In the world of Weird Soda, there is an interesting dim, dusty corner--the Sodas Which Dare Not Speak Their Names. These are the ones whose names are neither descriptive nor--at least to the provincial rubes such as myself--well-known enough to need no description. (Coca-Cola, for example, is familiar enough that I don't need to speculate on its taste).
The other day*, while investigating an international market in Vista, I came across just such a coy bottle. It identified itself as "Duchess". The possibility of a Duchess-flavored soda being too tantalizing to be realistic, I had to investigate further.
This one, however, doesn't play too hard-to-get. Beneath the "Duchess" appelation is a picture of pears.
Duchess here at the lab. Ultrafine tweezers, breadboard, and multimeter added for scientific credibility.
Unless this is a clever scheme to lull the imbiber into a false sense of security, and then spring an unsuspected and breathtaking flavor upon his or her unprepared palate**, it seems safe to assume that this beverage will be pear-flavored. Now, personally, I like pears. One of my favorite sodas (the Sweet Blossom Elderflower) was reminiscent of a pear cream soda. I still have memories of that one which make be break out in a light sweat...
Er. Yes. Duchess. Anyway, pears. Good.
Well, this might be nice. I should further note that there is additional text on the bottle, but alas, it is unintelligibe to me. High on the bottle is a label which bears the inscription "Napitki IZ Chernogolovki", which seems Slavic. Come, let us consult the Google.
I put in the text and request an Armenian to English translation.
Okay...let's try Russian to English.
No luck again...but interestingly, it makes a suggestion. "Did you mean Напитки ИЗ Черноголовки?"
Um...I'm not sure. Did I? Sure.
"Drinks from Chernogolovka".
Well, that seems like a likely possibility. And lo, further investigation reveals that Chernogolovka is, in fact, a small Russian town not far from Moscow.
Which--ah, what joy!--is a major center of Russian science, and houses research institutes in chemistry, physics, "physiologically active compounds", and experimental mineralogy.
Wikipedia also confirms that this town is home to several beverage manufacturers, including Napitki iz Chernogolovki.
Where and when: purchased October 2010 at the International Food Company, Vista, CA
Color: Pale yellow. Maybe slightly oily-looking?
Scent: Hmmm. Maybe slightly pear-ish, but floral more than anything. A very sweet scent, like gum, with a pleasant fruity note.
Taste: Surprisingly complex. Here's what happens: We begin with a cool, ever-so-slightly minty smooth flowerish sweet flavor. Pearlike flavors are present, but competing with a strong sugary tone. Slightly heady, oddly liquorlike feeling.
This is followed by the development of some acidity, which actually makes it more pearlike.
The acidity fades, and there is finally a sense of fruit and flowers, with a strong candy-like feeling. It's sort of the soda version of a pear Jolly Rancher.
Quaff rating: 3.5. Pleasant and pearlike.
Cough rating: 0.5. The acidity is undesirable.
* A phrase which here means "a day which is not the current day", and can refer to any day or days within the last two years. The common usage of the phrase to refer to a day within the last few days is far too limiting.
**Sort of like Bertie Bott's Every-Flavor Beverage, or something. "Argh! Jalapeno!"
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