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  • Brian Tasch

Noilly Prat Round Up

Updated: Jan 1, 2022

Back in February, I began investigating several quiet changes to the entire line of Noilly Prat vermouths. After reaching out to some industry folks, I could confirm there were "changes in the wine blend" of the flagship Original Dry. My side-by-side tasting and cocktail comparison found the changes to be significant.


When one of the oldest commercial vermouth producers in existence (and the oldest in France) owned by the largest privately-owned multinational liquor company on the planet changes their entire line of globally distributed vermouths, it's worth noting the changes.


This time, we're rounding out the Noilly Prat line and comparing the Extra Dry and Rouge expressions (still no confirmation on the Ambre in the USA). I've always enjoyed the Rouge, so I hope that opinion remains positive.


As for the Extra Dry, I've made no secret of my indifference. Basically, Americans developed a distaste for vermouth after Prohibition. To be fair, when domestic brands like Tribuno and Gallo dominate the market, it's not hard to see why. Combined with the fact that most of the vermouth folks were mixing with was improperly stored and on its way toward rancid if not already there – you can sympathize with the poor American palate.


Noilly Prat Extra Dry was introduced in 1979 specifically to cater to the American's demand for bone-dry Martinis or Martinis with scant amounts of vermouth. The heavily oxidized, fruity, herbaceous Original Dry was just too darn challenging for the delicate palates of the American drinker who gravitated toward the neutral-leaning vodka as their spirit of choice. So Noilly Prat launched a more delicate expression sure to offend (or please) no Martini drinker.


I've long considered it a vermouth quite literally designed for people who don't like vermouth. Will this new formula win me over? I sure hope so!


As a reminder, these were the changes I caught from both Noilly Prat's official website and Bacardi's (somewhat hidden) Nutritional Facts:

  • The Original Dry went from 40 g/l of sugar to 35 g/l.

  • The Extra Dry went from 29 g/l of sugar to 35 g/l.

  • The Rouge went from 140 g/l of sugar to 150 g/l.

  • The number of botanicals used for the Rouge went from 25 to 29.

The first thing that caught my eye was the Extra Dry's increase in sugar. By EU law, this technically makes the Extra Dry a Dry. However, since it is the export expression, it isn't held to EU sugar regulation and labeling.


The sugar adjustments we see here imply a number of potential changes, including the aforementioned changes to the wine blend, changes to the botanical blends, or the amounts and ratios of those botanicals.


The Rouge seems to have undergone the greatest number of changes. The increase in botanicals is significant, and I imagine the sugar was increased to balance additional bitterness. Noilly Prat and Bacardi will not comment on or confirm any of these changes, but we don't need 'em!


First up, let's get the Extra Dry out of the way.

From left to right: A discontinued bottle of Noilly Prat Extra Dry Vermouth, a wine glass of the discontinued Noilly Prat Extra Dry, a wine glass of the new and improved Noilly Prat Extra Dry, a bottle of the new and improved Noilly Prat Extra Dry Vermouth

Right off the bat, you can see the newer expression has a little more color to it, while the discontinued bottling is more crystalline. The new one has a more complex nose, with more of the telltale Noilly Prat oxidization than before. The older version is richer on the palate, but the new expression is oilier. It's also less bitter and more acidic.


Noilly Prat Extra Dry (discontinued formula)

Origin: France

Producer: Noilly Prat, distributed by Bacardi Limited

ABV: 18%

Wine Base: Clairette

Known Botanicals: 14 total, including wormwood, chamomile, nutmeg, bitter orange, gentian, raspberry

Sugar: 29 g/

Nose: lemon, mango, peach, hay, green apple, bay leaf, chamomile, papaya

Palate: lemon, cinchona, apple, grass, pear, chamomile, white pepper

Finish: lemon, cinchona, apple, raisin, grass, faint wormwood, white pepper, dandelion


Noilly Prat Extra Dry (2020)

Origin: France

Producer: Noilly Prat, distributed by Bacardi Limited

ABV: 18%

Wine Base: Clairette

Known Botanicals: 14 total, including wormwood, chamomile, nutmeg, bitter orange, gentian, raspberry

Sugar: 35 g/

Nose: raisin, orange, green apple, peach, rose, chamomile, pear, lemon, cinchona

Palate: lemon, raisin, white tea, chamomile, coriander, bay leaf, orange, green apple, raspberry

Finish: pineapple, cinchona, raspberry, chamomile, bay leaf, white leaf, cherry blossom


Martini comparison

The most important cocktail test for a dry vermouth is a Martini. In my old Gin vs Vermouth Martini tasting, I found Noilly Prat Extra Dry to be one of the least mixable Martini vermouths.


Guess what? Nothing has changed! I'm just not a fan of either one. The new stuff is marginally better because of its acidity, which keeps the cocktail brighter and livelier as it warms.


Old Pal & Scofflaw comparison

Neither expression proved to work better than the other. It all went down the drain.


Better or Worse?

Still a big ol' MEH. The Extra Dry tastes better on its own now, which is great, but I still don't like it in cocktails which is literally what it was formulated for. Still, it's an improvement, whereas I found the changes to the Original Dry mostly unwelcome. I drank the majority of the Extra Dry with lemon cordial, black currant juice, creme de cassis, and/or soda water and enjoyed it for what it was.


Now, let's taste the Rouge!

From left to right: A discontinued bottle of Noilly Prat Rouge Vermouth, a wine glass of the discontinued Noilly Prat Rouge, a wine glass of the new and improved Noilly Prat Rouge, a bottle of the new and improved Noilly Prat Rouge Vermouth

They pour pretty much identically, with no noticeable changes. The aromas wafting from the glasses are similar, but the new formula is brighter, sharper, and more complex with less of the oxidized grape notes. The palate echoes the nose – the new expression comes across simultaneously more balanced and punchy, with increased bitterness and fruity acidity.


Noilly Prat Rouge (discontinued formula)

Origin: France

Producer: Noilly Prat, distributed by Bacardi Limited

ABV: 16%

Wine Base: Picpoul, Clairette

Known Botanicals: at least 25, including wormwood, chamomile, nutmeg, bitter orange, gentian, saffron, cocoa bean, clove, and cinchona

Sugar: 140 g/l

Nose: clove, licorice, fig, cinnamon, orange, raisin, vanilla, blackberry, gentian, cedar

Palate: cocoa, cherry, raspberry, cinnamon, cinchona, mint, honey, chamomile

Finish: nutmeg, vanilla, lemon, mint, cacao, black currant, apricot


Noilly Prat Rouge (2020)

Origin: France

Producer: Noilly Prat, distributed by Bacardi Limited

ABV: 16%

Wine Base: Picpoul, Clairette

Known Botanicals: at least 29, including wormwood, chamomile, nutmeg, bitter orange, gentian, saffron, cocoa bean, clove, and cinchona

Sugar: 150 g/l

Nose: vanilla, raspberry, black tea, lemon, cinnamon, strawberry, cinchona, mint, pear

Palate: wormwood, lemon, raspberry, cinchona, mint, black currant, cherry, clove, apricot

Finish: wormwood, raspberry, straw, black tea, cranberry, lemon, black pepper, ginger, clove, cacao


They're both tasty, albeit quite different on their own, so let's see how they mix!


Manhattan

Both expressions make for tasty Manhattans using High West Double Rye. The old version makes for a mellower cocktail, leaning into some subtle black tea and licorice root notes. The new formula is spicier with some faint smoke and cedar. Over time the new version held up better.


Negroni

The new stuff wins by a wide margin. The previous formula was muddy and indistinct in a Negroni, easily drowned out by the Campari and gin. The new stuff is brighter and more bitter which means it can now stand up to the other ingredients. This is good news for everyone.


Better or Worse?

I love the changes to the Rouge. It's more assertive now. Far more bitter, bright, juicy, and tannic. It's absolutely worth picking up a 375ml bottle to give it another shot in your favorite cocktail or on its own.


Vermouth Guides

Check the individual regional Vermouth guides for more detailed information on regional styles and recommended bottles:


Dry Vermouth


French Dry Vermouth

Italian Dry Vermouth

Spanish Dry Vermouth

American Dry Vermouth

The Complete Guide to Dry Vermouth


Sweet White Vermouth


French Sweet White Vermouth

Italian Sweet White Vermouth

Spanish Sweet White Vermouth

American Sweet White Vermouth

The Complete Guide to Sweet White Vermouth


Sweet Red Vermouth


Italian Sweet Red Vermouth

French Sweet Red Vermouth

Spanish Sweet Red Vermouth

American Sweet Red Vermouth

The Complete Guide to Sweet Red Vermouth

Quinquina and Americano


The Complete Guide to Quinquina and Americano


Please send any updates or corrections to brian@corpserevived.com.

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