Lillet Releases New Vintage Aperitif

Reserve Jean de Lillet 2009
Reserve Jean de Lillet 2009

Without a doubt, one of the best things to happen to our glasses last spring was the release of Lillet Rosé. The refreshing blend of wine, orange and fruit liqueurs with a dusty pink hue is just the thing for springy cocktails and warm-weather sipping. Once tasted, most of us agreed this was the iPhone of aperitifs - the product we didn’t know we wanted then couldn’t live without.

This year, Lillet has released a limited edition, Reserve Jean de Lillet 2009, which is the first of its kind since 1982. The cuvée is named for the earliest known ancestor of the Lillet family, who lived in Podensac, France in the late 17th century. It is comprised of a single vintage Sauternes (80% Sémillon, 15% Sauvignon Blanc, 5% Muscadelle) that is only produced during quality Bordeaux seasons, blended with orange liqueur (made from both sweet and bitter oranges), a secret mixture of fruit liqueurs and a touch of quinine. Unique to this release is further aging for 12 months in French oak barrels, with ⅓ new oak.

Reserve Jean de Lillet 2009 awaiting service at the Lamb's Club, NYC.
Reserve Jean de Lillet 2009 awaiting service at the Lamb's Club, NYC.

The vintage Sauternes in the blend combined with residual sugar means this aperitif can actually stand up to cellar aging, much like a good Port or Madeira. If you know Sauternes, you can taste its influence - with apricot, quince, honeysuckle flowers and dark caramel flavors. The liqueurs lend some acidity and more dark berry and orange flavors. The oak gives it a subtle, nutty toastiness that lingers in the finish.

One can compare it to other things, but it really is its own unique experience that begs to be tasted. Sadly, unlike its younger cousins, Reserve Jean de Lillet 2009 is only available in small quantities till it is... how you say... disparu. Though hopefully we don’t have to wait another 30 years for the next reserve!

Santé!