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Never Never Dark Series Black Juniper Amaro, 29% ABV

 

If you haven't been acquainted with Never Never from Australia (read out deep dive to catch up to speed), you'll soon learn that they are serious juniper heads. Juniper is their literal bread and butter, choosing to make the piney berry shine in a time when everyone else favours other flavours in their gin.

 

Founders George, Sean and Tim of Never Never Distilling Co.

 

The Dark Series from Never Never is the distillery's experimental series, where limited releases of gins, liqueurs and collaborative projects take place. That doesn't mean bottlings from the Dark Series stay in the dark however - the Southern Strength Gin, for one, did so well that it was "promoted" to the core range, so to speak. The Oyster Gin is another ex-Dark Series gin that made its way into the core range.

 

Source: TimeOut

 

Here, the team decided to head off the beaten track, collaborating with the Black Pearl bar in Melbourne to create an Amaro. An amaro, with origins from Italy, is essentially where herbs and spices are infused into a spirit (traditionally, this would have been grape brandy) and usually sweetened to create a bittersweet liqueur.

 

Ragazzino, made with the Never Never Juniper Amaro, Never Never Triple Juniper Gin, and Sweet Vermouth. Source: Cocktails Distilled

 

This limited edition amaro is made by a steeping a mix of roasted juniper, fresh juniper, and spent vapour distilled juniper berries into neutral spirit, which is then hand crushed with a hydraulic press. A blend of alpine herbs and spices, such as gentian, wormwood and quinine, are also added to the mix as well, yielding the final amaro at 29% ABV. According to interviews, the amaro took over a year of research and development.

 

 

The recommended serving suggestion is to have this with a cola. But first, let's try this neat, and then with the perfect pour. Let's go!

Never Never Dark Series Black Juniper Amaro, 29% ABV – Review

 

Neat:

Nose: A bit cacao-ey, like opening a box of dried cacao powder. There is a burnt, roasty aroma to the liqueur as well, a bit like the smouldering campfire or burning rubber. As you let the liqueur sit in a glass abit, you start to catch some of that juniper berry aromas as well - somewhat piney, but there is a musky sweetness to it. 

Taste: An espresso like flavour to the liqueur - a bit of berry coffee-like sourness, as well as a dark roasty flavour of coffee beans. You start to get more medicinal flavours like that distinct gentian root as you take subsequent sips of the liqueur, with the juniper flavours coming more strongly. 

Finish: A little bit bitter, with now a general roasted, homebrew medicinal soup flavour lingering on your palate. I get some dehydrated lemon peels, quinine, and a slight minty-ness.

  

My Thoughts:

It’s an interesting take on a bitter liqueur - however, I have to say that it’s very specific on the juniper flavours. If you have ever chewed on a juniper berry, think of the fleshy part within the berry. I think it’s a product well versed for those familiar with the category, and definitely amongst juniper heads. However, for me, the amaro is juuust a bit too roasty for me (I tried this with a few friends, and they loved it!), with the nose and aromas registering like burnt plastic and rubber personally. 

Rating: 5.9/10

Score/Rating Scale :

  • 9-10 : Exceptional, highly memorable, 10/10 would buy if I could.
  • 7-8 : Excellent, well above most in its category, worth considering buy-zone.
  • 4-6 : Good, okay, alright; a few flaws, but acceptable; not bad, but not my personal preference; still worth trying, could be a buy if the price is right.
  • 1-3 : Not good; really did not enjoy; wouldn't even recommend trying.
  • 0 : Un-scored, might be damaged, new make, or very unusual.

 

I happened to have a Madagascan Cola from Fever Tree lying around - taking a leaf out of the Ferdinando (Fernet Branca and coke), I mixed this in an approx 3:7 ratio liqueur to cola. 

With Cola:

An interesting taste! You still get some medicinal buzz from the liqueur, but there is a cola flavoured hard candy sort of subtlety that goes with it. It seems that the bitterness of the juniper is a lot more toned down, but the piney, forest-like flavours and natural sweetness of the juniper berries is expressed more here. You don’t get as much coffee and roasty notes however. An interesting concoction - which I could see having die-hard haters or lovers alike. Truth be told, I lean towards the “I like it” crowd.

Rating: 6.5/10

@vernoncelli