So I thought I'd hunt out something special. There's no brand name or title on this bottle, just PELINKOVAC (which is the type of liqueur) and bottling information, with a drawing of a feudal-era Slavic girl offering you a bottle (which, inexplicably, is also named in English like a weird, Escherian recursive hooch label). There was only one bottle left at the local ABC store, and a sign under it reading "Discontinued." Plus, I don't even know what a Croatian apertif is doing here in Carolina, so for all I know I've got the only bottle in the state. I've never seen it anywhere before-- never even heard of Pelinkovac, period --and when I saw that strange, lonely bottle I knew there was nothing in the world I wanted to review more.
Pelinkovac is, according to the sources I looked up, a liqueur native to Serbia, Croatia, and the Bosnian region, traditionally distilled from wormwood (which, in Ukrainian, is chernobyl-- the first of many good signs) and flavored with herbs and various bitters. It seems like it's sort of the Serbo-Croatia-Bosnian answer to Malort, which, given Malort's reputation, seems like a very, very, very, bad idea.
|Serbia's answer to Mario, for comparison.|
It's colored with caramel, so I really shouldn't even talk here. That said, from looking up some legitimate brands, it seems like Pelinkovac should be darker than this. The liquid inside the generic bottle is fairly translucent with an amber, slightly orange tint to it. It's the consistency of water, so it's not sluggish or strangely thick, which is simultaneously reassuring and disappointing. I should be happy it looks so threatening, but I'm a little worried that it's not even stranger-- its attempts at normalcy, besides being artificial, don't really hide anything, they just make me a little more afraid.
Man, considering the last 3 reviews have been vodka, cheap tequila-soda, and malt liquor, I'm honestly lucky to have something that has a real aroma to talk about. Because, trust me, there is an aroma here. There's a really strong cinnamon note-- hot, spicy cinnamon, like in Big Red or Goldschlager. But there's a lot of really herbal and fruit flavors under it: fennel, anise, pear, and pepper all spring to mind. There's also some of that savory bitterness that I assume must be the wormwood (or vermut in German-- hence vermouth! I'm gonna get that funding yet!), since it's also really prevalent in the absinthe I've had. It's a shame the cinnamon is so strong, because the rest of these flavors are actually kinda nice, but the cinnamon is really intense--clearly more than it should be in bottles that don't cost ten dollars --and also smells really candy-like and artificial. Given that I really like the other scents there, this overpowering artificial aroma is the equivalent of taking a talented, subtle actor and wrapping him in pancake makeup and distractingly over-the-top costume work.
|Goddammit Tim Burton stop doing that to your friend. Also get another friend.|
First the good news: the artificial atomic-fireball-cinnamon flavor is not nearly as strong in sipping as it is in smelling.
Bad news: this stuff is not good to you.
It honestly doesn't taste that bad; it may be the most palatable thing I've reviewed (short of the beers) for this blog. There's a lot of the herbal flavors there that Jagermeister and absinthe have, but it's not as syrupy-sweet as the former or as licorice-y as the latter. It's a lot more bitter than either, though, and that's where the bad news comes in.
Wormwood, apparently, is a fairly lasting flavor, because after everything else fades there's this really strong woody bitterness that lurks around the back of your throat.
|Silly Internet, that's not what I meant!|