Here we are again, time for another liqueur review! This time I’m reviewing a liqueur from Germany called Kabänes Halbbitter. (As a side note, if you see the second “A” in Kabanes without an umlaut accent over it, as it has on the label, you’ll see it expressed as Kabaenes.)
We purchased this bottle in 2015 in Cologne, Germany. Coincidentally, that’s also where it’s manufactured. A company called Flimm makes this liqueur. They also make fruit and cream liqueurs and other spirits. The company got its start in 1921, when owner Carl Flimm opened three wine and spirits shops in Cologne. In 1928 they started making their own spirits based on in-house recipes. However, all three shops were destroyed during the Second World War. Instead of re-building, the company moved to selling wholesale.
Kabänes was first created in 1952, and it quickly gained a following. Kabänes is a herbal liqueur, similar to Jagermeister. As you can see on the label, it says “halbbitter,” which at its most literal means “half-bitter”. But it is also translated as “semi-sweet”. Krauterlikor means “herbal liqueur,” which is also synonymous with half-bitters, or any digestif-style herbal liqueur.
Unfortunately the website and bottle don’t offer a lot of additional information on Kabänes Halbbitter itself. The back of the bottle explains that it’s been around for over 60 years, and is based on an original Flimm family recipe. It’s usually enjoyed after a meal or with beer. The blend of exquisite herbs, fruits and spices give it its unique flavour.
Kabänes Halbbitter comes in four sizes; a 1.0 litre bottle, the 0.71 litre as above, 40 ml “dwarf” bottles, and 20 ml “miniflasches”. Most liqueurs don’t come in such a variety of sizes as this one does. But for a digestif, offering it in smaller “doses” makes a world of sense.
Since there isn’t much more to say about the history or background of this liqueur, let’s move on to the good bit: the tasting!
Now unfortunately I don’t have any Jagermeister lying around so I can’t do a side-by-side comparison, this is just on the merits of Kabänes Halbbitter alone.
The colour is more pale than you would expect. The dark green bottle makes the liqueur inside appear almost black. But in reality, it’s about the colour of medium-strength black tea:
The fragrance is mild. You definitely get the herbal notes, including a bit of liquorice or anise (two notes which I still have trouble differentiating between). But the alcohol is soft and subtle on the nose. It doesn’t burn your nostrils like some liqueurs, although it is 30.2%. There’s also a sweetness, and something else. Maybe chocolate?
Interestingly, although the alcohol doesn’t come across in the fragrance, it does hit you when you drink it. It’s not as smooth as some other herbal liqueurs. After a few sips though, that initial alcohol burn dissipates. You’re left with a lot of orange rind, bitter herbs, liquorice and yes, there is a hint of something chocolatey in the mix.
Kabänes Halbbitter mellows out nicely, but has a nice lingering aftertaste. I could really see saving this one for Christmas dinner and sharing it with family and friends. It just has a festive vibe going on. Maybe it’s that combination of oranges and chocolate that makes me think of the holidays. That’s not a bad combo to have, though!
If Kabänes Halbbitter liqueur isn’t your thing, the Flimm company does make several other liqueurs that might tickle your fancy. Their extensive production list includes other herbal liqueurs, cream liqueurs, fruit liqueurs, and clear spirits as well.
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