Obscure spirits become obscure for many obscure reasons. But there may
be no bottle more enigmatic than Dubonnet. Its strange journey from
popularity to obscurity begins with malaria, involves the French
Foreign Legion, the Queen of England and Pia Zadora, and ends with it
languishing on the dusty bottom shelves of your local liquor store,
usually next to the vermouth.
Thank you for the link. I’m a bit skeptical about the article author’s assertion that “As Lillet tinkered with its recipe, Dubonnet remained the same.” The same as what?
Well, to be an Internet Cocktail Stickler Type...
The American version of Dubonnet is produced from American wine by Heaven Hill in Kentucky. Has been for quite a while now.
The rest of the world's Dubonnet is produced in France.
Reportedly, there is some difference between the American and International versions, though I have never had the rest of the world's version to confirm or deny that fact.
To be honest, I'm always skeptical of any assertation that products are exactly the same as their historic predecessors. Climates change, wine production methods change, spices change, public tastes change, production facilities modernize, etc.
Having tried the French & Kentucky versions side by side (thank you Murray Stenson!), my humble perspective is that there's a discernible difference between the two, but only about as much as would be created by the difference in base wines, give or take some very subtle twisting of the ingredient knobs. It's not a huge difference, though, perhaps comparable to the difference between the now-defunct American versus the Rest of World versions of Noilly Prat dry vermouth. On their own? You'll pick it up. Toss it in the mixing glass with some gin, bitters, or what have you? Chances are you'll never know.
While writing up a piece for Imbibe about quinquinas, I came across something, somewhere, about Dubonnet's reformulation from its earlier, more bitter version. Due to the passage of time and the general fogginess of my memory tonight (thanks again, Murray), I can't recall exactly where I found this nugget -- may have even been from that guy peering over a book a couple of posts upthread.
Paul Clarke:While writing up a piece for Imbibe about quinquinas, I came across something, somewhere, about Dubonnet's reformulation from its earlier, more bitter version. Due to the passage of time and the general fogginess of my memory tonight (thanks again, Murray), I can't recall exactly where I found this nugget -- may have even been from that guy peering over a book a couple of posts upthread.
Quite possibly. These last few years, I’ve been on quite a tear bashing vermouth and quinquina makers. The vermouth situation is improving by leaps and bounds, at least for those of us in some lucky markets. The quinquina situation is a bit hazier. Actually, it’s all pretty damn hazy. The poverty of substantive research is vexing. I believe someone mentioned at a previous Tales that an Italian had published a study that covered vermouth, but I never have gotten a citation for it. Anybody here know?
I made a point of sampling the European Dubonnet last week. The flavor profile is basically the same as the Kentucky edition and it isn’t dramatically more bitter (maybe a touch—it’s still pretty mild stuff in comparison to, say, Bonal) but it’s also clearly a more carefully wrought product. I guess I’d describe the European product as a little move vital and alive? And the current bottle is much nicer, although it too is embarrassingly bad compared to many earlier presentations.
Regardless, I’d feel a heck of a lot better about Dubonnet if they’d just produce it at home and export as necessary. I also just assume they kill the blanc, which is a US-only product as far as I can tell, and a third-rate one at that.