Domaine de Canton

domaine de canton bottle

$$ — 28% ABV — Ginger

Domaine de Canton looks bizarre at first, but begins to make sense the more you learn about it. Modeled after a bamboo plant, the bottle is an homage to the brand's roots as a product of French Indochina. The modern recipe has changed greatly and is now made in France down the street from many cognac houses, but most of its flavors are distinctly Asian. While Canton is branded as French, it's nice to see it hasn't been completely Franc-ified.

To say Canton is a ginger liqueur is a large simplification. It is made principally with Vietnamese ginger but is also flavored with vanilla, ginseng and orange blossom honey. It is fortified with both aged and unaged brandy, adding an even greater syrupy quality. Canton still tastes like candied ginger, but the spiciness is greatly cut back by these other very floral flavors. For a truly spicy flavor, it's better to use fresh ginger syrup.

The vibrant and pale yellow color is unadulterated, believe it or not. Ginger and honey both are so beautifully colored, why mask it? Most dyes people complain about are proved to taste like nothing, but it's said we eat with our eyes first — and it's no stretch to say we drink with them too. It's lovely to see the array of colors in the spirits world and we never get that when coloring is allowed.

Heaven Hill recently — as in summer 2014 — purchased Domaine de Canton, no doubt because it goes so damn well with bourbon. Their official website suggests a simple equal parts mix. This might be a bit ham-fisted, but the logic is sound. With bourbon continuing to explode in popularity, expect a lot to happen in the bar scene with Canton in the coming months and years.

Domaine de Canton is located in Jarnac, Poiteau-Charentes in western France. Revived in 2007 by John Cooper, it is now owned by Heaven Hill.