour of the liqueur. Lesser brands will turn pink in colour, while quality brands will retain their rich red colour.
3. Smell watered down samples of cassis - poor products will lose their aroma while better brands will retain it.
Part of Giffard’s ‘Premium’ liqueur range, this cassis liqueur is made by the slow maceration of ‘Noir de Bougogne’ blackcurrants in neutral alcohol. The complexity and depth of flavour is increased by the addition of an infusion of cassis buds. Alluring, pungent blackcurrant fruit with green notes and faint woodiness.
Crème de Cassis Impérial is made from the maceration of blackcurrants grown in the Loire Valley by Giffard & Cie, a fourth generation family-owned and run producer in the Loire Valley. Intense blackcurrant with faint black pepper.
This reduced sugar version of Lejay’s 20% alc./vol. crème de cassis was developed in 2013 specifically for the U.S. market. Made using traditional Noir de Bourgogne (55%) and Black Down (45%) varieties of blackcurrant, it contains 450 grams of sugar per litre. Very intense ripe blackberry fruit and blackberry jam. A small amount of water is added to the blend to bring the strength down to 18% alc./vol. and this dilution appears to open up and so intensify the nose.
After ten years running her family’s blackcurrant farm in Herefordshire, Jo Hilditch decided to create what is the original British Cassis. Jo is also a founding member of The Blackcurrant Foundation. Pungent blackcurrant fruit with faint green leaf note.
Founded in 1874 the Gabriel Boudier house have been making this Crème de Cassis de Dijon ever since. They macerate the blackcurrants in 30% alc./vol. alcohol and then balance the blackcurrants natural acidity with sugar. Intense concentrated blackcurrant fruit and blackcurrant pie filling.
This Crème de Cassis de Dijon is made using 55% Noir de Bourgogne and 45% Black Down varieties of blackcurrants with a small amount of blackcurrant bub infusion. The tartness of the berries is balanced with the addition of 420 grams of beet sugar crystals per litre. Pure intense blackcurrant (but not as strong a nose as Lejay's 16% Cassis de Dijon).
This 16% alc./vol. Crème de Cassis de Dijon from Lejay Lagoute is made with 55% Noir de Bourgogne and 45% Black Down varieties of blackcurrants with a small amount of blackcurrant bud infusion. The blend is diluted to 16% ans balanced by the addition of 400 grams of beet sugar crystals per litre. Very pungent concentrated blackcurrant juice.
The original cassis made with the original blackcurrant variety, Noir de Bourgogne, used due to its intensely aromatic flavour. Noir de Bourgogne is now little used by most cassis producers as it is a very fragile variety easy damaged by adverse weather conditions with a low yield. Intense fresh blackcurrant and blackcurrant jam with an earthy note.
Bols Crème de Cassis is a dark red blackcurrant liqueur made with an infusion of blackcurrants grown near Dijon, town in Burgundy, France, where Crème de Cassis was invented. In the 19th Century, prior to the creation on Bols Crème de Cassis, the company made a liqueur called Bols Rataffia de Cassis Rich, aromatic, concentrate fresh blackcurrants which faint green, just scratched soft plant stem.
A traditional crème de cassis liqueur made from the maceration of blackcurrants collected in France’s Loire Valley by Giffard & Cie, a fourth generation family-owned and run liqueur producer in the Loire Valley. Pungent and intense blackcurrant.
The Merlet family deservedly has something of a reputation for their macerated fruit liqueurs, particularly cassis with is made using Noir de Bourgogne blackcurrant berries grown in the Saintonge area of the Charentes. Intensely aromatic blackcurrant and blackcurrant jam with faint blueberry.
Chase could call their blackcurrant liqueur ‘cassis’ but due to adding a minimal amount of sugar cannot call the product ‘crème de cassis’. European regulation dictate that a crème de cassis must have 400g sugar per litre but Chase preferred their flavour profile with just 320g/l sugar. Slight hint of spent shotgun cartridge to the rich, blackcurrant nose.
This ‘Blackcurrant Gin’ is made from fruit sourced from Edward Thompson’s Ben Hope strain of blackcurrants from his Pixley Berries in Herefordshire and is unusual due to its low sugar content. Crème de cassis nose with earthy notes but little gin.
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