Google 17th Anniversary Malternatives, French brandies

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

July 28, 2019


17th Anniversary Malternatives:
French brandies!

Didn’t we say we’d be back with some brandies? We’ll probably manage to find good old ones but first, a proper aperitif that may, or may not set the tone.

Vallein Tercinier ‘Napoléon’ (40%, OB, +/-2018)

Vallein Tercinier ‘Napoléon’ (40%, OB, +/-2018) Three stars and a half
A younger old Cognac by our friends the Domaine des Forges in Chermignac. It wouldn’t say from which region of Cognac it stems, though. In theory, Napoléons sit between the VSOPs and the XOs as far as ages are concerned. Colour: gold. Nose: crazy tinned peaches in abundance! Peach purée, the one you’d use to make a proper Bellini. Maybe a stray raisin underneath, says Angus, and then more peaches, stewed in honey sauce this time. Mouth: quite creamy, with some soft wood spices that would suggest some older age, then perhaps rather apricot jam this time, although the peaches haven’t given up, some golden syrup, a little caramel… And quite some black tea from the wood. A bit as if the 40% weren’t quite enough to sustain the oakiness. Finish: a little short, with touches of brown bread (says Angus). Gingerbread. Comments: a very fine wee drop, just let down by the low ABV. That’s the fate of many a younger Cognac. Very good nonetheless, if not on par with the stunning older vintage bottlings from VT’s.
SGP:640 – 83 points (Angus 83).

Borderies 12 yo (50.8%, Jean Grosperrin, 2019)

Borderies 12 yo (50.8%, Jean Grosperrin, 2019) Four stars
From a small estate lead by two brothers who retired since they distilled this one. Colour: gold. Nose: Angus says this one is more towards that bready style, with syrups, tangerines and lychees. I find it somewhat exotic, with touches of sweeter curry. Banana bread with sultanas, elderflower wine (adds Angus), vanilla sauce, custard made with a nice sauternes… It’s quite complex! Angus also finds notes of muscat, he’s right. With water: balsa wood, pastis (Angus), beeswax, waxed canvas, a little bit of lemon peel or at least something approaching citrus… Mouth (neat): really compact, full bodied, very direct, straight away, with sweet pastries and a little more custard than on the nose. Plum jam and plum wine. With water: more dried fruits and crystallised fruits than in the VT. Honey cake, some pine resin… Finish: medium and a little peppery (oak), and rather more on gingerbread and Jamaica cake (says Angus, who swears he isn’t talking about space cakes). Triple-sec in the aftertaste, curaçao... Comments: robust and elegant at the same time. Top notch bang for your buck Cognac.
SGP:641 - 86 points (Angus 86).

Petite Champagne 1992/2018 (46.7%, Jean Grosperrin, 311 litres)

Petite Champagne 1992/2018 (46.7%, Jean Grosperrin, 311 litres) Four stars
Almost purely ugni blanc, from an estate in Salles-de-Barbezieux. Colour: gold. Nose: pretty grassier than the Borderies, and more on almonds, brioche, damson jam, marzipan. Angus finds wee notes of limoncello. A globally drier style, with more flower seeds as well, cooking oils… After three minutes, more flowers would come out. Dandelions? Mouth: sweeter than expected at first (rose water, Turkish delights), then some menthol tobacco, orange jam, and a slightly sour and grassy vinosity. Surprisingly punchy on the palate. Angus finds a little pomegranate as well. Finish: medium and rather oakier and spicier. You feel the tannins a bit more in the finish. Comments: the Borderies was rather brighter, this one was generally more punchy and spicy.
SGP:651 - 85 points (Angus 86).

Borderies Lot N°79 (53.8%, Jean Grosperrin, 105 litres, 2019)

Borderies Lot N°79 (53.8%, Jean Grosperrin, 105 litres, 2019) Four stars and a half
Naturally, we have no proof that this is a 1979. Colour: deep gold. Nose: the peaches, nectarines and apricots are back. In that order, adds Angus. There’s also a little bit of jasmine tea, preserved pineapples, pot-pourri (Angus’s favourite but he doesn’t quite know how to say it), also eucalyptus and camphor, as well as ideas of chartreuse and Verveine du Velay (verbena). Angus also gets pollen. Really lovely and super elegant, with fruits and spices in perfect balance. With water: quince de vie matured in oak, cigar boxes, and wee touches of moss and mushrooms in the woods. Petrichor and high-end hand cream. Mouth (neat): big, bold, very spicy, with a wood that’s very present but not cloying, not over the top, says Angus. Notes of fruit-flavoured pipe tobacco, black tea and liquorice, menthol and liquorice, as well as earthy pu-ehr tea. With water: kirsch and flambéed bananas, brown sugar, and orange peel in chocolate. Not a throwaway. Finish: rather long, while the Turkish delights are back, Angus finds Sauternes and honey cake, I would add rose water and oriental pastries, corne de gazelle pastry… Comments: Angus finds a superb freshness despite the presence of the oak, the kind of balance you rarely find in whiskies of the same age.
SGP:661 – 89 points (Angus 89).

Grande Champagne Lot N°67 (47.5%, Jean Grosperrin, 149 litres, 2018)

Grande Champagne Lot N°67 (47.5%, Jean Grosperrin, 149 litres, 2018) Four stars
Colour: amber gold. Nose: this is more subtle again, it’s almost whispering after the boisterous 79, with tobacco leaves, fresh marzipan, a touch of wild strawberry (Angus), then rather nectarines. Angus finds sponge cake, I do find Jaffa cakes, as well as notes of nougat and cassata. That was rather self-explanatory, wasn’t it. Mouth: kind of evident, perhaps just a tad simple, with syrups, raisins, sultanas, crystalised tangerine… It’s relatively sweet, very good for sure, but a notch too focused on those raisiny notes. Aren’t we getting demanding? But isn’t it essential to be demanding when tasting spirits? Finish: medium or even a little short, with some arrack and caraway. A mentholated aftertaste. Comments: all very fine, but perhaps not as thrilling as we would have hoped. Still, it’s very lovely and pretty fresh old Cognac. Plus, wasn’t 1967 Jimi Hendrix’s best year?
SGP:640 – 86 points (Angus 87).

Bisquit ‘Hors d’Âge’ (no ABV statement, Grande Fine Champagne, +/-1960)

Bisquit ‘Hors d’Âge’ (no ABV statement, Grande Fine Champagne, +/-1960) Four stars and a half
A very famous brand, of which quite some very old bottles are still to be found, sometimes under its variant ‘Bisquit-Dubouché’. Bottled late 1950s or early 1960s, so probably distilled before the war. Colour: amber mahogany, sounds like the name of a James Bond girl form the Roger Moore era, doesn’t it.

Nose: pure figs and prunes, with a lot of tobacco as well. Majestic and not needing a lot of literature (do you call that literature, S.?) What’s sure is that it’s extremely deep and concentrated. Some parts remind me of some ultra-old oloroso, while others remind Angus of a 1968 Glendronach, with lots of damp earth and dark chocolate. Mouth: there is more caramel and chocolate, more black Corinthian raisins, some sweet prune juice (which would be illegal after Brexit, says Angus) and touches of molasses honey. Drops of coffee liqueur as well. Only the back of the background gathered a few metallic and greasy notes that would only minorly detract from an otherwise pretty perfect old style Cognac. Finish: good length, on bitter chocolate, espresso, and a few bits of raisins and dried mint. There is a little soap in the aftertaste, but that would be Christian Dior rather than Fairy Liquid. Comments: it’s very sensitive old spirit. To water, to the shape of your glass, to light… To everything, really.
SGP:551 - 88 points (Angus 88).

Mucha used to work for Bisquit >

Would you mind if we sneaked some Armagnac into this Cognacqy session? Thank you…

Domaine Aux Ducs 1933/1985 (45%, Darroze, Bas-Armagnac)

Domaine Aux Ducs 1933/1985 (45%, Darroze, Bas-Armagnac) Five stars
This baby was bottled when Angus was four months old (and had already bought quite a few Ardbegs). Colour: amber gold. Nose: it’s a thrill to detect the main differences between Cognac and Armagnac again, especially in these high-end bottlings. In this very case, popular consensus is correct, the Armagnac is more rustic, meatier, with more savoury notes as well as more varnish (which may come from the wood in this case, I agree). Angus is finding really a lot of meat stock, ramen, earth and hessian, while I’m detecting piles of chocolate, coffee and black tobacco, Gauloise-style. Rustic indeed, but wonderful. Mouth: a salute to the sun, full of herbs, sauces, citrus peel, celeriac, turnips… Angus is finding parsnip roasted in honey, which sure is some very British tasting notes. It’s really superb, Angus even finds it a little leathery and gamy. Not sure any Armagnac house ever dared doing an oloroso finish (how lousy would that be?) but we would say it would taste like this.

Oh, forgot to mention walnuts. Finish: long, bone-dry, extremely oloroso-y, on bags of green walnuts and many bitter herbs and the extracts made thereof. Lovage, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and Angus’s favourite drink, Maggi (always neat!)… You see. Comments: splendidly herbal and savoury. Angus doesn’t seem to find his words and just adds that it’s very good. He would add that it’s the epitome of the very best rustic style Armagnacs.
SGP:372 – 91 points (Angus 91).

'The geography of the region amazingly evokes the shape of a gigantic vine leaf'
(ad circa 1960) >

When you taste these spirits, it’s dangerous because it’s so easy to get lost in enjoyment and pleasure, since they’re naturally so easy drinking. Unlike whisky that can often be more intellectual and challenging. Especially eight old Glen Mhor in a row! But back to Cognac…

Grande Champagne Lot N°25 (42.1%, Jean Grosperrin, 204 litres, 2019)

Grande Champagne Lot N°25 (42.1%, Jean Grosperrin, 204 litres, 2019) Five stars
We’re afraid we haven’t got any picture of the bottle yet, so we’ll put one of Boris Johnson. Of course not, we wouldn’t want to make you throw up on your keyboard or tablet. De nada. (UPDATE we finally got a picture after having written this!) Colour: reddish copper amber (whatever). Nose: ooh, exotic fruits in abundance. Papayas, guavas, dried mangos… The freshness is absolutely flabbergasting, and you would still have these classic Cognac notes of raisins and tobacco and stewed peaches. To think that in theory, this was distilled during the Années Folles! Mouth: Angus is finding strawberry liqueur and liquid tobacco, which I find appropriate. I’m finding Turkish fig wine, walnut oil (says Angus), bitter pure coco chocolate, those Gauloises again, a touch of blood orange, even a bit of kumquat (says Angus, who’s got good friends in the Flatlands)… Now it tends to become rather more medicinal and herbal, bitterer,  with bitter herbal extracts, pre-war Jägermeister (we imagine), black balsam from Riga, Latvia and walnut wine and dried mushrooms. Morels. That’s all the tannins but we constantly remain within the threshold of civilised acceptability. Finish: it’s just amazing that it did not go drying or tea-ish. You still have these residual exotic fruits and even a little espresso and natural tar. We are defeated. Sadly not like Boris, according to the latest news. Comments: humbling and evocative ancient Cognac. We do not know how much time it spent in wood vs. glass, but if it had spent its whole life in Quercus, which is entirely possible, we do believe in miracles again. Hallelujah. Angus says we could make great Jägerbombs out of this. I’ll take his words for it.
SGP:462 – 92 points (Angus 92).

Why not some French brandy of uncertain origins as a finale for this little celebratory session?

Very Superior Liqueur Brandy ‘Sixty Years Old’ (no ABV, Justerini & Brooks, +/-1930s)

Very Superior Liqueur Brandy ‘Sixty Years Old’ (no ABV, Justerini & Brooks, +/-1930s) Two stars and a half
We do not know where this little brandy comes from (possibly Bordeaux), but the label says ‘established upwards of 180 years’, while J&B was founded in 1749. So this was probably bottled around north of 1930, which means, since it is 60 years old, that it was distilled around 1870. Ish. Colour: reddish amber. Nose: vegetable soup, leather, and chocolate. Dunnage as well, says Angus, Maggi, artichoke, Cointreau or some sort of orange liqueur, gazpacho, tomato leaves, a few figs as well, cocoa powder, a kind of milk chocolate (Belgian, perhaps?), turnips, French beans, mushroom soup, or just piles of French ingredients (says Angus)… With a nose like this, the palate could be… anything. Total mystery. Mouth: sweet and a little flabby. Coconut and crème brulée – feels like American oak -, chicory, fennel seeds, bay leaves and bailey (that Irish cream  a.k.a. Irish scream that kills)… Walnut and coffee cake… Seriously, it’s simply moving to drink something that your grandmother would have called out of date, but on the palate, this antiquated little baby doesn’t quite taste like Cognac or Armagnac. But whoever composed this slightly liqueury little brandy did it well, while keeping the English taste in mind. They were not totally shy with the sugar, apparently. Finish: very short, still rother coffeeish, with some Demerara sugar notes. The coconuts are back in  the aftertaste. Comments: it’s hard to believe that it’s 60 years old. A pleasant (and moving) little concoction from times gone by, not too far from some other very old ‘foreign’ brandies, such as brandy de Jerez, or ex-USSR ‘Konjaks’.
SGP:630 – 76 points (Angus 80).

Nine’s a good number, is it not? Not that we wouldn’t have liked to taste 17 malternatives to celebrate the aftermath of this lousy website’s 17th Anniversary, but you see, we’re trying to control our alcohol intake. Not that we’re trying that hard… And now, eleven rums… No!

We solemnly declare that the celebrations of WF’s 17th Anniversary are officially closed.

(Many, many thanks Angus for some of these wonderful old brandies!)

More tasting notesCheck the index of all Brandies we've tasted so far







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