When I was doing my research, little information was available online about Noilly Ambré*, but what most folks suggest is that it sits between Dry and Red Noilly Prat. As the firm don’t make a Bianco Vermouth, this somewhat fulfills this place. It contains some, but not all, of the herbs and spices in their red vermouth, as well as cardamon, chamomile, cinnamon, lavender and vanilla.
Produced since 1986 and known as “the baby”, Noilly Prat Ambré Vermouth is made, like the others in the range, in Marseillan, France using wines made from Picpoul de Pinet and Clairette grape varieties. I also have unconfirmed reports that it is designed to have a slight sherry-like oxidised quality. It is bottled at 16.0% ABV.
Nose: Herbal notes, a hint of banana and some citrus, more orange and grapefruit than lemon. Oxidised biscuit quality too – like sherry.
Taste: Soft honey-like start, then some citrus and herbs, a hint of bitters, a burst of raisin sweetness, pinch of cinnamon and a dry biscuit finish.
On the Rocks
This is a lovely golden amber colour. It makes for a rich, honey-textured and flavoured drink reminiscent of a Sautern or Vin de Constance. There were some floral notes a touch of wormwood and angelica. I also caught a buttery biscuit note and hints of vanilla and cinnamon. I think is a fine aperitif and makes for a refreshing drink on its own.
[40ml Vodka, 10ml Noilly Ambré – SHAKE]
This was a really nice drink. In addition to the usual Martini crispness, there were some notes of anise and honey, making it almost, but not quite, like a Martini liqueur. I’d certainly be happy to have this instead of dry vermouth for a change. It had a very smooth finish and was a lovely amber colour.
[40ml Dry Gin, 10ml Noilly Ambré – STIR]
Another pleasant drink there are the dry herbal notes you often get from the dry vermouth accompanied by some jammy/honey notes and a sweet spiciness. Rich and flavourful with a rustic edge too. It makes me fell like I’m drinking in the Golden Era for some reason.
[20ml Gin, 20ml Noilly Ambré, 20ml Campari – STIR]
Lovely. This was rich, honeyed and smoother than a usual Negroni, although the Campari came through more, so the drink is also more bitter than some. It’s complex, but the vermouth comes through clearly, making this an unearthed gem of a cocktail.
[30ml Gin, 10ml Vodka, 5ml Noilly Ambré – SHAKE]
This Vesper is the perfect colour: a golden yellow, and also has a slight, honey sweetness at the end. I think Noilly Ambré is stronger in terms of flavour than Lillet Blanc and adds a sweet, fruity lift at the end. I really do like this drink.
A pleasant drink with a good sour-sweet balance. The Ambré added extra honeyed fruit elements, whilst adding a little less citrus than Lillet normally does. The Cacao is almost imperceivable, except at the very beginning and right at the end. This was a good use of Ambré.
Martini with Hendricks
[40ml Hendrick’s Gin, 10ml Noilly Ambré – STIR]
This came recommended, so I decided to give it a go. Beyond my notes on the Martini previously mentioned, I found that using Hendricks also brought out some distinctive notes of dark chocolate. The rose from the Ambré works well with the floral elements of the gin and the cucumber gave this Martini a refreshing lift. Complex and a little on the confectionery side, but very good.
Corpse Reviver II
[20ml Gin, 20ml Cointreau, 20ml Lillet Blanc, 20ml fresh lemon juice, 2 drops Pastis – SHAKE]
A very flavourful and rich drink. It’s crisp, too, with the Ambré adding a sweet, biscuit-y element, as well as some herbal and fruity notes. I found it to be more intense and heavier than a usual Corpse Reviver #2, but it was still good.
[40ml Rye Whiskey, 10ml Noilly Prat Ambré – 1 Dash Boker’s Bitters – STIR]
This was another recommendation, this time from Jared Brown. I thought it was rather tasty, but dryer and a little spicier. This was be perfect for those that find normal Manhattans too rich or sweet (there are some), although it’s worth noting that choosing the right bitters is key here; I prefer Boker’s to Orange.
If you can get hold of this vermouth (try the Whisky Exchange), I’d highly recommend it. It adds a new twist to many classic cocktails, as well as being enjoyable to drink on its own. My favourite cocktails were the Vesper and the Gin Martini.
Noilly Ambre is available for around £20 for 75cl at The Whisky Exchange
* This article by Jared brown was one of the most useful.
Special Thanks to Mr. Clayton Hartley and Alex from the Whisky Exchange for your help.