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Liqueurs Rated B Reviews

Review: Latvijas Balzams Riga Black Balsam


Bitter spirits week (month? there’s no end in sight, really…) continues here at Drinkhacker with an obscurity: Riga Black Balsam, a Latvian liqueur made by Latvijas Balzams.

“Black” is an understatement. Black Balsam pours with the opacity and color of dark coffee, and it isn’t out of line to suggest there are similarities in the taste department, too.

Flavored with 24 ingredients, including various herbs and fruits and aged in oak barrels, this is a complicated spirit with few good analogues. Intensely bitter, it is woody and sharp, offering flavors of stout beer, coal, smoky peat, and root beer. The bitterness is huge — though not quite at Cynar level — and combined with the heavy amount of alcohol (at 90 proof it’s much more powerful than most bitter spirits), its power is remarkable.

That said, Black Balsam lacks a certain finesse that should ultimately make a spirit like this refreshing. It’s got so much power, and probably too much booze, too, that it doesn’t exactly complete a meal, it eradicates it.

Note: This bottle was purchased in Latvia. Bottles may differ by region.

B  / $21 / balzams.lv

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Christopher Null

Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content company.

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  1. Piotr February 4, 2011

    Its funny how it became an epitome of something awful with my friends. I get at least a bottle of it every year and I just bring it to random social gatherings. I tried drinking it in every way possible, adding it to coffee, drinks, drinking it straight. It just seems to spoil everything it mixes with.

  2. Jouko from Finland April 4, 2011

    This is actually my favorite spirit. I guess it usually takes more than one try to get used to it. :D

  3. Dace August 12, 2011

    Don`t expect that RBB would be something that you know..It is a unique product and probably people who look for sweet products or something different would never understand it.
    It is strong herbal bitter – 45%, and it is also healthy because it has 24 natural ingredients inside. What can be better in rainy and cold day – you warm up black currant juice, add some slices of lemon and orange and a little bit RBB..it will warm you up like nothing else :) natural ingredients will help against catching cold and become ill..It is perfect! :)

  4. Erwin September 2, 2012

    My old man just brought a bottle back from overseas. I loved it. Everyone has different tastes.

  5. Julius April 16, 2016

    This is my favourite spirit! I like it has personality like nothing else…

  6. Lee Harris December 18, 2017

    Please understand that this is genuine medicine not primarily made for your palate like an aperitif is. So, for women one drop in a cup of coffee will do and for men one drop of coffee in Balzams will suffice. If this is still too strong take it in hot tea.

  7. Rob February 25, 2018

    Great on vanilla ice cream.


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