It's time for this month's vermouth round up aka The Italian Edition aka The David A. Kaplan Edition (no, not THAT David Kaplan). I was able to snag four bottles that have eluded me for a while and I'm excited to share my findings and opinions.
As a fan of Foro's amaro, my expectations have been set pretty high for their vermouth. I'm unfamiliar with the Florentino brand and I wonder how many times I've simply overlooked their products on account of the labeling blending in with lesser products like Gallo and Tribuno on the dusty bottom shelves of Brooklyn wine and spirits shops. *Spoiler Alert* (Florentino's products are incomparably better)
In the past I've simply updated my tasting guides as I acquire new bottles, but moving forward I'll also be highlighting the fortified wines I pick up in monthly round-ups like this one. If you see a bottle of vermouth at your local liquor store that I don't have notes for, feel free to shoot me an e-mail with the name of the vermouth so I may research it and work on acquiring it.
Reader donations (via the subtle PayPal link at the bottom of the page *wink*) have gone directly toward buying new vermouth to round out these guides. This month's tasting was made possible by a damn fine gent and cocktail enthusiast who I can't wait to shake/stir something up for whenever we can safely return to bars.
If you're new to the world of vermouth, check out my Introduction to Vermouth post to learn some basics, introduce yourself to some of the terminology used, and get a general overview of how these guides are structured (and why). Then join me back here to get into the details!
Florentino Extra Dry
Producer: Giacome Sperone I.VI.S. Spa
Wine Base: N/A
Known Botanicals: wormwood
Nose: coriander, cumin, lemon, orange, vanilla, fennel, cinnamon, cinchona
Palate: cinchona, lemon, orange, gentian, coriander, white pepper, tarragon, cinnamon
Finish: lemon, faint wormwood, thyme, white tea, licorice, cinchona, cinnamon
Additional Notes: Faint straw yellow color. Very little sugar, but an oily body to compensate. Herbaceous backbone typical of Italian dry vermouth, but notably brighter and sharper with a nice cinchona bite.
This one didn't impress me much out of the gate, but after a few hours it really opened up and I fell for it. Herbaceous and very bright with lots of acidic citrus and green apple to brighten the palate. There is a marked quinine thread throughout. It's as dry as you would expect, but still retains a satisfying enough mouthfeel.
It makes for a bright and balanced Martini, with a nice underlying bitterness that keeps the cocktail lively from start to finish. It also made for an incredibly delicious Improved Vermouth Cocktail - one of the best I can recall having in a while actually. I will say I found the shelf life on this one to be on the shorter side. After being open for a week, the nose turned and I found the whole thing a tad unpalatable.
Producer: Giacome Sperone I.VI.S. Spa
Wine Base: N/A
Known Botanicals: wormwood
Nose: cumin, cinnamon, vanilla, licorice, orange, rhubarb, gentian, cherry, almond
Palate: orange, cinchona, wormwood, cinnamon, vanilla, marjoram, cherry, gentian
Finish: clove, cacao, wormwood, vanilla, cinchona, orange, cinnamon
Additional Notes: Light red-brown color. Wonderfully bitter and confectionary. Medium body. Dilution brings more acidity, cutting the baking spices and bolstering the bitterness. Prominent cinchona.
It's very typically Italian with lots of bitter herbs and the always reliable cinnamon/vanilla baking spice combo. What sets it apart is the very pronounced quinine flavor. It's almost like it wishes it were a quinquina or an Americano at heart. Enjoyable on its own or with soda water, it's also an incredibly versatile cocktail vermouth on account of its bitterness.
Makes for a fantastic vermouth and tonic if you really enjoy an aggressive quinine bite. As a bonus, it can carry sweeter commercial tonic water by fortifying it with a little extra attack. It also makes an awesome Adonis and Improved Vermouth Cocktail. An extremely versatile Manhattan vermouth, pairing well with a variety of rye whiskey. I would expect it to play very well against sweeter bourbon Manhattans as well, though I unfortunately didn't have any on hand to confirm.
Wine Base: Trebbiano/Ugni Blanc
Known Botanicals: at least 19, Roman wormwood, lemon peel, rose hip flower, thyme, aloe vera, gentian, St. John’s Wort, juniper, marjoram, coriander, ginger, clove, chamomile, cinchona bark, cardamom, angelica, vanilla, angostura bark, elderberry
Nose: butterscotch, vanilla, lemon, toffee, wormwood, juniper, thyme
Palate: vanilla, orange, lemon, cinnamon, toffee, oregano, cinchona, guava, green apple
Finish: orange, vanilla, wormwood, cinchona, lemon, cacao, tarragon, green apple
Additional Notes: Pale straw yellow appearance. Vermouth di Torino. Claims to be the first vermouth produced using 100% organically grown grapes. Needs time to open up, allowing the brighter herbaceous notes to poke through lots of creamy baking spice. Bitter, acidic, confectionary, and herbaceous with some underlying caramel apple throughout.
Wow, this one was out of control when I first opened it. Pure butterscotch, caramel, vanilla, and toffee. A little time and oxidation opened the whole thing up. Nice green apple acidity, plenty of floral and bitter herbs, and some baking spice running through. It's labaled as "dry" so I can safely assume there is over 30 g/l of sugar (but under 50 g/l). It's far from sweet, but the extra bit of sugar makes for an extremely satisfying texture, akin to Noilly Prat Original Dry.
The extra sugar and buttery caramel notes made for an off-putting Martini and Improved Vermouth Cocktail, but worked well in an Old Pal, Coronation, and a Scofflaw. The Scofflaw is most notable because I find very few dry vermouths hold up in this inherently difficult to balance cocktail. It is certainly a unique vermouth.
Wine Base: Moscato, Inzolia
Known Botanicals: at least 11, Roman wormwood, orange peel, saffron, aloe vera, cinnamon, balsam, myrrh, cornflower, mace, rhubarb, sandalwood
Nose: bubblegum, strawberry, banana, vanilla, ginger, allspice, mint, clove, cinchona, licorice
Palate: orange, wormwood, cinchona, clove, strawberry, banana, allspice, cinnamon
Finish: cinchona, cacao, lemon, clove, orange, mint, gentian, cedar, thyme
Additional Notes: Garnet color with amber highlights. Vermouth di Torino. Dilution turns it into a bittered Coca Cola. Lots of cinnamon, clove, and vanilla with a strawberry/banana bubblegum note from nose to finish.
This one tastes like childhood: bubblegum and Coca Cola. I'm not sure I like it to be honest. It has an off-putting synthetic bubblegum aroma dominating the nose. Adding strawberry and banana to the tasting notes is a generous way of describing this bizarre note which also shows up on the palate. The palate leans into the typically Italian cinnamon and vanilla (with tons of clove), but I can't seem to shake that fruit. Some nice gentian dustiness and some mentholated herbal notes on the finish keep you coming back for more, only to surprise you with the wild amount of fruit and spice on the palate.
In an Improved Vermouth Cocktail the absinthe and maraschino only amplify the bubblegum which is great if that's what you're into. When up against a spicy rye whiskey, it makes for a delicious Manhattan with little to no "off" flavors. It performed similarly in a Negroni. Best paired with big, bold spirits to balance its assertive flavors.
Check the individual regional Vermouth guides for more detailed information on regional styles and recommended bottles:
Sweet White Vermouth
Sweet Red Vermouth
Quinquina and Americano
Please send any updates or corrections to firstname.lastname@example.org.