Saturday, 11 January 2014

Alternative Bailey's's... Irish Country Cream vs Carolan's

I like Irish Cream, you like Irish Cream… but out of all the brands out there; which is the best? Baileys is the undisputed king – in fact, we always call it “Baileys” even if it’s a completely different brand we’re drinking – but is there a better one? Sadly I can’t get every brand in at once and do a comparative tasting, but I can make it my mission to try them all and arrange them into a hierarchy. That’s the very least I could do.

We’ve already had Aldi’s Ballycastle and Ballycastle Premium, the original Baileys and a budget brand from Tesco going by the name of Irish Meadow, but now I’ve come into possession of a couple more – Irish Country Cream and Carolan’s.

Irish Country Cream - yellowy
Let’s take a look at Irish Country Cream first. This is another budget brand you can pick up from Tesco (£5.45 for 70cl at 14.5%). It comes in a typical Irish cream style bottle (the dark, squat spirit kind) with an uninteresting label. Everything about this murmurs ‘low quality’. But we’re not going to just make that assumption without trying it.

My suspicions were confirmed when I poured my first measure. The liqueur looks yellowy and unappetising. Worse than that, it tastes bitter on the palate. It’s not so bad in strong coffee, but for drinking over ice I’m going to need something a bit better. Luckily I drink a fair amount of coffee with Irish cream in it.

This is the worst Irish Cream yet.

At the other end of the spectrum (though not as far along as Baileys) you have Carolan’s, which at £14.50 (also for 70cl of 14.5 ABV) has to be considered a premium brand. Again, the bottle shape is fairly typical (and dark glass), but the label is very much classier, evoking the aesthetic of a decent Irish pub.

In the glass, the colour conforms to regulations but there is something very much more unique when you get to the tasting. There is something a bit caramelly about it. I don’t know if any of the various other Baileys flavours would be similar (one to try in the future), but that’s definitely what I’m getting. It really is quite pleasant.

There is a drawback however with Carolan’s, and that is that it doesn’t work so well in coffee – you get used to it after a while, but I’d opt for the Premium Ballycastle for that purpose.

So where does that leave us? It leaves us with the Premium Ballycastle still being my favourite brand for both my regular uses. I doubt I’ll buy the Carolan’s again with that upper echelon price tag, and I won’t be buying the Country Cream again inspite of its budget tag. Every penny of that saving can be tasted, and better spent on a Ballycastle – premium or standard.

All that remains now is to get an original Bailey’s and a premium Ballycastle, and see who is the champion once and for all. Join me for that... some time in the future.

This round's winner; Carolan's

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