Mary Pellettieri— co-founder of La Pa Pavia beverages, creators of the Top Note line— began her career at Goose Island Brewery and Coors before creating the line. Top Note Bitter Lemon has much in common with Top Note Tonic Water. Conceptually Top Note Indian Tonic Water is unusual. It sets out to complicate the bitter element of tonic water. While tonic water is usually defined by the quinine or cinchona element, Top Note adds gentian root.
Gentian root is a wonderful different type of bittering agent. It has an earthy, sweet flavor. It’s also the primary bittering agent in cocktail bitters and a variety of liqueurs and amaros including Suze and Aperol just to name a couple.
As far as I’ve tried, Top Note Bitter Lemon is the only bitter lemon on the American market to use a true bittering agent such as gentian root.
It has a nice lasting effervescence once poured. The head erupts for about 7-8 seconds, with medium-sized bubbles. But plenty of small ones stick around in the glass and slowly pop.
To the nose, Top Note Bitter Lemon has a ginger note, suggestive of ginger lemonade. It’s noticeably spicier with a more complex aroma than many other bitter lemons which take a more straightforward quinine and lemon path. That is not what Top Note Bitter Lemon is.
The palate is spicy and moderately complex. Early on ginger and cinnamon notes meld into a tart lemon with lemon oil flavor.
It lasts for a long time, before slowly fading with an Angostura bark and gentian type finish. This bitter is a little more bitter than merely adding a bitters to another bitter lemon. This one is a true palate cleansing root more akin to drinking bitters.
Top Note Bitter Lemon and Xoriguer Mahón Gin
Wet juniper and spruce on the nose, with a bit of lemon and spice in the background. These two nicely complement each other.
The sagey-camphorous notes of the Xoriguer still glow strongly in the mouth, but that gentian cools it off. This reminds me a bit of a note of mint bitters in your gin and tonic.
Overall, Top Note Bitter Lemon
It’s appreciably more complex than many other bitter lemons on the market. Because of that you’re going to get a more complex drink and therefore have more to consider— Top Note’s Bitter Lemon works nicely with juniper forward and citrus-forward contemporary style gins. More bold flavors in your gin will cover up the subtle spice notes.
Overall I think your opinion of this bitter lemon will come down to whether you like the Gentian bitterness. The drink is well made and the flavors work. I like the gentian note because it is unusual in gin; however, not everyone is as big of a fan.
Recommended in its category.