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

May 20, 2018





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
Random Brandies
Brandoms? Randies? This session makes little sense I’m afraid. I have a small stash of assorted Brandies and, rather than waiting ages to accumulate suitable sparring partners, I think it would be more fun to just try them all together. So, without further ado...


Let’s visit Germany for wee aperitif...  


Jacobi 1972 20 yo (40%, OB, German Brandy) Jacobi 1972 20 yo (40%, OB, German Brandy)
A brandy distillery founded in 1880 in Weinstadt by one Jacob Jacobi. Never tried their stuff before...  Colour: Amber. Nose: Nice! A straightforward but very clean and pleasing combination of baked apples, sultanas, brown bread and various toasted seeds. A few notes such as baked raisins, cocoa powder and a little shredded wheat dusted with brown sugar. Rather like a decent XO Cognac if you ask me, one not too adulterated with boisé - or at least that’s the impression I get on the nose. With time it goes towards herbs and fruit jams. Mouth: much sweeter than the nose suggests. Lots of candied fruits, orange syrup, some mulling spices, strawberry jam, orange oils and mandarin liqueur. A few cloves, some more baked apple notes and hints of dense spice cake. Some caraway as well. Finish: Medium, all on soft spices, freshly baked breads and sultanas. Comments: Very nice and quaffable. Maybe a tad sweet on the palate for me - perhaps some sort of sugary substance was involved after all?
SGP: 430 - 81 points.


And now to that most traditional of Brandy producing countries... England!  


You may or may not know, but at Burrow Hill Farm in Somerset where the Temperley family produce some the finest ciders in the world, they also distill some excellent Cider brandies in their two copper column stills from France: Josephine and Fifi. Unlike sibling spirit Calvados, which often contains a significant quantity of pears, Somerset Cider Brandy is made using 100% cider apples. They’ve even gone to the extent of battling for, and securing, a protected geographical indication from those despicable bureaucrats in Brussels. If you can manage it, I’d recommend a wee trip to Burrow Hill Farm in Somerset where you can hear owner Julian Temperley tell you everything from his views on Brexit (short version: he’s against!) to the compelling finer points of the terroir of apples. Anyway, let’s try some...  


Somerset Cider Brandy 5 yo (42%, OB)

Somerset Cider Brandy 5 yo (42%, OB)
All of the Temperley’s brandies - barring one or two experiments - are matured in ex-sherry casks. Colour: White wine. Nose: Apples! Although it’s a real variety of apples that you get. A dense apple crumble with a buttery aspect but also green apple peelings, a tart cidery quality and some sweeter, red apple notes as well. There’s also an almost gloopy custard note (although that may be my brain ‘filling in’ for me), along with gooseberry jelly, a hint of soda bread and a slight - yet appropriate - farmy quality. Mouth: it has good density in the mouth with a slightly bitter arrival that is suggestive of crushed apple pips. Some white pepper, nettles and even a few cereals as well. The breadiness is louder here and rather wonderfully savoury - like a good buttery pastry. The apple side is very much towards that tart, cider apple quality. Finish: Medium with notes of golden syrup, brown bread and more appleyness. Even a sense of rhubarb and custard sweets. Comments: If you like characterful eau de vies that carry a distinct sense of their component fruit then this is for you. Charismatic distillate!
SGP: 530 - 84 points.



Somerset Cider Brandy 10 yo (42%, OB)

Somerset Cider Brandy 10 yo (42%, OB)
The only difference in the ages is age. No re-racking, no dosing with sugar, no tricksy colouring agents. Colour: Gold. Nose: The extra five years is pretty apparent. The same apple richness is there, only here it is more concentrated and silky on the nose. Around it there’s lots of nectar, pollen and syrupy notes. Golden syrup, some shortbread, notes of mirabelle eau de vie and even a needling hint of hessian. There’s also still a big, generous splodge of apple pie in the middle of it all. Mouth: toast with plenty of butter and honey. Apple sauce, grated pepper, nutmeg and some young VS Cognac. Feels younger in the mouth than on the nose this one. An earthiness also makes its presence felt along with some slightly sappy and spicy wood. With time a little herbaceous touch and some apple resin (I’m sure such a thing doesn’t exist, but it’s an impression). Finish: Good length, spicy, earthy, lots of apple peelings and a hint of honeyed porridge. Comments: Similar ballpark of quality but we’ve moving incrementally upwards. The overall character is more concentrated although the complexity remains about the same, which is interesting.
SGP: 540 - 85 points.



Somerset Cider Brandy 15 yo (42%, OB)

Somerset Cider Brandy 15 yo (42%, OB)
Colour: Light amber. Nose: Ah, the difference here is much greater than between 5 and 10.  This one starts to possess a curious mix of aged Calvados and older Armagnac aspects with these dense earthy and stewed apple notes. Rich aromas of caramelising brown sugar, dates, damson compote, old madeira, dried cranberries and runny honey. Many pastries, a touch of butter, some very old mead and wild flowers. Mouth: a beautiful combination of yellow flowers, mead, cloves, olive oil, sultanas, black pepper and a hint of white balsamic. The apples are starting to coalesce and become more singular and integrated. In the same way that many spirits can converge as they age, so this one starts to display more classical brandy and rum qualities. Lots of earthiness, some estery fruits and savoury bready qualities. Finish: Long, elegant and full of stewed sultanas, fig jam, some pomegranate syrup and apple sauce. Comments: Really quite beautiful and characterful distillate. We’re flying quite high now.
SGP: 550 - 88 points.



Somerset Cider Brandy 20 yo (42%, OB)

Somerset Cider Brandy 20 yo (42%, OB)
Colour: Amber. Nose: Again it strides in a new direction. This one is farmier than the 15, more leathery, sooty and full of concentrated dark fruits such as dates, figs and sultanas. Some black cherries, fermenting cider, charcoal, wet earth, hessian, graphite and walnut oil. With time some marzipan, sheep wool and muesli. There’s also this wonderful mix of honeys, brown breads and toffee apples. Mouth: despite the age there is still a balancing savoury bite to it. Notes of umami paste, black pepper, biltong, game and aged pinot noir. This is the benefit of natural aged distillate un-bothered by sugary nonsense. A sense of boot polish, coal dust and apple sweets balanced by these light tannins from the wood. Finish: Long, perfectly drying and throwing up all these earthy, honeyed, bready and apple qualities. Comments: Really terrific. I had been unsure when I originally tried these whether I preferred the 15 or the 20 but, side by side, the 20 wins hands down. Worth seeking out and a genuine malternative I’d say.
SGP: 561 - 90 points.



Phew! Let’s take a trip to that obscure new brandy producing country they call France...  


Marie Duffau 1942 (40%, OB, Armagnac, -/+ 1990s)

Marie Duffau 1942 (40%, OB, Armagnac, +/- 1990s)
Marie Duffaux is a small family producer based in Lannepax with 42 hectares of vineyards. Colour: Deep amber. Nose: A beautiful concoction of polished hardwoods and tropical fruit syrups. Some mushroom powder, damp cellars, tea tree oil and many dark, concentrated fruits. Maybe a tad simplistic and straightforward, but it’s beautiful and perfectly precise old Armagnac.



Mouth: a rather excellent balance between gamey, meaty notes, earthiness and darker fruits. Lots of fig jam, seville orange marmalade, a cheeky wee kumquat and some black pepper and a shaving of truffle. Again, delicious but a tad simplistic. Gets breadier and earther with time. Finish: Medium with a nice mix of dried tropical fruits and dark fruit jams. Becoming similarly earthy and savoury with time. Comments: Beautiful, just perhaps a tad too simple to break the 90 barrier. Another few degrees of alcohol - if it had been possible - would certainly have propelled it further.
SGP: 540 - 89 points.


Armagnac Delord 1937/2007 70 yo (40%, OB)

Delord 70 yo 1937/2007 (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac)
Colour: Deep amber. Nose: More reserved than the Duffau, at first this is all soft brown breads, toasted seeds, little touches of rosewater, dried herbs, lavender oils, precious hardwoods, tool boxes, walnut wine and old chalk. Much more complex. Goes on with increasing fruitiness that manifests as dried apricots, sultana, prune essence and even some dried mango. Hints of sunflower oil, malt loaf and wet earth. Also a touch of strawberry wine and the tiniest scraping of lemon rind. Quite beautiful.



Mouth: A very spicy and peppery attack with more than a little tannin in the mix as well. The wood is certainly louder here than on the nose but it’s held together well by dried prunes, lots of figs, some black cherries, some ancient herbal liqueur and various toasted and crushed nuts. Especially walnuts as is so often the case with long-aged spirits. A slightly mustardy note arises with time as well, and you can add to that a single bay leaf, some darjeeling tea and a bit of crystalised lemon peel. Finish: Good length, rather drying, on earth, black tea, dried mushrooms, coal dust and some raisiny dark fruits. Comments: It’s a common observation but I feel 40% is really just devastating to these dignified old glories. That said, this is an undeniably beautiful old Armagnac. It says a lot that you can just write such casual notes about a 70 year old Armagnac, while if this was a whisky - well, you can only imagine the pontificating gibberish I’d have spouted by now... I was undecided between 89/90 but, on balance, I think the latter...
SGP: 540 - 90 points.


And one Cognac for the road. Although, not just any Cognac...  


Vallein Tercinier Très vieux fins bois 1938/1941 (47%, OB, 2016) Vallein Tercinier Très vieux fins bois 1938/1941 (47%, OB, 2016)
Serge already wrote some notes for this one but I’m not about to let that stop me... Colour: Light amber. Nose: A soft nose to begin but beneath lies a deep and myriad mix of crystallised citrus fruits, rancio, coconut and many green and tropical fruits. Some dried herbs such as sage, rosemary and bay leaf, then many breads, pastries, sandalwood, fragrant candles and incense. Gets increasingly farmyardy in an elegant way with some notes of bailed hay, hessian and olive oil. Really quite beautiful. Mouth: What a difference the strength makes! Orange peel, tropical mix, desiccated cocoanut, dried mint, lime skins, peaches, nectarine, dried apricot, many soft spices, white pepper and dry earth. Superb power, punch and poise. Not to mention freshness! More sunflower and olive oil, nutmeg, toasted cereals, aged muscat, lemon jelly and a drop of aged ointment. Finish: Wonderfully long, resinous, nervously fruity, spicy and complex. Comments: It’s increasingly said that Vallein Tercinier are really slaying the competition in Cognac these days, I’ve tried a number of their bottlings now and I struggle to find reason to disagree. Serge gave this one 89 but, as happens on occasion, he is wrong...
SGP: 551 - 91 points.


Thanks to Stefan, Enrico, Dirk, Hans, Matilda and Serge (who is doing a sterling job providing samples for his own blog!)  







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