It's been nearly two weeks since I started this odd experiment
and I thought it'd be interesting to see what I've got going in those little jars. I worked my way through them alphabetically, using some soda and a bit of demerara rum as needed to cleanse the palate and a straw to deliver a few drops of each elixir to the tongue.Tastes and smells interesting:
Allspice. Just what you'd think.
Angelica, a caramel nose and a very woody, almost pine-y bitter flavor. Really interesting.
Black haw smells and tastes like rich dirt, that sort of earthy character in Sazerac rye.
Burdock has a sweet, buttery artichoke aroma and flavor. Slightly bitter. Fantastic.
Calmus has an oddly sweet, cotton-candy nose -- and it's extremely bitter, with all sorts of weird, green, floral notes.
Chaste tree smells like the pig nuts I used to eat as a kid, somewhat green and somewhat nutty, along with a nice woodsy nose. Another strange bitter flavor, with less green and more cedar notes, a mid-range flavor against the highs of the calmus.
Cinnamon and clove. See allspice.
Costus root with 151 proof Wray and Nephew rum is another clear winner. It's got a strong berrywine nose with some spicy roots behind it, and it's got a strong bitter flavor that's marked by the nose element. Weird and wonderful.
Hawthorne is all mellow caramel and oak, nose and palate both. A great midrange element, I'm thinking, to balance off these more intense, bitter elements.
Hops smell and taste like hops. Very bitter in exactly the way you'd expect, if a bit greener than in an IPA.
Lovage is all caramel, cedar, and oak on the nose, and the same with a more pronounced woody bitterness on the tongue. Another winner.
Myrrh is inexplicable if you don't know that savory, oily, spicy aroma; the taste is the same with a weighty, bitter edge. This stuff would take over virtually anything it touches, I fear, but it's pretty cool to have on hand. For what, I don't know.
Pau d'arco (with Wray & Nephew 151) smells amazing, complete in itself. Vietnamese caramel, blackstrap rum, and vanilla on the nose, with all those and a slight bitterness on the tongue. This is a featured tincture at Teardrop Lounge and now I know why. Intoxicating.
Prickly ash: as Brian Eno might say, another green world on the nose, with a bit of lemon added. On the tongue, it starts like that with bitter and cedar -- and then turns into a bizarre novocaine hybrid that made me realize I had forgotten something important.... Sure enough, prickly ash is another name for sichuan peppercorn. Hard to figure what to do with this one; a few drops atop an Earl Grey MarTEAni to serve with dumplings?
Red sage root smells like sweet, wet, red clay and the tongue tastes like a less bitter version of Peychaud's. It's terrific.
Sassafrass is terrific too, a rooty, sweet, spicy nose and palate both, with the bitterness coming through on the tongue.
Wild cherry bark has an astonishing nose, with cherry, almond, and cedar wood all mixed together. The palate has all of those elements in a sweet and bitter brew. Remarkable.
Wormwood smells like cut grass, dirt, and -- I swear -- raw beef. On the tongue it adds menthol and bitterness. Hard to explain. Tastes interesting, little aroma:
Agrimony has a bitterish, rooty flavor that's not too compelling but might play well with others.
Birch bark is a flatter, slightly bitter, woody flavor with a somewhat caramelly base.
Blessed thistle has a very green and very bitter flavor.
Cascara sagrada is another piney, bitter one, less green than the blessed thistle.
Licorice has a sweet, caramel licorice flavor with very little to no nose, oddly.
Yohimbe has no odor and tastes like dirt. Strange: I was expecting wood.Nothing happening:
Bilberry. It's a purty color.
Sarsparilla has a somewhat woody nose but it's weak. Flavor doesn't do much for me, either. Yosemite Sam was a dork. Vile:
Cubeb smells and tastes precisely like a burnt petroleum product mixed with the stomach bile that prompts or follows vomiting. Not recommended.
Grains of paradise have no nose and are weirdly spicy, with cedar notes that disappear behind the burn. Afterward I had to stop for ten minutes to regain my palate. Yikes.
A last note: the cinnamon tinctures are all about the same, though the Everclear is significantly lighter than the other three. I think that may be a measuring error.
Plotting my next move.