Fred Jerbis (actually his real name is Federico Cremasco, but he thought Fred Jerbis sounds cooler) is the mad man of Italian spirits, and he totally obsesses over this amazing Vermouth. He extracts more than 25 herbs all SEPARATELY, some hot, some cold. (He's got a degree in herbalism, so he knows his herbs). An incredible amount of work, but the reult is an incredibly complex and harmonious Vermouth. A splurge maybe, but well worth it.
Federico ‘Fred’ Cremasco is a remarkable young producer of Vermouth, Bitter, Amaro and Gin from the town of Polcenigo, in Friuli. You could call him an herbalist; he devises recipes for his products from combinations of botanicals, some foraged wild nearby, some grown by him, some brought in from other areas, then creates his elixirs from these botanicals using varying methods of extraction.
He has experimented endlessly, trying out different methods of extraction (alcoholic distillation, steam distillation, cold maceration of fresh herbs, cold maceration of dried herbs, and hot maceration of fresh and dried herbs) to discover which method best suits the individual botanical. He then devises recipes for his alcoholic elixirs from combinations of these botanical extractions.
For most of the products, each botanical is treated individually, to make sure that the exact right level of extraction is reached for each substance; many producers throw everything in together (indeed many producers buy pre-made ‘amaro base’ from large companies who specialize in such things, just adding sugar and water). Fred takes enormous care in his work and the result is a collection of some of the highest quality spirits we’ve ever tasted with layers of flavor and a sense of place.
Not that many years ago Italian Vermouth as a category was dominated by industrial-scale companies, and drinkers looking for lively, fresh, distinctive flavors went elsewhere. Not now. Fred Cremasco uses Verduzzo, a high-quality Friulian white wine, as his base and 25 different botanicals in this Vermouth (‘Vermut’ in Italian). As is traditional with sweet vermouth, caramel color is added (the color comes from the caramel normally, not from red wine). The vermouth was the first of Fred’s creations that I tasted, and I was knocked out by it. Vermouth was mostly an industrial product until recently, and tasted like it; maybe you’d use it in cocktails but no-one in their right mind would actually drink the stuff neat. This was entirely different; it was lively, distinctive, complex, and balanced - balanced in flavor combinations, and in bitterness versus sweetness. This vermouth can of course be used to make wonderful cocktails, but it is also an excellent aperitivo with just a splash of soda and an orange slice. What an end to the working day!
PRODUCTION: The base wine is aged for a year in tank with some ullage, to maderise it slightly. Extraction is is by cold maceration of dried herbs, and hot maceration, in nearly pure alcohol. All botanicals are prepared individually.
INGREDIENTS: 25 different botanicals, as prescribed in an old Italian recipe; including three different varieties of wormwood, two of orange, gentian root, cinchona bark and angelica.
BOUQUET: a complex aroma of fresh botanical notes, particularly citrus (bitter orange) and herbs. Appetizing.
FLAVOR: very complex, refined flavor of herbs and citrus with a beautifully balanced bitterness on the finish. Fred says ‘Thanks to a special processing of the herbs, the body has fruity notes that range from red fruits to black cherry; the bitter tones come from the maceration of herbs like gentian root and cinchona bark. Rounded and smooth in the end, thanks to the seeds and roots of angelica.
Aftertaste: a persistent bitter note owing to the intensity of wormwood and masterwort, and particularly to juniper berries.
Note: This may throw a sediment, which is a sign of minimal processing and high quality.