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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

July 9, 2017


Cognac up to the heavens

We’ve had a few very good Armagnacs in the previous weeks, so today it’s going to be Cognac again. In other words, pot stills after small columns…

Courvoisier ‘V.S.O.P. Le Voyage de Napoléon’ (40%, OB, Cognac, blend, +/-2016)

Courvoisier ‘V.S.O.P. Le Voyage de Napoléon’ (40%, OB, Cognac, blend, +/-2016) Three stars A fairly new line by large house Courvoisier, that includes a VS, a VSOP, and a XO. The name of Napoléon was used, but I don’t think this is a ‘Napoléon’ (traditionally between VSOP and XO). VSOP means at least compte 4, so the younger distillate in the blend must be at least 4 years old. Colour: full gold. Nose: a fine fruity blend, easy, fresh, with peaches and golden raisins, as well as touches of warm brioche and a wee earthiness. Really fresh and uncomplicated. Mouth: once again, it’s rather fruitier, with apricots and quinces at first, then raisins as almost always, ripe peaches, and a little caramel, but I wouldn’t dare calling it ‘caramelly’, because it’s not. So, a fine fresh Cognac indeed, extremely easy to quaff. Finish: not very long, but clean. Touches of cedar wood and orange liqueur. Comments: not that I’m surprised, but this blend goes down extremely well. Nah, I am surprised. SGP:641 - 80 points.

Jean Fillioux (43%, OB, for Van Wees, Holland, Grande Champagne, single cask, cask #85, 504 bottles)

Jean Fillioux (43%, OB, for Holland, Grande Champagne, single cask, cask #85, 504 bottles) Four stars I believe all Cognacs by Jean Fillioux come from their own estate, La Pouyade. Now it’s always a little bizarre to know about the cask number but not about the age or vintage. Never mind… Colour: deep gold. Nose: a little more restrained than the Courvoisier, and almost austere so perhaps a wee tad less ‘commercial’. Rather quinces and ripe apples this time, then perhaps yellow melons, and certainly acacia honey… Opens up, but never gets extravagant. Better like that, perhaps. Mouth: indeed this is much more ‘artisan’ than the Courvoisier, grittier, leafier, with a fuller body, some burnt raisins, rather honeydew this time (fir), and a little liquoricy oak. I am liking this pretty much. Finish: long, with some apple skins, which gives it a very wee Calvadossy side. Very very wee. Comments: very convincing. SGP:551 - 85 points.

Paul Giraud ‘Exotic 4.3’ (40.3%, Old Brothers, Cognac Grande Champagne, cask #444, chai humide, 528 bottles, 2017)

Paul Giraud ‘Exotic 4.3’ (40.3%, Old Brothers, Cognac Grande Champagne, cask #444, chai humide, 528 bottles, 2017) Five stars We already had an excellent Armagnac that had been selected by this new French independent bottler. With Cognac you always feel the need to find clues about the vintages or ages, in this case there’s this cryptic name, ‘Exotic 4.3’. 1943? 43 years old? I’m afraid this will remain a secret… Colour: gold. Nose: hold on, this is superb! Extraordinary fresh fruits and tiny herbs, exactly the combo that I like best. Peaches, verbena, quinces, pineapples, wormwood, mullein flowers, ripe bananas, papayas, mangos… An avalanche of fresh fruits, mainly tropical ones, but without one single ounce of vulgarity. Brilliant. Mouth: yes, perfect. Probably old, with an astounding complexity, many ripe apples, oranges, nectarines, quince jelly, touches of muscat grape, pineapples again, a touch of cinnamon, some fresh mint from the oak, a hint of eucalyptus syrup… Some peppermint as well, the oak feels a bit, but it never, ever gets drying. Impeccable. Finish: medium, clean, fresh, with a little lime that makes it… a little too moreish, so rather dangerous. You may have to fit a lock on your decanter. The aftertaste is a tad oaky (so I can’t go to 91) but that’s just fine. Comments: I’m not surprised, this is totally perfect and eminently malternative-y. Kudos Old Brothers! SGP:751 - 90 points.

Distillerie Charpentier 30 yo (55.3%, Cadenhead, Cognac, Petite Champagne, 252 bottles, 2017)

Distillerie Charpentier 30 yo (55.3%, Cadenhead, Cognac, Petite Champagne, 252 bottles, 2017) Five stars This is a scandal! Cadenhead should not be allowed to sell 30 years old Cognac – and what’s more, at cask strength – for £75 a bottle. I think I’ll write to Macron, he will do something. Even worse, last year’s Charpentier 30 was spectacular (WF 91). Colour: deep gold. Nose: yeah, I’ll start petitioning. Praline, quinces, dandelions, broom, mirabelles, sultanas, rum… This is unbearable. With water: yeah! Parsley, lovage, soy sauce… but all that con gusto and restraint. Mouth (neat): hate it that I like it so much. Ice wine, pressed apples (a thing they make in the Loire valley, they press apples so that they get very thin, and let them dry – it’s called pommes pressées), halva, fudge… My, this is good! And totally malternative-y! And too cheap! (I think we got you, S.) With water: it’s a malt beater, honestly. Finish: yes, long, and again, rather on dried apples, iced apple wine like they make in Canada (by the way, happy 150th anniversary, Canada!)… Raisins. Comments: despicably good. Hate it because of the price. Hey why not a magnum while you’re at it, Cadenhead? SGP:651 - 92 points.

We’re climbing up the ladder, aren’t we?...

Distillerie Charpentier 50 yo (56.0%, Cadenhead, Cognac, Petite Champagne, 250 bottles, 2017)

Distillerie Charpentier 50 yo (56.0%, Cadenhead, Cognac, Petite Champagne, 250 bottles, 2017) Four stars and a half Please say a price… That’s right, £135. I think I’ll write to Theresa and Nicola too, this madness has to stop. Imagine this would be cheap cereal spirit from a country in the north, a 50 yo would cost you, say more than £15,000! Like, say, some official HP or Bowmore 50… Something isn’t right here. And no, that’s not only a matter of crystal, sterling silver, or obscure Scottish designers and craftsmen… But rant over, let’s move on… Colour: deep gold. Nose: quite similar on the nose, and perhaps even a little shier. But boy these melons and these quinces… And these ripe plums, and this flower nectar, and this beeswax… And this mentholy, thuja-like oak… With water: no soy sauce this time, rather tar, engine oil, old garage… All those marvellous things. Mouth (neat): it serves them right, I tend to like the 30 a little better, it was rather brighter and had less oak. But other than that, this is perfect, all on plums, mirabelles, ripe greengages… And there are oranges too, which keep it tight and fighting. With water: not quite, water brings the tannins to the front. It’s still absolutely superb, but it tends to lose focus (which the 30 had mucho). Finish: long, with a little caramel, stewed peaches and plums… Comments: Extremely good, it’s just that the 30… you know… SGP:561 - 89 points.

Joking aside, those lovely Old Brothers and Cadenheads just gave me an idea. Let’s go back further in time…

Grande Champagne ‘Lot N°18.48’ (40.8%, Grosperrin for The Auld Alliance Singapore, Cognac, 72 bottles)

Grande Champagne ‘Lot N°18.48’ (40.8%, Grosperrin for The Auld Alliance Singapore, Cognac, 72 bottles) Five stars The French connection in full swing here, this baby comes from a family demijohn that used to lie in a forgotten ‘chai’ in Vaulx-Rouillac and that used to shelter 50 litres of 1848 Cognac. No ideas when it was transferred from wood to the demijohn, but bottling was done in 2015. No need to add that this is proper pre-phylloxeric Grande Champagne! Colour: deep gold. Nose: perhaps 40 years old? 35? It’s flabbergasting old Cognac, showcasing all plums of the creation, all yellow nectar-ridden flowers, some wonderful notes of warm praline and milk chocolate, and funny touches of butterscotch. It’s totally alive, there’s even a little youth to it, and very little rancio or meaty/herbal notes…

There are pears as well, which remind me of some very old Domfrontais. To think that this was distilled during the third French revolution (more or less, that revolution was short), when the king Louis-Philippe had to abdicate! (first revolution was 1789, second was 1830). Mouth: sweet Mary and Joseph, this one’s rustic on the palate. Feels even younger than just 35 or 40 this time, it’s a little gritty and tea-ish, with some tobacco and sour fruits (sour apples and pears), plus bags of prunes. This is unpolished, raw 1848 Cognac, but the pleasure is immense. As they say, you feel the fracas of time.

Finish: rather long and this time, the raisins are leading the charge. I’m also feeling a little dried coconut, mind you, coconut from the mid-19th century! Comments: imagine this baby was distilled one hundred and seventy years ago… Way before Tesla, Donald Trump, the iPhone, and Facebook… It makes a person's head spin… SGP:561 - 90 points (including some emotional ones).

We’ll rather taste some young modern ones next time we’re trying Cognac, I promise…

(Merci beaucoup Emmanuel)

More tasting notes Check the index of all Cognacs I've tasted so far






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