For this special edition of Tasting Notes, we journey deep into the spirits realm to experience Underground Handcrafted Herbal Spirit from Ogden’s Own Distillery (Ogden, Utah).
Proudly known as “America’s First Herbal Spirit,” Underground is a liqueur featuring a blend of “33 herbs, spices and flavors” that includes notes of “cassia, angostura, anise, cardamom, gentian, yarrow, wormwood, mate, guarana, ginseng, molasses, orange oil, lemon oil, spearmint, pure cane sugar, agave and plum.” The characteristic that really sets Underground apart from other Herbal Spirits is that it is made with half the sugar than the competition. Less sugar and an elevated alcohol content (80 PROOF/40% ABV) combine to result in a “less-viscous, less-syrupy shot” that is surprisingly smooth. Boasting an “incredible versatility, complexity and taste,” Underground has been awarded a Double-Gold Medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and selected as the “Best Liqueur in the America’s” at the Spirits of the America’s Competition.
The Story Behind the Name
“The origins of Underground are as complex as the 33 herbs and flavors inside the bottle.
From the late 1800’s to the mid 1900’s, setting foot off of the train in Ogden was often a life changing experience for a transcontinental rail traveler. The train station sat as the root of the infamous Two-bit Street.
‘Any man’s desire fulfilled for two bits.’ Two-bit/25th Street was a hedonist’s paradise. With no trouble from the law, a man could gamble, drink bootleg liquor, spend time with an unfamiliar lady, smoke opium, or befall a worse fate.
Two-bit’s dens of iniquity were all connected in their basements by a network of tunnels. It is rumored that there were miles of them. One can only imagine what activities went on underground.”
Underground Herbal Spirit is available in 750ml bottles at fine liquor retailers located in Utah, Idaho and Nevada. Bottles of Underground can also be ordered online through Great American Craft Spirits (shipping available to AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, FL, HI, ID, IN, ME, MO, NE, NM, NC, OH, OK, SC, VT, VA).
With all that background information now out of way, it appears it is finally time to take a sensory tour of the Underground with some Tasting Notes!
Tasting Notes for Underground Herbal Spirit from Ogden’s Own Distillery
Appearance: Poured neat and at room temperature into a tasting glass, Underground presents itself as a deep, dark brown in color. When held to direct light, the brown hues brighten and take on a resplendent garnet tone. Dark but not opaque, light penetrates the pour to reveal that the liquid is nice and clear. A gentle swirl allows the liqueur to coat the glass with a clear slick that drops some thin, fast-moving legs.
Aroma: The aromatics open with a distinct and nostalgia-inducing presence of high-quality root beer. Notes of anise and sweet licorice then casually roll in to wrap around and complement that root beer presence. These notes largely dominate this area, but a woody, cinnamon-laced note (cassia bark) does work its way in to close out the profile.
Taste: Each sip opens with tempered notes molasses, caramelized sugar, dark stone fruit, and vanilla. The root beer, licorice and anise notes then kick in to handily bridge the gap between the sweet and herbal sides of this liqueur. Speaking of herbal, the profile closes with a lovely, balancing burst of mint, green tea, bitter wormwood, lemon and orange zest, spicy angostura bitters, and cassia bark.
Mouthfeel: Slick on the palate, Underground coats the tongue completely but without being overly syrupy. Mostly herbal and sweet, the balance struck here is quite nice and avoids being cloying. The 40% ABV is definitely noticeable, offering a pleasant warmth in the throat and belly. The finish is long and filled with root beer and a lasting cool breeze of mint.
Final Thoughts: Although it shares some similarities to one of the most popular herbal spirits out there (**cough** Jägermeister **cough), Underground quickly proves that its intentions are to establish its own identity rather than just be a carbon-copy clone. It does this in many ways, but most notably with the reduced level of sweetness. Where the other guys are syrupy and cloying, Underground is balanced, smoother and far more easy drinking (even with the higher alcohol content).
Another nice aspect of this offering is that it is far more complex but somehow more approachable. The flavors and aromas are much more relatable (see those root beer notes), avoid leaning too heavily on the anise/licorice, and the overall experience is pleasantly herbal but without being overly medicinal. All in all, this makes Underground a tasty option that you can enjoy straight (chilled or room temp) or in a wide variety of inventive shots and cocktails. If you are at all a fan of Herbal Spirits, you need to work your connections and find a way to bring the Underground to your home bar by any means necessary. Prost!