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The bottle

Symphony 6 spirit, $50

The back story

Happy 252nd birthday, Ludwig van Beethoven.

Yes, the classical great was born that many years ago — and while no one knows the actual birth date, he was said to be baptized on Dec. 17.

Still, what does this have to do with booze? It turns out that the team behind Empirical, a cutting-edge spirits brand that got its start five years ago in Denmark, are big classical-musical fans. And as they told MarketWatch via email, “Experiencing flavor is, in many ways, like listening to music and discovering new nuances every time.” So when they crafted their latest spirit, flavored with such “leafy” botanicals as citrus, coffee and fig leaves and blackcurrant buds, they found it tasted like a “complex melody” that tells a story “without uttering a word.”

In a sense, that’s like Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, often referred to as the “Pastorale,” because it too tells a story — about the power and beauty of nature — without relying on words. So Symphony No. 6, the musical work, became Symphony 6, the spirit.

Symphony 6 is one in a series of unique sips offered by Empirical.


But what kind of a spirit is this liquid ode to Ludwig? Well, that’s where it gets interesting. Empirical describes itself as a flavor company that makes “uncategorized free-form spirits” — like I said, very cutting-edge. So the company won’t say what kind of spirit Symphony 6 is. A gin? A flavored vodka? A liqueur? Your guess is as good as mine.

That’s in line with Empirical’s other spirits, which have curious names like “The Plum, I Suppose” and “SOKA.” But being free-form is perhaps good business: Empirical says its sales are doubling year over year and it’s looking to grow its presence in the U.S.

What we think it about it

If I did have to put Symphony 6 in a category, I’d say it’s closest to a gin, but without those juniper notes. The flavors are intriguing in any case. Symphony 6 is almost like an Italian-style aperitivo — a before-dinner drink — in that it does whet your appetite. The Empirical folks describe it a “distinctly musky spirit,” but one also with a “refreshing bright acidity.”

How to enjoy it

Have it chilled or with some ice. But if you’re looking to make a cocktail, try it in a gimlet-style drink, the Empirical team says.

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