(Re)Introducing Noilly Prat Extra Dry Vermouth
August 04, 2013
Last year I had the pleasure of visiting the Noilly Prat vermoutherie in Marseillan, France, where I learned about how it is made.
Shortly after the visit, I wrote a blog post about the differences between Noilly Prat Dry (aka Original Dry), Noilly Prat Ambre, and Noilly Prat Rouge.
It took a year, but they are finally releasing Noilly Prat Extra Dry on the US Market nationally, so now I'll explain the difference and Extra Dry and Original Dry.
From 1979 until 2009, the dry vermouth from Noilly Prat sold on the US market was called "French Dry Vermouth". It was different than the version sold in the rest of the world.
In 2009 they replaced this bottling with Original Dry, which was the version of Noilly Prat sold in the rest of the world.
Starting this summer, the former US version "French Dry Vermouth" will be called "Extra-Dry" and the Original Dry will also still be sold. So:
Original Dry = International Version
Extra Dry = US Version that was sold until 2009 and is now back on the market.
There are four production differences between Original Dry and Extra-Dry. In order to best understand them, it might be helpful to read about how Noilly Prat is made in general. Then read the below.
Differences between Noilly Prat Original Dry and Extra-Dry
- Extra-Dry uses only clairette wine while Original Dry uses a combintation of clairette and picpoul. This is because clairette oxidizes less.
- Extra-Dry uses less of the sweet mistelle wine, so it is, in fact, drier.
- Both Original Dry and Extra-Dry use the same 20 herbs and spices, but in different ratios.
- The wine for both Original Dry and Extra Dry is aged outdoors for one year, but after infusing that wine with herbs and spices, the Original Dry is aged an additional 6 weeks to 3 months. Extra Dry is bottled without this extra aging step.
Extra Dry tastes fruitier than the dry, and less woody. It is also clear as opposed to lightly yellow, and clearly intended for use as a mixer in Martinis and other cocktails. Original Dry can be mixed into cocktails or consumed on its own as an aperitif.
Hopefully soon both Original and Extra Dry will on store shelves again so you can compare the two side-by-side.
Noilly Prat Rouge is still on the market, and Noilly Prat Ambre will soon be available in major US cities.
Below are a few pictures from my visit.
Thank you very much. I have not been able to find Original Dry anywhere in the States since July and I just don't like Extra Dry flavor in my martini. Now I understand why. I'm game for a side-by-side comparison, though.
Posted by: MatthewB | October 10, 2013 at 03:12 PM
I just bought a bottle of Noilly French Dry Vermouth. It is not clear, but slightly yellowish. Are you sure you have your facts straight?
"Extra Dry tastes fruitier than the dry, and less woody. It is also clear as opposed to lightly yellow,"
You did say Extra dry = the old French Dry, right?
Happy Martini to you!
Posted by: Dave | November 08, 2013 at 09:10 PM
Interesting. For sure, if you're buying a fresh bottle today, Original = yellowish and Extra = clear. I just double checked.
If the French Dry you bought doesn't say "Original" on it, then it should be from pre-2009. Do you think it's that old? (f so, it's weird that it's not clear and I can't explain it unless they took a while to change the label after changing from the American formula to the "Original" formula.)
Let me know, I'm curious. Or feel free to post a label pic if it's still not clear and I'll follow up with the brand.
Posted by: Camper English | November 08, 2013 at 09:55 PM
Any idea when the original french is supposed to be back out on the market? I prefer the slightly sweeter version.
I was surprised to see the label change. Of course my liquor store guy said it was just a label change...Thanks for the informative post.
Posted by: Drake | January 01, 2014 at 04:50 PM
Technically they should all be available by now. Might want to request that they order it. Good luck.
Posted by: Camper English | January 01, 2014 at 04:55 PM
Really interesting. It's still hard to find anything at all on the web about the new white-label Extra Dry or its differences to the green-labeled Original Dry. Your blog is, about two years after market introduction, one of just a handful of google hits on this topic.
The Noilly Prat website (even if I choose the U.S. as country, visiting the website from Germany) doesn't even mention the existence of the white-labeled Extra Dry. On the other hand, at a different blog post (The Gray Report) you see quite a lot commenters from the U.S. complaining they can't find any but the Extra Dry in their local liquor stores.
As I'm very curious about this whole story, it would be great if you could answer me a few questions:
1. Do you agree that to date it's relatively hard to find the green-label Original Dry on the U.S. market, but no problem getting the white-label Extra Dry around every corner?
As the Extra Dry is only exported to the U.S., the situation in Europe is definitely the other way round and you won't see even a hint at the existence of other sorts than Original Dry, Rouge and Ambré anywhere.
2. Are you aware of any possibility of _reliably_ ordering a bottle of white-label Extra Dry (overseas)? The already mentioned problem in this is that most retailers don't even know that there are those two different products and are using the terms "Original Dry", "(Original) Extra Dry" and "(Original) French Dry" synonymical. So you'll most likely never know beforehand which variant you're going to get.
Posted by: Rololo Schubzelmolf | June 21, 2014 at 08:07 AM
Hello. To answer your questions:
1. No, since Noilly Prat changed in 2009, many liquor stores and bars stopped carrying it. Then Dolin came in and everyone used that. So honestly it is hard to find any Noilly Prat on store shelves (and unfortunately the brand is not promoting it very much). My stores I go to don't carry it at all.
2. Many people order from DrinkUpNY.com and they list "Noilly Prat Original French Extra Dry Vermouth" but the bottle in the picture is Extra Dry. Since the bottle didn't exist until recently, my guess is that this is truly Extra Dry. I looked at Astor wines, which is a very well respected store, but they only have Original Dry. So this isn't very helpful, sorry.
Posted by: Camper English | June 21, 2014 at 03:06 PM
One of my better stocked local stores has (last I checked) both the Original Dry and the Extra Dry side by side on the shelf, meaning they stock both at any given time. I think this store is definitely the exception, but it goes to show that both products are currently still available in the US so you can likely have your local store order whichever one you prefer.
I wound up here after finding a photo of a very old Noilly Prat bottle (probably 1930s) that states on the label "aged in wood four years." I honestly didn't know that dry vermouth was aged in wood at all, and apparently in the old days it was aged even longer than it is today. (See here.)
Posted by: Eric Witz | June 24, 2014 at 11:03 AM
Nice - Even my good liquor stores in SF don't have it. I wonder if the wine stores do...
Posted by: Camper English | June 25, 2014 at 02:47 PM
We have both versions in our liquor store here. Without knowing why, I have made my Martinis with Noilly Prat extra dry since I first learned of the brand. Now that I know it's a French product, I'll have to find an alternative. What do you think of the California vermouth Vya as a component of a good dry Martini?
Posted by: Gary | September 23, 2014 at 03:40 PM
Vya has a lot of flavor. You could give their extra-dry a try but I'm guessing it's going to overwhelm.
Posted by: Camper English | September 24, 2014 at 05:06 PM
I used to get a label that at the bottom in yellow type used to say "original french". THE EXTRA DRY IS ACTUALLY YELLOW INSTEAD OF CLEAR AND RUINS NY MARTINI. i WANT TO BUY THE FRENCH
Posted by: Peter Palms | September 26, 2014 at 07:32 AM
I think you have the two reversed. The bottle of Noilly Prat that I have on my shelf, which is the version that works in a Martini (and was supplanted by the international version) says "ORIGINAL DRY" on the label. Extra Dry is the is the international version that is now available on the US market and doesn't work in a martini.
Posted by: Douglas Drew | October 21, 2014 at 02:58 PM
Why the heck do you need an alternative because it's French? That's insane.
Posted by: Mark Andrews | October 31, 2014 at 02:38 PM
Revisiting this old post because I'm trying to ascertain whether the "original dry" formula is what a Martini would have been made with pre-1979. You mentioned that the "extra dry" (clear) product was introduced to the American market in 1979, so am I correct to assume that before 1979 a Noilly Prat martini in the US would have been made with the "original dry" (yellow) formula?
In any event, as one who finds a bone dry clear Martini often too austere for my tastes, I quite like what the yellowish "original dry" Noilly does to a Martini. It makes it a more interesting drink, albeit possibly less "manly." But I'm entirely okay with not being manly so that's cool with me.
Also, LOL at the guy who stopped using Noilly Prat when he found out it was French.
Posted by: Eric Witz | February 14, 2015 at 08:23 PM
I believe that is true "before 1979 a Noilly Prat martini in the US would have been made with the "original dry" (yellow) formula." However this was all in the era of people not using very much vermouth at all (if we're talking post-Prohibition). Also I'm not sure the brand is making a claim that the recipe has been unaltered since its creation so if you're looking at specific historical points in time (as you tend to do) then we might have to ask about those time periods specifically.
Posted by: Camper English | February 15, 2015 at 01:19 PM
Adding in a new twist...I have two bottles, a white label "Extra Dry" and a green label "Original French Dry"...any idea if that second one is the same as the international "Original Dry" or is it the same as the old US import "French Dry"? It actually appears to be slightly yellowish in the bottle compared to the "Extra Dry", so I'm wondering if the U.S. market is going with "Original French Dry" to try to distinguish that it is the international version?
Posted by: Curt | February 27, 2015 at 02:36 PM
Well I don't know for sure, but my guess is that it's the same as the Original Dry (label change? not sure) and the same as the international version. I do not think there is a difference between the international version and the Original Dry. Just guesses, but the yellowish color seems to lead us to this guess.
Posted by: Camper English | February 28, 2015 at 11:20 AM
Where in U S can I purchase the Noilly Prat oyster shell infused vermouth?Thank you
Posted by: george linn | March 12, 2015 at 02:00 PM
I have a Very old closed bottle of the extra dry version where can i find information or send some puctures. thank you
Posted by: Andrea (Costa Rica) | April 07, 2015 at 01:34 PM
LOL - You're right, Mark - I'm surprised Gary even reads Camper's commentaries, since his surname is 'English'.
Now wouldn't it be ironic, if it turns out that it's a Frenchman in California who makes Vya :-O
I just rinse the martini glass with Original Dry ...
Posted by: Otto Lang | November 22, 2015 at 07:09 AM
I too prefer my martinis not-too-dry. Maybe not dry at all. Maybe some wouldn't consider it a proper "martini", but I love the flavor of the vermouth, and usually use 1/3 to 1/2 vermouth in my drink.
Not being a too-frequent drinker, when I ran out of Noilly Prat vermouth, which I knew I preferred, I bought another bottle without realizing the change (from Original to Extra Dry), and suddenly my martinis weren't nearly as flavorful or rich, to my taste. I thought I had just lost my taste for them, but then I stumbled upon some online discussions and realized what had happened.
So now I'm looking all over for the Original Dry (straw/yellow, green cap, more flavorful) Noilly Prat from here in southern California. I figure there must be an importer someone who carries it and will ship.
What I am finding online is that sellers can be deceptive, probably unintentionally. But I've gotten plenty of seller hits for "original dry" that, when I get to the page show the white-label bottle, or where the description is just "dry" or "extra dry" and I'm sure they're not selling the original dry. Even pages that show the green-label bottle describe it as extra dry, and I'm sure these are selling the common USA extra dry white label variety.
So I will try a few that seem to be offering the real original dry, showing the right bottle and using "original dry" in the description, but I will call them and explicitly ask.
If you know of anyone in the US selling the real Original Dry, please let me know. Thanks!
Posted by: Gary Zimmerman | December 06, 2015 at 03:25 PM
I wish I could help, but it seems like several previous commenters have been in the same situation- the stores don't know that it changes so their listings aren't reflective of reality :(
Posted by: Camper English | December 07, 2015 at 03:25 PM
Well, what I'd wish for would be the flavor and aromatics of the Original Dry combined with the color of the Extra Dry. Unfortunately, I lost that election for King Of The World.
Ideally, I would like to see both available in the US, but I'm not convinced they both are. I do hear of occasional sightings of Original Dry bottles out there, but I believe they are old stock still lingering in the pipeline, mostly at retailers who don't sell through thier vermouth stock regularly. In my state, in stores where I am convinced they turn thier stock regularly, I never see anything other than the Extra Dry.
And believe me, I can understand the confusion on the part of the retailers with regard to which version they have or have available to them. Once again, I just looked up the distributors here and there are two. Like anything owned by Bacardi, the NP products are available through the two behemoth distributors. Now compound that with the fact that they both list the available SKU as simply Noilly Prat Dry. I remember asking representatives of both these distributorships about the future availability of both NP drys when this change took place and was never able to get any clear answer from anyone. Being a veteran of that trade, I can tell you that the reason would be that all the local foot soldiers have way bigger fish to fry than satisfying my personal curiousity about a product that doesn't make them enough income in a year to pay thier cell phone bill for a month.
As for looking for bottles of the Original Dry, if they are here, they are most likely getting awfully old (probably pre-2010). I can't imagine that most would still be intact. About three years ago, I went through several bottles in a short period of time in the development of a new cocktail. Even then, I found the condition, bottle to bottle, to be very variable, with a couple of them unusable upon opening.
I would say that unless you can buy it from a reliable seller out of Europe, you'd probably do better to turn your energies to researching alternate brands. The good news is there is no shortage of quality vermouths available these days, seemingly with a new one cropping up regularly.
Posted by: Michael Meyers | February 18, 2016 at 05:21 AM
I don't know the inside story, but it almost seems like they were planning a big comeback launch and something happened, or the deal with Bacardi, or... I dunno. They put a lot of attention into Martini with a few line extensions and that seems to be ongoing, but Noilly is special in its own way. *sigh*
Posted by: Camper English | February 18, 2016 at 09:00 PM
Yep. Agreed. The "new cocktail" to which I referred certainly works with a number of other dry vermouths, but none of them quite have the mojo in that drink like the NP Original Dry.
As far as the perfect Dry Martini vermouth is concerned, I, like a lot of others, love Dolin dry, but the NP Extra Dry is its own thing. Like I said, I wish they were both marketed here in the US.
Posted by: Michael Meyers | February 18, 2016 at 10:59 PM
I inherited a bottle from my uncle from WWII. It hasn't been opened. Is it still good?
Posted by: Ellen | April 26, 2017 at 10:23 AM
Thanks for the great article, it helped me out in terms of figuring what's going on between these two different products. I was in my local merchants in Southeast New York today and found one liter bottles of both variations. Both have manufacturing codes that indicate they were made in early 2016. This obviously suggests the original French dry, yes the one with the green label and Green Top is still being Shipped to some parts of the United States. I think the main issue with the inability to distinguish between the two products lies in the hands of uninformed merchants and those who market products for retailers.Both products are clearly alive and well.
Posted by: Al Gozinya | April 27, 2017 at 01:21 PM
That's great to hear! I wish I could find them both in more stores.
Posted by: Camper English | April 29, 2017 at 12:14 PM
Hi Ellen - There is a better chance of it still being okay to drink if it was stored in a cool, dry place the whole time. Also, there are many bars now that have vintage cocktail programs now, where they make drinks with old liquor. It might be more effort than it's worth to you, but there are some bars/bartenders that could be interested - might want to do some Googling and inquire. Of course, selling even vintage alcohol person-to-person is usually not legal so you'd want to be discreet.
Posted by: Camper English | April 29, 2017 at 12:19 PM
UPDATE TO LAST: I had been purchasing the extra dry for years as my favorite shop carries only that version, and until recently was not aware of an alternative. Armed with this new knowledge, I purchased a bottle of original, made my typical 5:1 martini and immediately noticed the dramatically dryer and more austere flavor of this product. Initially, I was revolted by it, as it is far more pronounced and evident in the drink, but have grown accustomed to it over time. It is clearly less sweet and less "salty" than the extra dry, but the ultimate test will be a side-by-side before I'm done with the original. I will say that the original is far superior for cooking as the less sweet and bolder flavor profile really shines.
Posted by: Al Gozinya | June 20, 2017 at 05:59 AM
Thank you for the update.
Posted by: Camper English | July 01, 2017 at 03:24 PM
I haven't had a great Martini since the Extra Dry was reintroduced. If there's any way I can get the Original Dry in Illinois, or Georgia, or even Florida, I'd sure love to know.
Posted by: Todd | May 09, 2019 at 02:05 AM
The FDA restricts the use of herbs like quinine to 83ppm in the usa dry versions and is not restricted in the INTL varieties....There is just solved the mystery difference for all of you !
Posted by: John Swain | August 15, 2020 at 01:32 PM