Posted by: Matt Browner Hamlin | June 30, 2009

Navan Vanilla Liqueur

I’ve been looking forward to reviewing Navan Natural Vanilla Liqueur for a while now, having received a sample bottle and accompanying materials about  a month ago. Navan is a liqueur that combines natural vanilla from Madagasgar with aged French cognac. It’s made by the House of Grand Marnier, where they’ve brought their long experience to bear on this bottling.

The nose started off with a very strong scent of cognac. On second waft, though, the vanilla beans shone through. A little more time and the depth of the scent revealed itself with stronger dried fruit and honey profiles. It has a quite viscous mouth feel. The vanilla stands out up front, while towards the back of the palate there’s a stronger cognac taste. I also get an orange and cream flavor, showing the richness of this spirit. It’s quite sweet, but not unbearably so.

Before doing this tasting I experiment with Navan as an element in a tropical style drink.

White Hart Cocktail
1.5 oz gold rum (Appleton Estate VX)
1.0 oz white rum (Niesson Blanc Rhum Agricole)
4.0 oz fresh squeezed grapefruit juice
.5 oz falernum syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
.5 oz Navan Vanilla Liqueur

Combine rums, grapefruit juice, falernumm and bitters in an ice-filled cocktail shaker and give the good workout. Strain contents into a highball filled with crushed ice. Float Navan on top.

It was a fun and simple cocktail that I thought the Navan would add something to, though I can’t say it was my favorite creation ever.

CV Manhattan

CV Manhattan

For this tasting, though, I wanted to try something that evoked a more classic cocktail.

CV Manhattan

1.5 oz Jim Beam Red Stag Black Cherry Bourbon
1.0 oz Jim Beam Distillers Series 7 Year Bourbon
0.5 oz Navan Vanilla Liqueur
3 dashes Dr. Schwartz Cherry-Vanilla Bitters

Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a bourbon cherry.

What I found was that the Navan was a very sweet ingredient to mix with. I’d initially hoped that I could make this cocktail with just the Red Stag bourbon, but a 3:1 ratio proved way too sweet. Adding the regular bourbon balanced out the sweetness and the 3:2:1 ratio worked much better for this drink.

I think Navan has a lot of potential for a wide range of cocktails. Its sweetness will make it a bit of a bull in a china shop in some recipes and I certainly think most of what is on Navan’s website is going to be a bit overpowering for those who don’t want a very sweet drink. Fortunately the cognac side of Navan gives it some punch and, as I said, I look forward to seeing how else I can use this spirit in new recipes.



  1. For the CV Manhattan, try the Red Stag with Jim Beam 7-yr 80-pf Bourbon, instead of the Distiller’s Series, which is higher in proof. The spiciness of the JB7 ought to add a really nice dimension to it.

  2. That’s a good idea Joe.

    One thing that I immediately like about the Red Stag is that it allows for trying out cocktails with multiple bourbons as base. Since it’s 80 proof, it could stand alone. But having a bit more complexity and strength from a non-infused bourbon opens a lot of doors.

  3. I think i’d have to try that manhattan. sounds delicious when not too sweet.

  4. You can’t get Navan in the U.S. anymore. Have you tried Artez Arvani? It’s also natural vanilla beans in brandy (armagnac).

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