Tasting Video #16

Mar 26, 2024 |

I had an amazing time sitting down with Eric from onesixfive on YouTube to taste two tiny bottles. First up, Opal Nera Black Sambuca, which was not at all what either of us were expecting. And then Martell Cognac, the first of my growing pile of brandies, and for which Eric shared some unusual mixing tips.

Prefer to read than watch? Check out the transcript under the video.



Tammy: All right, I remain optimistic. Cheers.

Eric: Cheers.

After Opening

Tammy: Hello and welcome to My Tiny Bottles, the project where I’m exploring my grandmother’s legacy of miniature liquor bottles, one tiny bottle at a time. I’m your host, Tammy Coxen and today I’m in Chicago with my guest, Eric Williams. Eric, tell us about yourself.

Eric: Good evening, Tammy. My name is Eric. I have a YouTube channel called onesixfive that I’ve maintained almost since the birth of YouTube and it runs the gamut food, drink, cooking, Chicago history, urban exploration, travel, cycling. French macrame. Just kidding! That’s about it.

Tammy: That’s going to be your next thing French macrame.

Eric: Yeah, it’s going to be huge.

Tammy: Well, I describe Eric as my biggest YouTube fan. I appreciate your comments on all of my posts. It’s been really great getting to know you through that. And so when I was coming to Chicago, I was like, hey, do you want to taste a bottle with me? And you have some experience tasting weird things.

Eric: I do. I, I’m still into craft beer, but I was really, really obsessive about it. Maybe, 12, 15 years ago I went to any tasting that I could possibly find. If I was traveling and there was a brewery within 100 miles I would go completely out of my way and day drink and carry around a notebook and all the things that beer nerds do. I’ve curtailed that a bit. I still drink that beer, but I’m not as obsessive.

Tammy: Yeah, that’s me and distilleries. If there’s a distillery anywhere near where I’m vacationing, I’m gonna go there and check it out

Eric: I know, and 200 miles is near right?

Tammy: Yeah, sometimes. All right, so I asked you, I was like, what do you want to taste? And you’re like, I’m just game for anything. You commented on this episode about Opal Nera Black Sambuca and I think we both share a distaste, shall I say, for licorice flavored things. Not a fan?

Eric: I’ve had regular Sambuca. What would you call that? Like white Sambuca? Light Sambuca?

Tammy: White.

Eric: Yeah, so I’ve had white Sambuca maybe two or three times in my life, the last time being 20 years ago. I remember tasting it because no one told me that it was anise flavored. And you look at it and you think vodka or like a neutral spirit or something. And you mentioned that white Sambuca is heavily sweetened and I wouldn’t have said that, but that’s so true. It’s drinkable in that way. The flavour is kind of cloying. Then again, I never probably had quality white Sambuca either.

Tammy: I’m Not sure how much quality there is in Sambuca…

Tammy: This one was kind of invented when this guy from Italy was working with Hiram Walker and they wanted him to make a coffee sambuca or a coffee liqueur and he was like, oh no no I want to do this black Sambuca and pitched them on this other dark color. So as far as we know it has elderberry in it and lemon and then of course a lot of licorice flavor which I’m not excited about, but…

Eric: The big question for me is and you probably know the answer, I’m guessing elderberries taste nothing like elderflower.

Tammy: Very true.

Eric: Yeah, obviously. Like St Germain is light amber and this is black and purple

Tammy: Right they are they are really dark

Eric: You showed a picture of the fruit in the in the video, So yeah

Tammy: I’m going to give you the duty of trying to unscrew it, because about half the time I try to undo these little bottles I fail so I…

Eric: Wow, that is a little…  they don’t give you much to grip onto is the problem

Tammy: That’s right

Eric: Well you need to like carry channel locks in your bag. I gotta do the shirt trick. Why is that so hard? Oh, it started to crack…

Tammy: See, this is what always open.

Eric: Oh, there we go. I got it.

Tammy: I heard the crack. Yeah. Insert opening montage here…

Eric: It’s a little crusty.

Eric: All right, so when you first introduced it when I was watching the video and I saw that it was a dark Sambuca, my first thought was that…

Tammy starts pouring and looks startled

Eric: Sediment? Funny looking?

Tammy: It’s just a little sludgier than I expected, go on.

Eric: So, I assumed it would be coffee flavored because I’ve seen that like people garnish white Sambuca go with coffee beans, which I don’t understand since it’s not coffee flavored. But I just assumed okay here we go, this is the coffee tie in but then it’s actually not coffee related.

Tammy: No, right. Doesn’t actually smell bad.

Eric: No, it doesn’t. I mean that first hits got the jet fuel thing of course, but even through that I’m getting pit fruit, little bit of a cough syrupy type of the thing.

Tammy: I get a lot less licorice than I thought, right? Like I came into this really worried about anise flavored and liquoricey.

Eric: I am getting that, you’re not?

Tammy: I mean, I am, I get it but it I guess it’s um, less than I expected.

Eric: It’s almost like a little bluish. It’s not really black when you see it in the glass. Around the edges It is purply bluish.

Tammy: Yeah, if I hold that to the light, but to me it’s pretty dark.

Eric:  You can see why they would call it black. The aroma is not terrible at all. I mean, I don’t think I would order this or want a bottle, but that’s, that’s fine.

Tammy: All right, I remain optimistic. Cheers.

Eric: Cheers.

They both drinks. Tammy looks startled and smiles.

Eric: Nice mouth feel.

Tammy: Yeah.

Eric: Ooh, that’s got a thing at the end almost like a menthol type thing. Maybe that’s the lemon?

Tammy: Maybe… Yes. (nodding)

Eric: Yeah, something through the nose at the end there. I got the licorice or maybe the elderberry up front but then there’s like a winter green or a menthol something that burns the nose at the end.

Tammy: So I got like an initial hint of licorice and then I was like, oh it’s fruity, it’s kind of nice, I like it and then I got hit with what I think you’re describing. Which I initially reacted to as soap. And then when you said lemon, I was like, oh yeah, that’s the lemon peel.

Eric: I know they’re supposed to be lemon in here somewhere, so I’m just grasping and straws looking for the lemon.

Tammy: Yeah. It is so thick and I don’t know if it started that way or if there’s been some evaporation. Definitely one of the better liqueurs that I’ve tried.

Eric: That’s what I’m thinking. if you said you didn’t like this I’d be shocked.

Tammy: No, this is actually really tasty.

(sips again)

Tammy: Definitely thick.

Eric: That thing at the end is just weird. I don’t know if that’s lemon or what that is

Tammy tilts her head and has a disgusted look on her face.

Tammy: Yeah, I don’t know

Eric: Or if that’s some product of UV light for the past 30 years.

Tammy: No UV light, it’s a completely opaque bottle.

Eric: I wasn’t sure if it was. Is that glass or plastic?

Tammy: Glass.

Hands him the bottle.

Eric: I had it in my hand and I still couldn’t tell. Okay.

Eric: If it’s the lemon or whatever that other thing is, they could have just left that out. I think that the combination of the licorice and the elderberry totally works from what I can discern from this, and whatever other components are in there, they’re just fouling it up a little bit.

Tammy: Yeah, and then you just like get this kind of lemon Pledge thing

Eric: It’s the lateness of it is the thing, and it’s just straight through the nose. It’s not an alcohol thing.

Tammy: But I’m like, I’m having a good time. I’m like, oh, this is a good one. And then boom!

Eric: This really would work with like club soda or even something it probably would get rid of some of that harshness?

Tammy: We could water it down a little.

Eric: That’s not a bad idea. Here, give me a hint. (Tammy splashes water into glasses) Thank you. Yeah, you could really see the bluish purpleishness. I like the color a lot. It’s funny now, that harsh component in the nose seems to be stronger with water. Maybe it opened it up. Maybe it’ll pass.

Tammy: It doesn’t taste as bad though for me. I’m not getting, I don’t get it on the nose. I get it like the on middle of my tongue where I just kind of like go, oh what was that! But I actually get a little less.

Eric: I think you’re right.

Tammy: It’s so pretty the way it’s got that kind of purple edge to it. Alright.

Eric: Were there are other black Sambucas like commercially available or in the store?

Tammy: Probably are, I haven’t looked for that.

Eric: I would think you would be aware of their existence and if you’re not then the answer will probably be no.

Tammy: This one does describe itself as the Original Black Sambuca so that would imply that they’re trying to differentiate from other people in the market.

Eric: And when was that, early nineties?

Tammy: 90s, yes.  think 88 or 89 is kind of when the meeting happens and the product maybe it gets underway but 90s is when it really sells. And then in the early 2000s it’s in an article about marketing to homosexuals. It was apparently very popular in the gay community.

Eric: I remember that.

Tammy: Which is good. It’s fun looking! I can totally see that.

Eric: Well that’s interesting because I read an article a long time ago about Fernet. That the most Fernet in the country is, maybe you know this already is drank where?

Tammy: San Francisco.

Eric: Yes. That San Francisco has an obsession with Fernet and I read this article and I thought I have to try this now. And I went out and bought a bottle. Maybe that… there’s something slightly Fernet-ish to this.

Tammy: Sure

Eric: If I gave that to you, would you go, oh, I think it’s some kind of Sambuca or would you be like, this is a Fernet rip-off.

Tammy: It’s not bitter enough to be an Amaro.

Eric: Okay, it’s been too long since I had some.

Tammy: I mean, Fernet has definitely got that bitterness, but that kind of menthol effect that you talk about that kind of makes sense.

Tammy: I wonder it would be like mixed with Fernet. No, that would be good.

Eric: No, that would be harsh.

Tammy: So I had picked two bottles for us because I was expecting that we would need a reward for having drunk this one.

Eric: I’m excited for my reward.

Tammy: Yeah. So, so let’s set these ones aside. Definitely don’t want to pour anything else into those glasses. And pull out a couple more.

Tammy: So I am a accumulating quite an array cognac and brandies in general. All different countries, all different styles. But this is the first of the that I discovered for Grandma’s collection. It was Bottle #7, if I’m remembering correctly. This is Martell Cognac. And I’ll let you take a look at the bottle if you want to check it out. Nice looking bottle. It’s got 70 proof on it. And this was the first bottle I think that I looked at that I was like 70 proof, and I was like how does that work? Or maybe the second. And that’s this whole weird British thing about how they…

Eric: I know, I’ve learned about that from you.

Tammy: Yeah. So it’s great. I actually really like it because it’s a fabulous way to start to date the bottle and kind of figure out when things came from.

Tammy: But that is pretty much all I know about it. You know, it’s one of the big Cognac houses, so I think I spent this episode mostly explaining to people what cognac is. Because in my cocktail classes that I teach that’s one of the things I found, people just don’t understand brandy. Nobody knows what it is, why would they want to drink it? It’s delicious. How about you? Are you a cognac fan? Brandy fan? What’s your experience?

Eric: I don’t know how much experience I have with brandy but I do have experience with Cognac and remarkably Martell is the first cognac probably that I ever tried, maybe in the early 2000s. Via my dad which is funny because he is not a drinker at all and he got a bottle as a gift and then gave it to me or I had access to it and I was in my early 20s and just drank anything that was available, including drain cleaner. And he mentioned, yeah, it’s good with 7-Up, or someone told me.

Tammy: Wow.

Eric: And the thing that does work about that is I think that for people that don’t enjoy brandies, it could be a bit harsh and club soda or a 7-Up, you discover the grape. I mean these are just distilled wines basically which is made from grapes. It doesn’t taste like grapes or wine initially but certain things do kind of release its grape fury. So I don’t feel like Martell gets any love anymore. I mean the other ones, I think a lot of people would say they had never heard of Martell.

Tammy: Yeah

Eric: And they’ve heard of Hennessy and Courvoisier, but not Martel.

Tammy: Right, and it was one of the big four. Well, we’ll give it some love today.

Eric: I see it the angels have not taken their share in how ever many years.

Tammy: Pretty full.

Eric: I did notice it was uncracked, though.

Tammy: It wasn’t. So it was interesting I started turning it I was like oh somebody’s already opened this and then right at the end it went crick crick crick. So I think it was sealed but maybe just knocked around. They were not stored well, right? Just literally bins.

Tammy: All right, so I don’t know much about Martel like it’s not a cognac that I drink regularly, not that I drink much Cognac regularly.

Eric: I did have some Hennessy and eggnog on Christmas. It’s a Christmas tradition. I mean that is just a match made in heaven. That works so, so well on every level. You can put give that to anyone.

Eric: This aroma is so not harsh at like the black Sambuca. This has obviously has aged well, or you say it was stored poorly, I feel like it was stored wonderfully. You could get your nose right up in there. That is not, that’s not super boozy. That’s not super fusely or harsh. That’s

Tammy: Well that’s what you know that people look to Cognac for over just sort of generic brandy, is that it should be smoother and more refined.

Eric: This is refined. I’m, I get the barrel there. It’s nice.  The color looks beautiful.

Tammy: It’s lovely. I’m not getting a ton of nose, but that just might be me. And I’ve also said with some of these bottles… The last brandy I opened, it was a Spanish brandy. At first it didn’t really smell like anything and then as we sort of sat around with it, swirled it a little…

Eric: I told you you need to get the world smallest decanter. Just for your tiny bottle.

Tammy: But then we wouldn’t get that satisfying crack, right? If I was pre-opening them to aerate them.

Eric: Well, we could aerate it right now.

Tammy: I could just shake it around. (pantomimes shaking bottle)

Tammy Definitely nose coming up here really just, yeah nice and mellow and chill. I wouldn’t say it…

Eric: I’ve never probably drank Cognac straight ever.

Tammy: You’ve really only ever drank it in 7-Up?

Eric: In 7-Up, in eggnog in something… I haven’t drank a ton in my life, but that’s that’s nice.

Tammy: All right, well, let’s do it. cheers.

Eric: Let’s do it

They toast and drink.

Tammy: Mmm. That was a nice gift I gave us.

Eric: You, you pulled out two great bottles. You, you like warned me or scared me that you were gonna pull out some toxic waste from the 70s. These are perfectly serviceable, if not good. Again, the Sambuca. I don’t think I would want to drink again and again, but that was a wonderful sample.

Tammy: Right, I’m thrilled to have tried it. This one I’m thrilled to be drinking as well as to have tried it. It’s not, I mean there’s nothing I would say stands out tremendously much about it. It’s a really nice smooth easy drinking Cognac. It’s got… you say you taste the grape when you put it in 7-Up, but here I get that too.

Eric: I’m not, no.

Tammy: I think on the finish I get this like, this really nice the thing I associate with brandy, well with Cognac, I guess.

Eric: I drink whiskey more than anything, bourbon specifically so there’s a parallel here this is almost like a jumping off point for someone that is like me, because they’re barrel aged. So you’re gonna get some kind of wood in both. It’s a stepping stone.

Eric: I’m actually I mean I’m enjoying this drinking it straight and neat which I never would do. I do that with whiskey but I would laugh to think if someone said do you want to do that with Cognac. I suddenly kind of get it like why people do it now.

Tammy: I was going to say that surprises me because I think that’s what most people think of you put it in the snifter and you sit by the fire

Eric: Exactly, right, and I kind of scoffed at that. Not that it’s not a legitimate thing but it’s not my thing. But now it kind of is my thing.

Tammy: It could be.

Tammy: Well, that was a surprise. And a delight. And a surprise and a delight and a little bit of lemon pledge but you know… You didn’t get the lemon Pledge?

Eric: In the Sambuca? Yeah it was an unknown chemical warfare agent

Tammy To me if it’s citrusy and chemical warfare that it’s lemon Pledge.


Tammy: All right, well thank you so much for joining me. Where can people find you?

Eric: YouTube, onesixfive. And there I am.

Tammy: And the next thing you’re doing is macrame.

Eric: It’s gonna be huge. It’s trending.

Tammy: And you can find me of course at @mytinybottles on all the social medias and at mytinybottles.com for information about the project, history, podcast episodes, video links, all of the stuff is there, so check that out at mytinybottles.com. Don’t forget to hit subscribe, drop a like, leave comments like Eric does and maybe you too will someday find yourself invited to taste a bottle.

Tammy: In the meantime, cheers.

Tammy noticed Eric’s glass is empty

Tammy: Do I need to top you off?

Eric: Well, I won’t say no.

Tammy: Hold on. Can’t cheers with an empty glass.

Eric: Thank you so much.

Tammy: All right.

Both: Cheers.


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