I’m a little bit ashamed to admit it, a little bit proud – I never had a SoCo phase in my youthful drinking days. This may seem remarkable for a boy who grew up in Memphis and now lives in Georgia, but I went from Bartles & Jaymes (did I just type that?) to Absolut to Jagermeister, then somehow, thankfully, latched onto good bourbon. So I tend to approach Southern Comfort with a blank slate (though a negative blank slate, as you’ll see a few paragraphs down). No seared-in-my-brain memories of frat parties gone bad. No happy memories of hanging out in the parking lot before a big game, though, either.
Now, Tabasco, that I am a fan of. They make a great product, or two. They sometimes make a good Super Bowl commercial. They have a wonderful history in Louisiana. But, while I’m known to douse quite a few things with Tabasco, whiskey is not one of them.
When I received a sample of Southern Comfort Fiery Pepper – I was extremely skeptical. Southern Comfort? I wouldn’t touch the stuff normally. Isn’t it basically whiskey flavored alcohol? Honestly, I’m still not sure exactly what Southern Comfort is. And Southern Comfort seems to like it that way. On the label they call this one “an original concoction” and that seems fitting. Actually, down further on the label, it reads, “liqueur and whiskey with natural flavors and caramel color.” Deliciously evasive. So, my best hope for this bottle was that it could be horrible in historic ways. Or the Tabasco could actually make the SoCo palatable. The truth is somewhere in the middle.
So, on to the tasting notes:
Southern Comfort Fiery Pepper
“An Original Concoction”
Approx. $15 Retail
Tasting Date: October 31, 2011
SoCo Pepper is a nice copper/amber in the glass. Swirl it around, then take a deep sniff. A heady dose of chili peppers hits your first, then a more vegetal green pepper note, then red hots, then … here’s where the “maybe I’m crazy” comes on strong… sweet grape soda. What!? It’s true. Try it. And once I smell that grape soda, that’s all I can get. Sugary grape soda, with some red hots sprinkled in. Not promising, is it?
When you take a sip, SoCo Pepper first hits as smooth and sweet, a bit of that sickly grape soda, then some Tabasco-ish heat comes on and carries through over layers of caramel popcorn and more grape soda into a long, mouth-tingling finish with flashes of cinnamon and more red hots. It’s remarkably smooth alcohol-wise. Well, maybe not so remarkably since it’s just 70 proof. The burn it does have comes across as more of a spice burn than a heat (alcohol) burn. And, you know what? I kinda like it. It’s weird as heck. It feels like I should be in the back parking lot of a pawn shop swigging it from a brown paper bag. But I kinda like it.
Fair, on the way to Good Stuff* (if you happen to be in the back parking lot of a pawn shop). This is crazy stuff, a ridiculous gimmick, a melding of Southern flavors high and low. And that’s why I like it.
* Thirsty South Rating Scale:
Wow – among the very best: knock-your-socks-off, profound, complex liquid gold!
Excellent – exceptional in quality and character, worth seeking out, highly recommended
Good Stuff – solid expression of its type/varietal, enjoyable and recommended
Fair – fairly standard or exhibiting obvious though minor flaws
Avoid – move away folks, nothing to see here, a trainwreck
Full Disclosure: this bottle was provided as a tasting sample