Significantly different than the American version. Use 1/2 of what you used to in a recipe
Note: Noilly Prat is one of the flagship brands of vermouth (founded in 1813), especially for Martinis, and one of the few French brands available (Boissiere used to be French but is now made and bottled in Italy and significantly different in taste from what it used to be). Noilly also has the distinction of being one of the very few (if not the only) vermouth that is significantly aged.
The two varieties of wine used – picpoul and clairette (both from the Languedoc region of France) are aged separately in large 100 year-old plus Canadian oak casks to mellow for one year. (Between the age and type of wood the impact on color is minimal compared to other aging techniques).The two varieties are then separately transferred to smaller wooden casks exposed to the elements, for a further year to simulate a long sea voyage. They are then taken indoors to mellow in a cellar for a further 6 months.
After this they are finally blended together and herbs are macerated in the wine for 3 weeks with a daily stirring by hand. After filtration, the vermouth is allowed to rest for an additional 6 weeks before bottling. This particular expression has been imported to the United States only since 1978, but is much loved by it’s devotees.
Noilly is now also importing this European version to the United States much to the consternation of many and I comment on their actions here.
Other versions of Noilly Vermouth include the American Dry and anAmbre which is only available if you visit their winery in Marsellan.
Appearance: Faultless clarity, light straw yellow in appearance with just a touch of yellow/green to it. Legs and droplets on swirling
First Impression: Dry herbs,pastis/licorice, rosemary,fennel,star anise, vanilla, orange, angelica,orris root, aromatic herbs with a sweet underlay. Bouquet is MUCH more pronounced than the older American version.
Taste: Understated wormwood bitter, with pronounced wood and herbal notes, much more intense and flavorful than the other version. Finish is long with anise, fennel, angelica, chamomile,wood and spice aromatics. Overall sweeter and much more spiced than the other version with a much heavier overlay of wood and herbs. Makes the other version seem like the lite beer version of a vermouth.
Drinks: Makes an excellent and more flavorful martini. However if you are used to using the other version use 1/2 or less of what you normally would. Unlike it’s other version, it is also good as an aperitif with quite a bit of flavor. If you are looking to recreate a classic (pre 1960 at least) cocktail calling for a French dry vermouth to use, this is the one to use as this is the original formulation which would have been used in such a recipe and using the original proportions.
Other: Vermouth is an aromatized wine and as such it will spoil. Buy a 375 ml (1/2 bottle) unless you use it a lot. Refrigerate after opening and get a new bottle after 2 months or so- you and your guests will appreciate the difference !
Bottle: Unless you are blind and a double amputee you will immediately notice the difference from the other version. Complete remake from its more familiar (and to Americans older) version.The glass is 1/2 and 1/2 smooth and textured like a citrus skin giving it an easier to grip texture with the delineation between the two texture in a counterclockwise spiral.This texture is also meant to evoke the barrels sitting out in the open enclosure (see above in Notes).
Very dark green glass the color and thickness of which protect the contents from sunlight. Labeling is also substantially redone -with the neck ribbon missing, plastic rather than paper label for main body with a drawing of the courtyard and bareels. Logo added directly above the name in a one piece paper label rather than on neck tag/ribbon. Back label has also been redone badly – type is reduced to virtual unreadability except for mandated print size on warnings. Screw cap has gold band at top shoulder to further distinguish it from the other version.
Final Thoughts: Noilly has always been one of the best vermouths out there and this one is an exciting addition to their current offerings. Price is about average but the quality is outstanding.The attention to detail, distillation, (and authenticity) make Noilly Prat some of the best vermouths currently available in the US. This is a completely different animal than its clear, minimalist version.To use an analogy: it is like comparing gin to vodka. We welcome its’ return to our shores, and are excited that we finally have the means to successfully recreate all the classic cocktails that call for Dry Vermouth as it was understood back then.
A very well done quick-loading web page with a lots of information about their vermouth and its production.