Noilly Ambre

September 15th, 2007

Noilly Ambre is a rather rare apéritif made by the same folks that produce the famous Noilly Prat dry vermouth. Like all Noilly Prat vermouth it is produced in Marseillan, France, using wines made from Clairette and Picpoul de Pinet grapes.

The initial process is the same for all vermouths, be it sweet, dry or ambre. The wines are first put in to large oak barrels and allowed to mature in the store room. After eight months, they transfer the wine to small barrels and age it for a further year outside, where the heat of the warm Marseillan climate helps the process of maturing the wine.

Following this a blend of herbs and spices is added which gives the vermouth its distintive flavour. The exact mix Noilly Prat uses is a closely guarded secret, but it includes camomile, bitter orange peel, nutmeg, centaury, coriander and cloves. To produce the sweet version, they add an additional 30 flavourings which provide the red colour and the sweeter taste. I imagine the Noilly Ambre receives some of these flavourings, but not all, to produce its flavour.

Noilly Ambre is unusual in that it is neither a sweet vermouth nor a dry vermouth – it sits somewhere in the middle. It is only usually available from the Noilly Prat cellars in Marseillan, which are open to the public all year around. However, it can be found in a few shops around the world, and I was lucky enough to find it in one of those shops today. Having never even heard of it before I was most intrigued, so I just had to give it a try…

Noilly Ambre

Noilly Ambre leads with a sweet, honey like taste. It also has a definite vanilla undertone, and ends with a nice dry, spicey taste that reminds me of regular dry vermouth, though much less bitter. It is by far the nicest vermouth I’ve ever tried straight, combining the warmth of sweet vermouth and the bitterness of dry vermouth wonderfully.

I’ve been enjoying it over ice today, but I can’t wait to find some cocktails to try it in. I have read it works well, in combination with orange bitters, in place of Lillet Blanc, so I will be giving it a try in the Hoop La! soon. Any other suggestions would be most welcome.

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Posted in Reviews, Vermouth

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8 responses to “Noilly Ambre”

  1. Paul Paul says:

    I love the amber, and I wish it was more widely available. I picked up a few bottles when I visited Marseillan a little over a year ago, and I’m jealously guarding my last bit.

    Using it in place of Lillet is a good idea — though I think my favorite preparation was in a simple 3:1 martini, using Plymouth gin and the Ambre in place of dry vermouth, with a dash or orange bitters. If you come up with something interesting, I’d love to hear about it.

    And, if you stray across another bottle and want to arrange a trade for something unavailable in the UK (bourbon? rye? tequila?), let me know — I’d love to replenish my supply.

  2. stephan stephan says:

    i just came up with this after i recieved 2 bottles of noilly ambre from a good friend in marseille. Great stuff indeed!

    Amber Room Cocktail

    30 ml HENDRICK’S Gin
    30 ml NOILLY PRAT Ambre
    10 ml SAINT GERMAIN Elderflower Liqueur
    1-2 dashes Orange Bitters
    lemon zest

    Stir all ingredients on ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
    Squeeze a lemon zest over the top.

  3. Jay Jay says:

    That’s interesting Paul, the guy in the shop I purchased this from didn’t recommend using it in a Martini. I trust your judgement over his though, so I’ll be sure to give it a try! Regarding a trade, I’d definitely be up for that – I’ll drop you an email later in the week when I get a spare moment.

    Stephan – that cocktail sounds really nice, and funnily enough I picked up a bottle of St. Germain at the same time I got this bottle of Noilly Ambre. Yet another cocktail added to my “must try” list…

  4. Leticia Leticia says:

    Sorry to disappoint you pumpkin, but this cocktail was invented around 10 years ago… but good try and you would definatily get a slap at 1707 bar in London if you told them you came up with it! *slap*

  5. Jay Jay says:

    Leticia, I presume you are talking about Stephan’s Amber Room? In which case, it couldn’t have been invented 10 years ago as St Germain only became available last year. I’ve no doubt they may have created something similar though – it is after all a variation on a classic Dry Martini…

  6. Mark Mark says:

    Does anyone know where to purchase Noilly Amber in the U.S. I was just in France a few weeks ago but hadn’t heard about it yet. Wish I had, because I can’t find any shops in the US that carry it. I’m dying to give it a try.

  7. Sunny&Rummy Sunny&Rummy says:

    I sure have never come across the Ambre, even in shops that stock other Noilly Prat vermouths. Then again, I’m in a decidedly backwoods part of the US from a cocktail perspective.

    I wonder if the Dolin Blanc would be at least a somewhat acceptable substitution, as it’s flavor profile sits between the dry and sweet Dolin vermouths. . .

  8. Jay Jay says:

    Mark – Ambre is only available at the Noilly Prat facility, and a few select shops around the world. In London that means Gerry’s, The Whisky Exchange and Fortnum & Mason. It’s simply not distributed anywhere else unfortunately.

    Sunny&Rummy – Dolin Blanc is a great product, but not really comparable to Noilly Ambre. It’s a pretty unique product and unfortunately I don’t think there is really any alternative out there.

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