Google Cognac for Boxing Day

Serge whiskyfun
Thousands of tastings,
all the music,
all the rambligs
and all the fun


Facebook Twitter Logo
Guaranteed ad-free
copyright 2002-2021


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

December 26, 2021





Angus's Corner
From our correspondent and
skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Scotland
Cognac for Boxing Day
I have so, so, so many samples of Cognac piling up. To the point that I'm afraid to even begin tackling them, even though I know that eventually it must be done. Not that tasting Cognac is a chore mind you - quite the opposite. It's a drink I've come to appreciate more and more in recent years.


It's a spirit that is almost entirely about the fine detail; whisky sways wildly from peat to fruit - sherry to bourbon - and can show obvious, immediate difference from the brim of the glass. Cognac on the other hand is about celebrating nuance and subtlety at the macro and micro levels. You must almost climb inside each dram, sleeves rolled and scalpel poised to dissect. It is why so many Cognacs, if we are being ruthlessly honest, just 'taste like Cognac'. The great ones are distinct, but those distinctions are great because they are also subtle.



It is this aspect that can make Cognac tricky to 'get' initially for those of us used to more assertive character in our drinks. Cognac devotees will tell you it is about terroir and the idiosyncrasy of the various regions. I would add to this it is also a lot to do with the commercial nature of the product itself: the vast oceans of Cognac produced are made in a highly uniform way and intended for blending, predominantly by one of four main big Cognac houses. Many of the most visible, commercial Cognac bottlings are highly processed, managed products that aren't too interesting to spirits enthusiasts. What we most celebrate at the very sharp end of the spirit-geekery spectrum, are just glittering drops of those oceans that find their way through quirk of family, ownership, history, business, disagreement, finance and pure chance, to be bottled in more natural, un-sweetened, non-intervened forms.




'What will happen in 1965? Will a Man have reached the moon?
In any case, Martell will be 250 years old'
(French magazine advert for Martell Médaillon, 1964)


Little wonder that the Venn diagram of whisky and Cognac enthusiasm is moving ever further towards eclipse. Whisky has been ahead of Cognac for quite some time now in celebration of natural, cask strength, unadorned presentation of the distillate - in single or multi-cask form. A style that Cognac has been playing catch up to recently and to great acclaim; when shed of its sugar and boisé and brute dilution, Cognac can be a drink of superluminal nuance and fruity beauty, with natural appeal to a whisky palate. What could, and should in my view, come next is that whisky may start to learn many vital lessons from the world of Cognac. There is a wealth of ideas about dilution, ageing, terroir, wood management and glass-storage that could all have positive qualitative effects if applied in whisky - but time will have to tell on that front.



I suspect - and as a bottler of Cognac myself, I hope - this overlap between the two cultures of enthusiasm is only set to continue. As mentioned, Cognac is a drink about fine detail, it's about complexity, nuance, shyness and quiet subtlety. My first love is, and always will be, Scotch Whisky, but Cognac offers a beautiful and always fascinating interlude from other more boisterous spirits. It can take a long time to get into it properly, to get to that personal 'eureka' moment that we all remember coming so powerfully with whisky. But it's worth making the effort to get there I think, it's a rewarding drink to contemplate, to spend time with, and to learn about. It belongs to the world of wine as much as to that of distillate, and as such what there is to learn will always dwarf what one mind can know.



It is also a drink very much about time, about using time patiently and deliberately as an ingredient and agent of quality. Something the French mastered and retained long ago across much of their various national drinks; something we've gone backwards on with whisky, or arguably never mastered in the first place. As such, there's no shortage of bottlings out there today which represent astonishing value for money when compared to almost any whisky/whiskey bottlings from anywhere around the world. (Let's not even get started on Armagnac!) It's as good a reason as any in today's price-obsessed age to go and explore Cognac.



Anyway, let's commence battle with this sample pile. We'll have a real mixed bag today…







Delamain Pale & Dry Grande Champagne (70 proof, OB, late 1970s)

Delamain Pale & Dry Grande Champagne (70 proof, OB, late 1970s)
A famous house located in Jarnac. 'Pale & Dry' essentially means 'without sugar'. Colour: light amber. Nose: leafy and gentle, with dried apricots, some caffe latte and caramelised brown sugar. It does indeed feel a tad more 'natural' in the way it presents aromatically. Some lighter notes of sultana and quince paste emerge as well. Mouth: soft on arrival but you feel that it is indeed a drier and slightly firmer style that incorporated tobaccos, mushroom powders, bouillon stocks and sticky preserved dark fruits. Muscovado sugars, dried mint and marjoram. Has the richness of Grande Champagne and these soft wee spices bring a feeling of classiness to proceedings. Finish: medium, probably a tad short, some spiced toffee, prunes, more apricots and more leathery tobacco vibes. Comments: these 40% ABVs are always a problem for whisky palates. However, let's not forget these were drinks designed for large mouthfuls and whole bottles to be demolished post-dinner with cigars etc. The drier and slightly more natural profile also works a charm here too.
SGP: 561 - 82 points.



Frapin Chateau de Fontpinot Grande Champagne Reserve du Chateau (41%, OB, 1990s)

Frapin Chateau de Fontpinot Grande Champagne Réserve du Château (41%, OB, 1990s)
From an estate located entirely within the Grande Champagne region, this is also Cognac that's produced and bottled by the house itself. Colour: deep amber. Nose: quite rich and robust on the nose. Leaf mulch, tobaccos, burnt raisins, quince paste, dates, fuzzy peaches and some almond oil too. In my still very limited experience, I'd say it feels like typical Grande Champagne. Mouth: even 1 single extra degree of alcohol already feels like an asset here. Some warm and rather generous spiciness, dark chocolate, toasted Brazil nuts, cloves, umami paste and crystallised citrus rinds. More of these earthen cellar and leaf mulch vibes too. Finish: medium, lightly peppery, some honeys, leather, cocoa and dried herbs. Rather charming aftertaste. Comments: a nicely chunky, classical, well balanced and uncomplicated GC Cognac that I'm sure would go down a treat while falling asleep in front of The Great Escape on a Christmas afternoon.
SGP: 561 - 83 points.



Martell V.S.O.P Medallion (40%, OB, 1960s)

Martell V.S.O.P Medaillon (40%, OB, 1960s)
One of Martell's flagship bottlings, containing Cognac from Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies and Fins Bois all minimum 4 years old. Although, how similar that recipe was in the 1960s I couldn't tell you. Colour: deep mahogany. Nose: finely polished and rather impressively scented. Earthy, with many tobaccos, black truffle, dried mushroom and wee touches of bergamot and clove. With time there's Seville orange marmalade and that most classical of Cognac aroma: peaches! Mouth: not as 'together' as the nose, loses a little definition and has this  tiny note of soap. There's still some very nice cocoa and leaf mulch flavours going on, along with crystallised orange peel and some lovely rancio. Finish: medium, rather chocolatey, nicely herbal and bitter with an even spiciness. Comments: loses its way on the palate a bit, but overall a very fine and surprisingly good Cognac at times. Hard to score though. The nose on its own was worth easily 88 in my view. I suspect another old bottle of the same liquid could tell a different story… 
SGP: 561 - 80(ish) points.



Normandin Mercier Vieille Grande Champagne 'L'Essentiel' (41.5%, OB for Cognac-Expert, 60 bottles, 2020)

Normandin Mercier Vieille Grande Champagne 'L'Essentiel' (41.5%, OB for Cognac-Expert, 60 bottles, 2020)
Normandin Mercier is a small producer located just outside La Rochelle. This is part of an ongoing series of micro bottlings by the excellent Cognac-Expert online retailer. Their blog is a good place to go to learn more about Cognac. Colour: orangey gold. Nose: now we are talking! Many flowers, pollens, wild herbs, citrus rinds, some rather firm notes of flower honey and things like peaches in syrup, dried apricots and even slight hints of verbena and mead. The kind of aroma that puts you in mind of some 1972 Glen Grant. Mouth: very much on honeys, nectars and wood resins once again. Herbal extracts, wintergreen, citronella, bergamot and things like lemon thyme, aniseed and candied orange peel. A perfect example of a Cognac that's about finesse and detail. Finish: long, lightly spicy, warming, resinous citrus fruit notes, wood extracts, herbal cocktail bitters and hints of leather. Comments: to me, with such Cognacs, the word that often comes to mind is 'classy'. This is pure, natural, easy to enjoy Cognac that's also hugely elegant, complex and expressive.
SGP: 651 - 89 points.



Giboin Borderies 'L'Essentiel' (46.5%, OB for, 2021)

Giboin Borderies 'L'Essentiel' (46.5%, OB for, 2021)
Giboin is located in Cherves-Richemont and this is a blend of three casks of ugni blanc from 2002, 2005 and 2009. Colour: pale amber. Nose: far more rustic, punchy and robust. Quite striking to jump from GC to Borderies like that. Clear notes of dried flowers, runny honey, marmalade, citrus curds, pollens and small impressions of fruit salad juices. Some nice notes of breads and toasted seeds also emerge along with a rather rustic spiciness and hints of fennel seed. Mouth: a real departure, brown breads spread with honey and orange marmalade. Also touches of mango, lemon curd and peach schnapps. I even find some notes of hessian, baked banana and apple pips. In time it becomes pure banana bread with sultanas and wee hints of chocolate. Over time the spices, aniseed and fennel come to dominate. Finish: good length, rather herbal, many dried flowers, crystallised fruits, mineral oils and wood saps. Comments: the more robust and powerful side of Cognac. There's a rustic aspect here which can make you think of Armagnac at times, yet this is Borderies through and through. Excellent once again.
SGP: 561 - 87 points.



Hermitage 10 yo 2008 (45%, OB, Grande Champagne)

Hermitage 10 yo 2008 (45%, OB, Grande Champagne)
Single barrel and single estate apparently, and fewer than 200 bottles. Colour: pale amber. Nose: has that rather firm and richly bready profile that younger GCs often seem to display. Also some raisins, milk chocolate and prunes. Some nice threads of liquorice as well. Quite straightforward and simple but very easy and pleasurable so far. Mouth: less interesting here, more on bitter chocolate, office black coffee, some walnuts, treacle and pomegranate molasses. It's all very fine but perhaps a little undefined. Finish: medium, rather peppery, a little bitter, some wood extracts and cough mixtures. Comments: decent glugging Cognac at a good strength, but not particularly complex or refined I would say.

SGP: 451 - 82 points.



Daniel Bouju Cigare Connaisseur (59.9%, OB Germany exclusive, Grande Champagne)

Daniel Bouju Cigare Connaisseur (59.9%, OB Germany exclusive, Grande Champagne)
One of the first Cognac houses to do and promote higher ABV expressions. A name that's already gathered quite some respect from whisky folk. Colour: amber. Nose: rich and emphatically spicy, on dark grained breads, cocoa powder, aniseed, Earl Grey tea, leather and white miso paste. What's great also is that it noses extremely easily at full strength - always a great sign in my wee book. With water: dried herbs, cough medicines and chai tea. More spiced dark breads, umami paste and bitter orange. Mouth: great arrival, highly concentrated and thick, a lot of fruit syrups, flower nectars and wood spices unpacking from beneath that. More cocoa, more strong earthy teas, some liquorice and very slight crystallised tropical fruit notes. With water: excellent now, goes towards liquorice root, fennel, paprika and mint. Various marmalades, chopped dates and classical rancio notes. Finish: long, peppery and riddled with soft wood spices, teas, polished leather, cocoa and dried flowers. Comments: with Cognac, as soon as you hit cask strength, you really notice it. More powerful and terrific work from Daniel Bouju.

SGP: 561 - 88 points.



Daniel Bouju 'Brut de Fût Royal' (60%, OB, Cognac, Grande Champagne, -/+2019)

Daniel Bouju 'Brut de Fût Royal' (60%, OB, Cognac, Grande Champagne, -/+2019)
Colour: reddish amber. Nose: narrower and more on wonderfully powerful notes of flints, freshly roast coffee beans, bitter chocolate and acacia honey. Roast chestnuts, wintergreen, aged orange peel (cheng pi) and some nicely resinous hints of balsamic and rancio. Some date molasses and treacle emerge with time, along with an impression of caramelised demerara sugar. With water: more aromatic, deeper, more earthy, plummier and with a slightly more pronounced rummy quality. Mouth: a bit simpler than the Cigar bottling, but perhaps more emphatic and profound. Deeply earthy, peppery and darkly fruited - all on sticky dates and plums stewed in Armagnac - with hardwood resins and herbal extracts. With water: those breads from the Cigar edition are back! Lovely rye bread spiciness, treacle, cloves, big pipe tobacco notes, leather, earthen cellar floors, leaf mulch - the whole shebang! Finish: long, very focussed on liquorice, chewing tobacco, paprika, earth and umami paste. Some sweeter molasses notes emerging towards the aftertaste. Comments: extremely good. Little wonder whisky folk are so into these bottlings. Seriously, if you are a fan of big, gutsy cask strength drams, then you should endeavour to taste one of these Daniel Bouju bottlings.
SGP: 561 - 89 points.



Daniel Bouju 'Très Vieux Edition Dully' (53.4%, C. Dully Selection, Switzerland, Grande Champagne, 2019)

Daniel Bouju 'Très Vieux Edition Dully' (53.4%, C. Dully Selection, Switzerland, Grande Champagne, 2019)
Let's try another Daniel Bouju, this time selected by our Swiss friends - between lunchtime pints of Tokaji essencia and their afternoon Toblerone. Colour: ruby mahogany. Nose: now we're talking! Superbly thick, layered and concentrated. Sultanas, crystallised citrus peels, some long aged demerara rum, expensive liquorice and then many tiny notes such as cedar wood, dried herbs, leather tobacco pouches and an increasingly elegant menthol aspect. Gorgeous! With water: works terrifically with water, becoming more fragile and complex. Many dried flowers, crystallised exotic fruit and even wee things like five spice and Szechwan pepper. Mouth: a surprisingly easy arrival, a lot of soft and intricate spices, bitter dark chocolate, dried herbs such as oregano and thyme, then pure liquorice root, miso and tarragon. Sweeter notes come from these lovely sticky dark fruits such as sultanas, fig and prune. With water: once again the texture remains superbly thick, with a lot of clean and punchy spices, hardwood resins, spiced marmalade and more miso. Finish: long, still rather amazingly fresh, still showing many wee spices, preserved fruits, herbs, liquorice and menthol qualities. Comments: unsurprisingly, outstanding old Cognac that balances power and age with freshness. The concentration on display, and the texture are also really impressive.
SGP: 661 - 90 points.



Vallein Tercinier 'Rue 91' (45.3%, OB for Wu Dram Clan, Fins Bois)

Vallein Tercinier 'Rue 91' (45.3%, OB for Wu Dram Clan, Fins Bois)
Love Vallein Tercinier. Love Fins Bois. And I suppose also love Wu Dram Clan ;) Anyway, expectations are high here… Colour: deep gold. Nose: very typical Fins Bois, superbly soft, gentle, expressive and generously fruity. Full of citrus marmalades, flower honey, mirabelle, peach stones and just the tiniest rooty and earthy touch, one that also incorporates a little damp rancio. This kind of easiness and pleasure is what Fins Bois is all about in my very humble book. Mouth: really on fruit jellies, flower honey, crystallised grapefruit peel, lemon curd and this wonderfully syrupy texture. Not the most complex, but goes down with the deadliness of a stealth ninja! Finish: medium length, syrupy fruits once again, but also now slightly sappy and resinous with wormwood and liquorice. Comments: Simple, direct and very typical Fins Bois, but also just hugely quaffable. The kind of bottle you could idly demolish over Christmas without changing your slippers.
SGP: 651 - 88 points.



Cognac Lot 19 'No.70' 49 yo (49.2%, The Whisky Agency, Petite Champagne, 234 bottles, 2019)

Cognac Lot 19 'No.70' 49 yo (49.2%, The Whisky Agency, Petite Champagne, 234 bottles, 2019)
It's been far, far too long since I tried anything from The Whisky Agency. This should be a 1970s vintage. Colour: amber. Nose: we are into earthier, mulchier and darker territories. Stewed dark fruits all sticky with syrups, roots, tobaccos, herbs and cigar humidors. Some candied citrus peels, bergamot oil and top quality orange marmalade. Very cohesive and seductive. Mouth: rather stewed and concentrated on earthy, damp tobaccos, bitter dark cocoa powder, herbal extracts and cocktail bitters. Lots of leather, sack cloth and a very classical rancio character. In time it starts to incorporate some lightly gamey, meaty aspects too, such as meat stocks, suet and gravy. All the while there's these dark fruits in the background. Lovely stuff! Finish: good length, very focused on leaf mulch, damp tobacco, earth, sultanas, fir resins, liquorice and earthy black teas. Comments: we're approaching this style of old Cognac that makes you feel as though you are sipping some kind of liquified ancient library. Which, come to think of it, is actually the name of a Whisky Agency bottling series - guys, I think you missed a trick here!
SGP: 561 - 90 points.



Borderies D65-A54 (56.7%, Grosperrin for C. Dully Selection, cask #A1, 2019)

Borderies D65-A54 (56.7%, Grosperrin for C. Dully Selection, cask #A1, 2019)
Should be from 1965. I'm also a big fan of Borderies cognacs. Colour: bright bronze. Nose: a wonderful combination of jellied citrus fruits, flower honeys and mulchy earthy tones. Also things like old shoe leather, cupboard spices, yellow plums and mineral oils. Super complexity in the nose. With water: peaches, pressed flowers, pollens and tinned apricot in syrup. Still wonderfully luscious and vibrant. Mouth: great arrival, powerful and assertive on wood spices, dried herbs, preserved dark fruits, hardwood resins, furniture oils, lanolin and herbal cough medicines. Wormwood, orange oils, fruit liqueurs and crystallised exotic fruits. Gorgeous! With water: really perfect now! A wonderful mix of wood spices, herbal extracts, resinous crystallised fruits, honeys and pollens - almost a 1965 Glen Grant! Finish: long, perfectly herbal, medicinal, intricately earthy, syrupy and more of these resinous exotic and citrus fruits. The aftertaste in particular becomes almost embarrassingly exotic. Comments: outstanding old Cognac that nods in so many ways to great old school Speyside malts.

SGP: 661 - 91 points.



Otard 1929

Otard 21 yo 1929/1950 (70 proof, Grants of St James, French Brandy)
Another auction acquisition of mine. There is nothing on the label saying 'Cognac' but having already sipped a few tipples from this bottle I have strong confidence. Also Grants of St James was one of those posh London wine merchants that would like not have bottled any old tat. Interestingly the label states: "This brandy was shipped in 1930 and was bottled by Grant's of St James after being held in cask for 21 years. A large quantity of the original shipment was lost during this period due to evaporation, and the remainder has developed into a magnificent brandy with a mellow bouquet." How very cool that they would provide such detail back in 1950! Colour: deep gold. Nose: riddled with fruit jams and preserves, feeling almost sticky with them and showing wonderful concentration. Wildflowers heavy with pollens and nectars, citrus marmalades, peach syrup, melon and flower honeys. The freshness is just glorious, it's feeling almost playful. Mouth: these sticky preserved fruits, cordials and syrups are front and centre on arrival. Pears and peaches baked with spices, more flower honeys, mentholated tobacco, eucalyptus oil, lemon verbena and baked apple that makes you think briefly of old Calvados. Finish: long, perfectly resinous and showing firmer spicy and peppery tones now, surprisingly powerful and herbal in the aftertaste. Comments: another brilliant old Cognac/brandy that seems to totally shine in relative youth.
SGP: 651 - 91 points.



Maison Prunier Petite Champagne 1919 (43%, OB)

Maison Prunier Petite Champagne 1919 (43%, OB)
Colour: coppery gold. Nose: another level entirely. On deeply scented exotic fruits - mango, papaya and guava - with many further notes of bergamot, dried flowers, mentholated herbs, lemon peel, peaches and even things like old fabrics. Quite astonishing freshness and detail. Mouth: the thing is, the label says 43%, but I have an e-hydrometer to hand which tells me 45% and it certainly feels that way on the palate. This is exquisite and perfectly powerful. Fruit salad syrups, winter spices, lemon verbena, herbal wines and a gloriously resinous honey profile. Also quince jelly, hessian and even lanolin. Outstanding power, texture and concentration of flavour. Finish: long, warming, full of peppers, honeys, wood resins, herbal liqueurs and fruit nectars. Comments: a true old glory that we might even call 'old style' Cognac. What I love is that it clearly isn't a particularly old distillate, probably around 30 years old, and yet the freshness and complexity and vibrancy of the flavours is uniformly wonderful throughout.
SGP: 651 - 93 points.



Grand Fine Champagne Cognac 1865 'Fine Old Liqueur Brandy' (OB, -/+ 1940s)

Grand Fine Champagne Cognac 1865 'Fine Old Liqueur Brandy' (OB, -/+ 1940s)
A very old bottle I bought recently at auction. Colour: deep mahogany. Nose: extremely scented with furniture oils, hardwood resins and beeswax polish. Also some ancient leather, over-extracted mint tea and then this seemingly massive herbal aspect that keeps building and building. You could be nosing some 1950s Fernet Branca mixed with cola syrup. Probably riddled with boisé I would guess - to the point of being extreme. Mouth: indeed, extreme is the word. It's not so much like old Cognac as like chewing herbs, grasses, gentian and liquorice roots and things like angelica, woodruff, wormwood and wintergreen. Belle Epoche Absinthe with turn of the century American root beer! Mental! Having said all that, it's not 'unenjoyable', it's just that you need to like herbal bitters. Finish: quite long just by virtue of this extreme herbaceousness. Medicines, gentian, liquorice and angelica once again. Comments: a useful, and humbling, reminder that not all these old pre-phylloxera Cognacs are antique glories. Fascinating to try but undeniably smothered by boisé and who knows what other additives. Also, who knows what has happened to this bottle during the intervening decades? Another funny historic oddity that is impossible to score in any meaningful way. After all, as a herbal bitter it's actually very good ;)
SGP: 582 - 65ish points.



Domaine du Clos Michelet Fine Champagne 1865 'Reserve Exclusive' (OB, 1/2 bottle, -/+ 1950s)

Domaine du Clos Michelet Fine Champagne 1865 'Reserve Exclusive' (OB, 1/2 bottle, -/+ 1950s)
A funny wee half (or third?) size bottle that I also nabbed at auction recently. Let's see how much more money I have wasted. (Thank God, Lucy does not read Whiskyfun!) Colour: deepest mahogany once again. Nose: we are comfortably in safer territories here. Deeply earthy and mulchy though. Traipsing through a giant cigar humidor in an ancient Tokaji cellar. Some lovely notes of sweet tobacco, dark chocolate cocoa, century old balsamic, natural tar extracts and fir wood resins. Certainly has that pronounced rustic, very old school edge which I find typical of many pre-phylloxera Cognacs. Buried within all this dank cellar must and rancio there are glimmers of blood orange and candied prunes. Mouth: you can tell there is sugar at work here too, but it's far more balanced by roots, earths, soft herbal resins, wormwood and lots of thick rancio notes. Liquorice root, eucalyptus bark, strong herbal teas, aniseed and even a wee nodule of kumquat. Also quite a lot of candied citrus peels. Very good and extremely decadent - which is impossible to be against. Finish: medium, mulchy, soft pipe tobacco notes, bitter chocolate, green Chartreuse and delicate wood spices. Comments: 'old style' in Cognac can mean more rustic styles of distillate, but it seems it can also mean far more aggressive deployment of boisé. This one is far more balanced, with no shortage of beauty, but it's also not perfect either. You can feel there's a more natural ancient spirit within longing to get out.
SGP: 561 -  87 points.



Heartfelt thanks to Sebastien for help with this session. And also happy holidays and all the best for 2022 when it comes around.



Slante from Scotland







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







Whiskyfun's Home