La Quintinye, pronounced “La Queen-tin-ee,” comes from EuroWineGate, the same folks behind G’Vine gin and Ciroc vodka. Master distiller Sebastien Robicquet’s family has history in the Cognac region dating back hundreds of years. After beginning a career as a lawyer and working for the Hennessy and Hine Cognac houses, Sebastien ventured out on his own, utilizing the grapes of his homeland as the basis for making gin and vodka. One of his innovations was using flowers from grape vines as a component in G’Vine gin– a particular challenge as the flowers only bloom for a few days. In my primer, I noted that gin and vermouth get their flavor from a complex, often overlapping set of botanicals, so it makes perfect sense that after creating G’Vine, Sebastien would turn his attention to vermouth and incorporate vine flowers into the botanical mix for that as well.
The brand name La Quintinye Vermouth Royal is an homage to botanist Jean-Baptiste de La Quintinye, the creator and architect of the kitchen gardens of Versailles for the Sun King, Louis XIV. While some brands are rather fast and loose with appropriating the halo of their namesake, Sebastien’s family history in the Cognac region and his genuine innovations make this association reasonable–plus, it just sounds classy and French. Originally launched in Europe in early 2014, the brand has recently arrived on U.S. shelves.
As a quick recap, there are three primary styles of vermouth: Red (sweet, Italian style), Bianco (sweet), and Dry (French style). Most producers craft a version in each style, and La Quintinye is no exception, offering Rouge (Italian style), Bianco, and Extra Dry (French style).
The starting point of vermouth is traditionally either wine or a mixture of grape juice and alcohol. La Quintinye diverges from tradition by using a combination of French white wine and Pineau des Charentes – seriously, if you see a bottle of Pineau, buy it and try for yourself. As for La Quintinye’s botanical infusions, their press release is very helpful:
All share a base of 12 carefully selected plants and spices including artemisia (i.e. wormwood), vine flowers (EWG’s signature), angelica, iris roots, cardamom, cinnamon, cinchona (or quinine bark), citrus aurentium (or bitter orange), ginger, liquorice, nutmeg and quassia amara. Each variant is then completed with its own specific selection of botanicals: in total, 28 plants and spices compose Vermouth Royal Rouge, 18 make the Blanc variety and 27 are used in Vermouth Royal Extra Dry.
With that background out of the way, how do they taste? I was supplied with 375ML bottles of each and sampled them over several days, as well as using them in cocktails. With any product that’s infused with 18 (or more) botanicals, it can be difficult to see the trees for the forest so to speak, so these are general impressions rather than detailed tasting notes.Rouge – I really enjoyed this. It has a nice spiciness, with cinnamon, clove, and a hint of ginger. Mrs. Wonk’s first impression was “perfumey,” but not in an unpleasant way. Subsequent tastings focusing on that brought me to lavender; perhaps it’s the vine flower. The Rouge is similarly sweet, but far more complex than Carpano Antica Formula, which is the reference Italian vermouth for many.
Bianco – This was the least complex of the three, although not at all unpleasant. The botanical flavors are more subtle–think melon with a hint of herbs. It’s sweet, but less so than Dolin Blanc.
Extra Dry – The most unusual of the three; dry, but not too dry. The finish ends with a moderate, pleasing note of pine.
My favorite cocktail so far with the La Quintinye lineup is a Palmetto variation using dark, smoky demerara rum and the Rouge. You might think of it as a “Rum Manhattan,” although the ratios are adjusted to favor the rum and vermouth equally. While many people think El Dorado when summoning a demerara rum, I went with Old Sam from Canada. In the U.S., Lemon Hart 80, Hamilton Demerara, and Skipper are also good choices.
- 1.5 oz La Quintinye Vermouth Royal Rouge
- 1.5 oz Dark Demerara rum
- 2 dashes orange bitters
Stir over ice, strain into chilled coupe. Express orange peel over glass, then drop in.
The La Quintinye comes in both 750ML bottles for around $21, and 375ML half bottles (hooray!) for around $14. If you’re a home bartender, or use otherwise use vermouth sparingly, the 375ML bottles are a good choice, giving you a fighting chance of using the whole bottle before it goes stale. And remember, always refrigerate your vermouth after opening! While those prices are towards the high end of the vermouth range, more than say, Dolin, and in line with Carpano Antica Formula, these are premium products with solid value, in particular the Rouge and Extra Dry expressions.