In both the coffee and craft distilling industries, the Pacific Northwest is well-known for market saturation. To my surprise, very few distillers have cracked the code of coffee and whisky blending in the way that Mr. Black has. Although this is not a whisky, it is aged in rye barrels, which I believe was an excellent choice. As a result, the spirit is sufficiently versatile to be consumed on its own or in a variety of other combinations.
Mr. Black is based in Australia, where a passion for coffee rivals that of any other coffee-centric society. Mr. Black was founded in 2013 with the goal of defining its signature vodka-based coffee liqueurs with a cold brew and vodka combination. According to the story, it was decided during a meeting between the owners of Mr. Black and Whistle Pig that ageing the cold brew liqueur in whisky barrels would result in a product that possessed the best qualities of both. After reaching an agreement, barrels were shipped from the Whistlepig facilities to Mr. Black’s Australian distillery for ageing. What we, the drinkers, now have is a well-crafted and thoughtful coffee liquor with robust rye notes that add an inviting and boozy note to the established coffee notes.
As with a properly mixed Irish coffee, the rich coffee notes are the first to hit the palate. Dark, bitter chocolate and a bit of dried cherry accompany the roasted bean notes of cold brew coffee that is the base of this drink. It is not combustible and is not contaminated with artificial flavourings. The bitterness is offset by a gentle honey sweetness. Additionally, there is a whiff of smoke that emphasises the roasted nature of the coffee beans. The heat is not overpowering. Anise and clove impart a licorice flavour. If you are not a fan of sweet in your coffee, I recommend an ice cube. When chilled it leans towards a creaminess like a latte.
This liqueur raises the bar for me on coffee flavored spirits. It leans on the coffee and whiskey combo without being cloyingly sweet. It stands well on its own, over ice, or could easily be incorporated into a mixed drink, or deserts such as Tiramisu or simply poured over a scoop of ice cream. I would never have thought I would take my palate all the way to Australia to find such a delightful entry into the flavored spirit market.