I have been and still am, to say the least, super excited about Coole Swan from the moment I dug it out of my mailbox (shout out to the folks over at the Coole Swan distillery for hooking me up) and have been having a lot of people over trying it out and raving about how tasty it actually was.
With everybody, from bars to people at home, out there knowing about Baileys’, I figured it would only make sense to give both of these products an honest back-to-back review (kind of like that one small guy competing against the bigger one in a movie).
Coole Swan, a fairly new product to the market, has only been around for a couple of years and still struggles to make its way onto bar shelves as of today or really at any place carrying booze. Entirely made out of natural ingredients from bourbon vanilla pods to raw cocoa beans and fresh cream, from the Coole Swan farm (literally located right next to the distillery), they figured out a less sloppy, artisanal approach to making Irish cream and my guess is, attempted to stay away from the way of handling things some of the bigger brands are known for.
Baileys’, introduced in 1974 and, let’s face it, everybody’s IRISH CREAM or the only irish cream everybody is familiar with. Owned by the Diageo company (out of their 1200+ brands portfolio), Bailey’s comes in a lot more variety of flavors, biscuit, caramel (you name it) and is undoubtedly sold worldwide using the regular Irish cream recipe.
BOTTLE: COOLE SWAN comes in a white tall bottle along with a swan-engraved blue top, keeping it simple with a straightforward design (perhaps to make it more about the liquid inside?) BAILEYS’ has that same kind of ‘generic’ look to it with a tall black bottle along with what looks like a painting reminiscent of some Irish landscapes, which is the only thing standing out on a bottle design standpoint.
WHAT DO THEY LOOK LIKE? They both carry that same Irish cream color even though BAILEYS’ is definitely darker, not that far off from a hot chocolate color-wise as opposed to COOLE SWAN, more similar to any type of dairy based products.
WHAT DO THEY SMELL LIKE? BAILEYS’ has a really deep nutty/chocolatey nose hitting your nostrils with a fairly potent ethanol all along whereas COOLE SWAN is far more tamed (with an actual cream thickness when swirled around the glass) with a lot more components coming through at once, not standing out or taking over one another but all having their say and coming out nicely (like a democracy?)… Vanilla, chocolate as well as a slight condensed milk note to it.
WHAT DO THEY TASTE LIKE? Harsh, was the first adjective that came to mind when I first took a sip of BAILEYS’. It comes with a really thin feel to it with a lingering burn and, while it doesn’t taste awful and did draw me into going back for a second sip at first, I couldn’t get over the nasty burn I kept getting (and maybe overly sugary for an Irish cream? Just a thought).
COOLE SWAN didn’t turn out to be nearly as thin but coated my tastebuds as soon as it hit my tongue with some lovely creaminess that I wasn’t really prepared for. First off, it did trick me into thinking that I wasn’t actually drinking anything alcoholic but maybe some sweet ass coffee way ‘overcreamified’ (though we’re up to 16% ABV/Baileys’ is up to 17%) which is impressive ; Smooth, sweet but not overly sweet (minus the harsh burn) and it goes down really easily. While most people might for some reason end up overlooking the core component of a spirit, the dairy that went into the making of COOLE SWAN does stand out as freshly milked and made all the difference all the way through the tasting ; And here I am, left feeling like I just swallowed a bunch of chocolates with some leftover spices (nutmeg? clove? cinnamon?).
In a nutshell, while there is no doubt I will still be buying COOLE SWAN 20 years from now, I could still picture BAILEYS’ being used for mixing when it comes to anything calling for Irish cream just as well BAILEYS’ making it through the next hundred years as a product since both are two completely different products from beginning to end ; Hence they might be to the liking of two different kinds of palates as well? Some might be into the overall creaminess of the COOLE SWAN and some into the chocolatey/caramely heaviness of the BAILEYS’.
Last but not least, with that being said, I still like COOLE SWAN a lot better for the all around great product they managed to put together over however long it took them to come up with it and have yet to get my hands on anything beating it ; I would even go as far as saying that they did an amazing job (on top of being super-friendly people getting back to your emails). The flavor profile, texture and overall quality make COOLE SWAN the best damn Irish cream on the planet today.