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The two things I like to find out about wine and spirits, beyond their taste, are history and geography.
So when I got my hands on a bottle of Mandarine Napoleon, which I thought was an all-French liqueur, I was surprised to find out that it's actually made in Belgium.
Mandarine Napol on was developed by a French chemist, Antoine-Francois de Fourcroy in the early 1800s. Fourcroy was an interesting character by all accounts, and more skillful in using his connections than actually working as a chemist. He became a friend of Napoleon who appointed him a counselor of state and a Count of the Empire. He quickly learned that Napoleon enjoyed a drink of cognac flavored by tangerine peel which was then quite unique in France.
The chemist experimented, and produced a liqueur of cognac flavored with tangerine peels which become a favorite of Napoleon and, later, in 1892 was officially named Mandarine Napol on.
The process involved in producing Mandarine Napoleon differs from most other orange-flavored liquors. Mandarin peel from Sicily is chopped finely, steeped in cognac and then filtered. The peel is then added to alcohol and sugar and combined with a blend of 21 spices and herbs (including clover, coriander, cumin and green tea). The drink is then distilled three times and aged three years before bottling in order to produce the silky soft taste.
The liqueur is made in Seclin, Belgium, by the ETS Fourcroy SA company.
The drink is often used as a classic mixer, simply diluted with tonic and ice, or even orange juice and ice. But on cold days I would suggest drinking it neat - despite its 38% volume content. It's the best way to taste the complexity and quality of the liqueur. The drink has a pale orange color and it first strikes the palate with an overwhelming taste of orange peel. Then comes the burn of alcohol softened with a tang of spices which lightly warm the back of the throat. The liquid itself is rather thick and pleasant in consistency.
Imported by Hacarem company, a bottle of Napoleon Mandarin cost NIS 240 for 70 cl. A gift package including 50 cl. bottle and two glasses costs NIS 190.