Review: California Fernet
“Created by Geijer Glögg Inc.,” California Fernet is an amaro with a story, and not just because the dog is drinking a glass. Let’s hear it:
Geijer Spirits is a San Francisco based beverage company producing hand-crafted spirits under the “California” brand that blends Scandinavian tradition with California flavors. Martin Geijer founded Geijer Spirits and started creating award-winning spirits and liqueurs using his family’s historic recipes. He immigrated from Sweden in 1994 and pursued his MBA in California, where he fell in love with the fusion of flavors and the lifestyle of the Golden State. His story started with a passion for his great grandmother’s Glögg recipe, which laid the foundation for the delicious California Fernet.
California Fernet is made with 50% less sugar than the category leader. It is handmade using 21 roots, herbs and spices that create a complex, but dry and grassy finish. Before getting bottled at 40% ABV in 750 ml glass bottles, the final product rests in large tanks until it reaches bottling mellowness.
As a man married to a Swede — and well acquainted with the world of glögg, I was anxious to give this oddity a try. So here we go.
The nose is heavy with cloves alongside a thick, Port-like raisin character — with emphasis squarely on the cloves. Classic, bitter gentian soon follows and finds its way to the wine-heavy palate, where it mingles with the cloves and a restrained sweetness to create a surprisingly pleasant — and fully bittersweet — experience. The finish is far less off-putting than you’d think — provided you’re into cloves — with a substantial note of old red wine, licorice, and a grind of black pepper adding some intrigue.
The more I sip on it, the more I like it. That said, it reminds me only moderately of glögg, namely due to the spice-heavy nose and the red wine element. The bitter palate falls somewhere between a bittersweet amaro like Averna and the overwhelmingly licorice-bitter Fernet Branca. (I’m not sure what the “50% less sugar than the category leader” refers to, but this is definitely far sweeter than Branca.) It’s altogether fun stuff, either way, and it represents a nice change of pace from both ultra-bitter Fernet Branca and more bittersweet amari on the market.
A- / $40 / geijerspirits.com