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Review: Dolin Rouge and Blanc

Ok, ok … it has been almost two weeks since my last big post (and I’m sure you’ve been eagerly awaiting the next one) but truth be told I have been crushed, mentally more than physically under what can best be described as a shitty two weeks of stress, torment and hell provided by my paying job.  Now that I am through this, I hope, it is on to our latest musings and for this we lead of with a review of sorts.  To date I have only provided a single spirits review post (combining two spirit reviews into one post), wrote up a second but never posted (dumb? Yes!!) and I am in the middle of conducting at least five others for write ups.  Why this focus on reviews? Two reasons — first, it provides a little bit of inspiration and structure to creating different posts while also providing a newer type of content and second, it will help me to transition slightly on to a new focus. On this later point I intend to provide a post with clarity but suffice it to say I am in my cocktail mixology heart a lover of whiskey (whisky for our friends in the land of the “water of life”) and as such will be trying to focus more of our blogging attention on this small, large, heck unknown size of the cocktail-mixology world.

“Yes, yes I know mezcal, I know rum and others … we have had a great relationship as of late and I am not forsaking you in any way; we will meet and meet often at the mixing glass and this is in no way a split …”

So with this last bit of drivel aside why then lead off with a review of vermouth?  Good question and if I am being consistent then I’ll reply with a two step response. First, vermouth forms the basis of many a whiskey-based drink and with the Dolin Dry already a staple why not test its two siblings? Second, while Carpano Antica remains my gold standard go-to vermouth there may be cases where its rich floral taste and lingering sophisticated bitterness may not be the best choice for a given drink and as such theSpeakista has been looking for a worthy sub or back up.  Third, dry and sweet are classics but a new middle ground has sprung up in the form of ‘blanc’ vermouths and there may be a role for such a beauty in my efforts.

With this in mind your humble correspondent under took a review of two of Dolin’s vermouth offerings, its Rouge and Blanc vermouths.  For this effort I have veered off my normal review template (which likely needs to be refined a bit).

Dolin Rouge

Having first hand experience with Martini & Rossi, Noilly Prat and Cinzano sweet vermouths, and given their lack of depth and an almost pure sugar-like sweetness I quickly eliminated these three from running as a suitable sub for my Carpano.  Having stumbled across the Dolin Rouge both in a bar setting and on my local liquor store shelves I decided to give it a try and purchased a 750 ml bottle (the only size available near me at the time of reviewing).

Tasting notes from sampling the vermouth (samples conducted over several days both at room temperature and chilled):

Appearance: light brownish red – claret color

Aroma: dried fruits – currants, raisins and some figs.  Sweet smell of light honey and toffee that yields to more faint floral aromas

Taste: more toffee layers of sweetness.  Bigger taste of floral notes.  Slight lingering bitterness at the end

Summary: The Dolin Rouge earns a solid 4 stars, if not 4 ¼ stars (out of five stars).  It is a fine product and worthy for use.  The Carpano comes right at you with a lush cabernet type mouth feel and an almost aged port like presence.  The floral and botanical notes are heavy on the palate the bitterness is strong, grows and lingers nicely on the after palate.  The Dolin is a different actor playing the same role.  Lighter in texture and consistency, it has a more brandy-like quality to it.  The botanical notes are lighter and more subdued but still present on the palate.  What is striking about this vermouth is the strong dried fruit character of its flavor profile — raisins, currants and dried cherries all seem to come forth.  Whereas the Carpano is skewed to the less sweet side of the spectrum the Rouge registers more in the middle to slightly higher sweetness category.  Yet the sweetness is not sugary but rather a rich “honey-like” sweetness that taken with the dried fruit notes is quite alluring.

I would recommend and intend to use the Rouge as a sub in drinks where the rich character of the Carpano might throw the balance of a drink off or where a sweetness backed by fruit and light botanicals are called for.

Dolin Blanc

Part sibling to the Rouge and Dry and part kissing cousin to a “vermouth” like the Lilet Blanc, the Dolin Blanc is all of these and yet unique in its own right.  Originally I purchased the Blanc for use in making two specific cocktails … we are diverted once again to memories of spending vast sums on quirky bottles of goodness for a single purpose with the hope they turn into more then a single use item … the Ephemeral Cocktail created by David Shenaut and the Gin Blossom.  After thoroughly enjoying each of these drinks I set out to taste the Blanc on its own and discovered something all together pleasing.

Tasting notes from sampling the vermouth (samples conducted over several days both at room temperature and chilled):

Appearance: clear to slight yellowish hue

Aroma: desert wine like aroma – sweet with honey back drop.  Botanical aromas although faint

Taste: similar to aroma, first sips reminded me of tasting a high quality “desert wine” – lush sweetness of honey fills the mouth.  Botanical notes remain faint on the palate but there is a nice twinge of bitterness at the end

Summary: The Dolin Blanc earns 4 stars (out of five stars).  This vermouth really does seem to straddle its two siblings — part sweet; part botanical while being slightly dry on the palate with only a scant dose of bitterness, this vermouth is a bit of mystery.

This vermouth seems primed for use in drinks where a measured hit of botanicals and dryness is called for yet creating a “dry” drink is not the full effect.  To the extent you may want to tilt the drink towards a slightly sweeter note but without a heavy punch of sweetness while also keeping the drink on the lighter side then the Blanc would be a good addition.

So enough with all this blathering … get to the drinks.  For this little post on vermouths I opted to make three drinks, all classics, incorporating at least one (if not both) of these two little lovelies.

Use in cocktails:

The first drink I attempted, and to some interesting results I might say, happens to be the one drink I failed (so sue me …) to photograph.  The Martini is simplicity at its wonderful best … three ingredients, add ice and stir, poor into glass, sip and say “hello old friend.”  For this test I combined 2 1/2 oz of Bombay Sapphire gin with 1/2 oz of Dolin Blanc and two dashes of celery bitters.  Nice, both dry and sweet at the same time the botanicals in the two key ingredients play off one another nicely with the more honeyed sweetness of the blanc balancing the drink out.  The celery bitters (always searching for new ways to use this stuff) adds an added layer of “what is that” quality with a nice lingering bitterness on the after palate.

Next up, my favorite drink done two ways.

Manhattan Cocktail
Classic recipe formulation highlighting Dolin Rouge

•    2 oz Rittenhouse Bonded rye
•    1 oz Dolin Rouge
•    2 dashes of Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters
Garnish: Luxardo brand cherries
Glass: champagne coupe
Tools: mixing glass, barspoon and a julep strainer

Assembly: Combine all of the ingredients in the mixing glass with ice and stir for at least 30 seconds until well chilled, strain the mixture into the serving glass and garnish as noted.

The Manhattan Cocktail with Dolin Rouge

The verdict: The aroma starts off the experience with a layered wave of dried fruit sweetness and spice.  In this formulation I opted to go with the bitters as they pack a nice combination punch of bitter and flavor and I thought that they would come out stronger against the lighter vermouth used.  On first sipping you get a nice hit of the bitters that quickly yields to a honey, fruit like sweetness.  This nicely flavored sweetness balances well against the heat and strength of the rye.  The lingering after palate bitterness is subtle and welcomed.  A nice re-create of our favorite drink and the Rouge is definitely a nice substitute for the Carpano.

theSpeakista’s Rating: 4 1/4 stars (out of 5)

Perfect Manhattan Cocktail – Variation
Classic recipe formulation highlighting Dolin Blanc

•    2 oz Rittenhouse Bonded rye
•   1/2 oz Dolin Rouge
•    1/2 oz Dolin Blanc
•    2 dashes of orange bitters (Regan’s was used)
Garnish: Luxardo brand cherries
Glass: champagne coupe
Tools: mixing glass, barspoon and a julep strainer

Assembly: Combine all of the ingredients in the mixing glass with ice and stir for at least 30 seconds until well chilled, strain the mixture into the serving glass and garnish as noted.

The verdict: I must admit that while I pray at the altar of the Manhattan Cocktail I have never

Perfect ...

been a big fan of its sibling, the Perfect Manhattan. I’m not sure if it is the name that irks me, after all I think the original is “perfect”, or the drier taste?  Still, I thought that this drink could provide an interesting test to see how the unique qualities of the blanc paired with its brother the Rouge.  The drink has a slightly floral, botanical sweetness aroma that continues on to the palate.  This version of the drink is definitely sweeter and less dry than the classic Perfect Manhattan formulation but there is more here to like (for me at least).  Honey, dried fruits and an almost caramel like sweetness from the two vermouths provides great support for the heavy duty rye.  This layered sweetness, which builds as the drink warms slightly, is not obtrusive or overpowering at all and seems to bring out the subtle qualities of the rye — spice, charred oak, toffee and coffee.  There is still a “dryness” factor to the drink but less then the original. I like this version of the Perfect although I can see how some purists will take fault with it.

theSpeakista’s Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Recap: Both versions of the Dolin that were tested, the Rouge and the Blanc, are exceptionally strong products.  While Carpano will remain my go-to sweet vermouth I can see how having the Rouge (in a smaller bottle version) will be a nice back up to have on hand.  At the same time, having the Blanc provides an interesting sub in a variety of drinks calling for standard dry or sweet vermouth’s and may prove to be a more complex partner in drinks using something like Lilet blanc.

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{ 7 comments… add one }

  • Sam October 3, 2010, 1:55 pm

    Nice review. I’m a big fan of the blanc/white vermouths. A great middle ground in the realm of aromatized wines. If you haven’t already given it a try, I strongly recommend the Perucci white. It’s a fantastic sipper, albeit somewhat challenging to mix with. Vya is another great full-bodied option for either an Italian or French style. And wouldn’t it be awesome if CAF were sold in a 375ml bottles? Ya know, so as to be able to pack even more drinkables into my fridge without losing that ‘just opened’ freshness.

  • KeithP October 4, 2010, 3:45 pm

    Thanks Sam for the note. I don’t believe ever hearing of Perucci; will have to seek it out. I can only recall having Vaya (the sweet) one time and liked it. If memory serves it was a tad sweeter vs. the Carpano but nicely so. Agreed on finding the smaller bottles – I’m already in trouble for taking up half the fridge with my mixology related stuff that smaller will be better.

  • DJ HawaiianShirt October 6, 2010, 9:57 am

    I think I really prefer the Dolins as far as affordable vermouths go. If they were easier to find around here, I wouldn’t really buy anything else (unless I felt fancy).

  • KeithP October 7, 2010, 7:12 pm

    Up to springing for the big bottles (mainly because I was stupid and didn’t look hard enough for the 357ml ones) I think I had only had the dry and maybe the Rouge one time out. These are quite nice — the Rouge is a great middle ground b/w the strong Carpano and the crappy sugar Cinzano. The Blanc … is awesome.

  • Stephen December 14, 2011, 3:15 pm

    I’m a huge Carpano Antica fan and would never think about messing with perfection in Manhattan. That said, Dolin Rouge is an absolute must in one’s cabinet for some of the other drinks. For instance, a Blood and Sand would be thrown off by CA. Dolin Rouge works great there.

    I also LOVE pairing Dolin Rouge with Aperol and Whiskey. Aperol + CA is often just too much. Aperol and Dolin Rouge is great. For instance:

    1.75 Ounces Rittenhouse Bonded*
    .25 Ounces Cointreau
    1 Ounce Aperol
    1 Ounce Dolin Rouge
    5 drops Black Mission Fig Bitters**

    *While heresy in a Manhattan, Bourbon is decent substitute here.
    ** Regan’s #6 can be substituted

  • Mr. Fak January 18, 2012, 4:38 am

    I’ve recently become a fan of Vya vermouths. Do you have any reviews of their products?

  • KeithP January 19, 2012, 3:02 pm

    I do not but i’ve been meaning to do a profile of them. Need to get working on that.

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