In this section I’ve bought and reviewed some of the widely available commercial limoncello products on the market. The prices varied a little but $20 for a 750ml bottle was pretty standard. I used one of my own batches as a reference batch for comparison. The batch I used was #13 (Lemon with a mint leaf) because it was a pretty good and very neutral batch on the flavor graph. I tasted it in between each of the commercial brands.
Not All Brands Are Equal
One of the biggest surprises was how different all the batches were from each other. The colors varied a lot and the flavors varied a lot. Some of this was surely due to differences in processing and possibly age, but there were also obvious differences in philosophy of how limoncello should taste. All the commercial brands tasted like they were as fresh and therefore as refreshing as my own batch. I think sitting on the shelf and making the journey from Italy is an impediment to flavor.
I like my own batches better, but then again they are customized to my palate. I did notice that my batches are on the stronger side, not as strong as the Petrone but probably stronger than the others. Though I sometimes criticize my own limoncello for having off flavors, it’s really nothing compared to this gang. There were very potent and wide-ranging off flavors in this group, a characteristic I chalk up to mass production. In sum, I found no acceptable substitute for making your own limoncello, but Luxardo (though heavy) was the closest thing I found to decent limoncello at the liquor store.
UPDATE: After a lot of tastings, I can say that there are really two distinct tiers of limoncello available on the market. There are the artisanal makers (Fabrizia, Ventura, and Rometti, that I know of so far) and the big commercial brands, which is everything else I’ve tried. The only big commercial brand I ever really liked was Danny DeVito and that is out of production now. If you can find a bottle from an artisanal producer, do it. They are just better.