Google Sunday malternatives, hunting cognacs part un

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

September 20, 2015


Sunday malternatives,
hunting cognacs part un

After the pretty insane old armagnacs last Sundays, we’ll try a few of their cousins from the north, namely cognacs, starting with a little aperitif from a pretty large house, Hine.

Hine 2005 ‘Bonneuil’ (43%, OB, cognac, +/-2014)

Hine 2005 ‘Bonneuil’ (43%, OB, cognac, +/-2014) Two stars and a half Very expensive cognac, 125€ for a 9yo at 43%. Smaller houses and propriétaire will sell you similar ages – and hopefully quality - for one third of that price. Having said that, Bonneuil is Hine’s own vineyard, so this is cognac de propriétaire. Colour: pale gold (no caramel!) Nose: very pleasant fruity nose, with yellow peaches, then touches of custard and orange blossom honey. Rather develops on liquorice wood and fresh almonds, with a faint putty-like smell in the background. A touch of tobacco as well. Very pleasant indeed, with a lovely freshness and some complexity. Mouth: indeed it’s natural cognac, not boisé-ed and caramelised supermarket stuff. Rather sweeter and rounder than the nose suggested, and a little young as well (eau-de-vie). Some tobacco and a few grassy/gritty notes. Green apples. Perhaps a little acacia honey. Finish: rather short and slightly eau-de-vie-ish. Some cinnamon in the aftertaste. Comments: very fine on the nose, thought the palate was a little more mundane. Perhaps too young? At some point it made me think of Glenmorangie 10. SGP:441 - 78 points.

Grateaud Napoléon (40%, OB, cognac, Borderies, +/-2015)

Grateaud Napoléon (40%, OB, cognac, Borderies, +/-2015) Three stars and a half Cognac de propriétaire that’s around 8 years old. The price rather lies around 40€ a bottle. Colour: pale gold. Nose: much more powerful than the Hine, with first more raisins, then more honey, cigarette tobacco, and ripe Cavaillon melons (the orange ones). Much more happening in this. There’s also a little sea air, ala Bruichladdich. Very lovely nose! Mouth: once again we’re closer to the fruits, with a globally more powerful palate (feels like it’s stronger than the Hine), and very beautiful notes of melon again, peaches, juicy golden raisins, and various honeys. I find this truly excellent, and I’m sure this baby would make for a perfect aperitif (all cognac houses have always hoped that people would start drinking cognac as an aperitif instead of only a digestif!) Finish: medium, fresh, fruity. A touch of pineapple – and melons again of course. Comments: excellent lively young cognac, with perfect fruits. SGP:541 - 83 points.

Prisset VSOP (40%, OB, Petite champagne, +/-2015)

Prisset VSOP (40%, OB, Petite champagne, +/-2015) Two stars This one’s around 15 years of age, which is pretty old for a VSOP. These propriétaires are located in Jurignac. Colour: amber. Nose: a rounder Grateaud, I’d say, with more honey and jams, as well as more raisins. And yet it never gets heady, elegance is kept. Goes on with a little overripe banana, as well as a slice of orange cake. And yet another lovely nose, with perhaps less immediate freshness than the Grateaud. Mouth: a more traditional grapey and raisiny cognac, with a feeling of caramel that does not work too well for me. Some mead, more golden raisins, and a weaker middle despite nice touches of liquorice. Finish: short, perhaps a little flat. Comments: not bad at all, of course, but the palate was a bit in the middle of nowhere. Both the Hine and the Grateaud were more, say salient. SGP:630 - 70 points.

A younger one again…

Banchereau 8 yo Napoleon (40%, OB, cognac, +/-2015)

Banchereau 8 yo Napoleon (40%, OB, cognac, +/-2015) one star and a half I’m not sure this is cognac de propriétaire, it’s probably a blend, without any regional origin (such as Grande Champagne, Borderies and such). Colour: amber. Nose: not much happening, I’m afraid. All the previous ones were more vibrant and expressive, even the Prisset. A little cake and honey plus raisins, but that’s pretty all. Mouth: rather oaky and rough. Not bad at all, but probably a little forgettable. A little liquorice. Finish: rather short, on honey and liquorice, with a feeling of sugar. Oranges in the aftertaste. Comments: not much terroir in this, but it’s more than okay. Not very expensive anyway… SGP:531 - 68 points.

Another Napo please…

François Voyer VSOP (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2015)

François Voyer VSOP (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2015) Four stars This Napoléon gathers cognac from 12 to 20 years of age. Reduction is done 5% by 5%, each time after at least six months. Some say our friends the Scots should do it like that as well. Colour: amber. Nose: ah yes, now we’re talking again! This baby’s very different from all the others, much more aromatic and almost tropical. Now all these blackcurrants and blackberries are not very tropical, but the mangos and pineapples are. A spectacular nose. Mouth: bang! Superb palate, full of the very same fruits, especially a lot of blackcurrant/cassis jelly. Which I love. Add baklavas, orange blossom, classic melons, and a rather soft vanilla from the oak (this baby starts its life in new oak for three years). Super good cognac, that reminds me of, say a vatting of middle-aged Tomatin and Benriach, 50/50. Finish: a little short, that’s the dreadful 40% vol., but very fresh and always very fruity. Comments: absolutely excellent. A shame that they don’t bottle at a higher strength (I know, I have a tendency to ramble). SGP:641 - 86 points.

Let’s try a Grateaud again…

Grateaud XO (43%, OB, cognac, Borderies, +/-2014)

Grateaud XO (43%, OB, cognac, Borderies, +/-2014) Two stars and a half Hurray, 43%! Anybody who’s tried Laphroaig 10 at 40 and 43% know what the can mean. This XO is 30 years old, already a nice age, and the price is, cough, cough, 70€ a 70cl decanter. Yes that’s seventy Euros for seventy centilitres or a thirty years old cognac de propriétaire in a decanter. Colour: pale gold. No caramel! Nose: you know what, I’ve never nosed any old spirit that was so much of williams pears (apart from williams pear eau-de-vie and calvados from Domfrontais). That’s a little disconcerting at first, but not un-nice. Also a little metal (copper pan), and traces of olive oil. Disconcerting indeed, this could be either brilliant on our palates, or whooof! Mouth: a bit whoof, I’m afraid. A little tired, hesitating between these pears (and perhaps papayas) and some kind of style-ish green tea. Not too sure. But there are beautiful oranges and light honey as well, and in truth, should you take your time, this baby will restore the situation to normal, that is to say raisins and honey. Finish: medium, funnily herbal. And the pears are back. Comments: bizarre. Some parts are brilliant, others less so. Makes me think of Lady Gaga singing with Tony Bennett. SGP:551 - 78 points.

Good, we’ve had six cognacs already, let’s raise the bar…

Borderies 20 yo (58.4%, Jean Grosperrin, cognac, lot N 248, 315 litres)

Borderies 20 yo (58.4%, Jean Grosperrin, cognac, lot N 248, 315 litres) Four stars and a half This one was bought from a retired old propriétaire in Burie by independent bottlers Grosperrin. Oh and it’s cask strength, baby! But not too sure when it was bottled, probably not so long ago. Colour: gold. Nose: it’s rather dry at first nosing, relatively discreet despite whiffs of pineapple juice and pinot gris Vendanges Tardives. Perhaps roses? You can imagine that there’s a whole world beyond that – sounds a bit Tolkien, doesn’t it – but you just can’t reach it yet. So, with water: the butterfly came out of the chrysalis (oh come on), with many more floral notes, especially dandelions. Touches of white chocolate and toasted bread, as well as old Sauternes. And indeed, Alsatian Vendanges Tardives again. Hoppla! Mouth (neat): huge, citrusy, grapy, rather sharp, and then rather on fresh apples and quinces. Same feeling of ‘another valley beyond the mountains’. With water: wee touches of menthol and liquorice, plus a little caraway and honeydew. Another valley, but not quite another country. Finish: long, with some aniseed and other spices. Sweet curry? Comments: big cognac, rather firm and ‘fighting’. Excellent. SGP:561 - 88 points.

Let’s keep fighting…

F. Gacon XO (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2015)

F. Gacon XO (40%, OB, Grande Champagne, +/-2015) Two stars A propriétaire from Les Touches de Périgny, owning 40 hectares. This baby’s 50 years old – you read that right – and retails for cough, cough, 75.40€ a 70cl decanter. I guess the 40cts are for the decanter. Colour: amber. Nose: there, rancio! Meaning these very unusual smells that appear only in older cognacs, approaching old cigars and horse saddle. Yet, this remains fresh and lively, with as many peaches and melons as in much younger offerings, but this tobacco that arises makes it just superb. Reminiscent of a pack of Camels! Mouth: oh very very nice, smooth and yet firm and very much alive, starting on sponge cake and biscuits, and going on with notes of peach jelly and hay wine. Ever tried hay wine? It’s no raisiny cognac at all, but once again, the low strength represents a problem: it makes it frustrating. Nose-dives after five seconds. I’m not saying they should bottle at 60% vol., but 42 to 45% vol. would be welcome, because mind you, cognac’s not only for old uncles. Finish: very short, sadly. Loses many, many points here. Comments: a great old cognac that’s almost been murdered because of careless reduction in my opinion. A crying shame. SGP:440 - 76 points.

I’m almost crying indeed. Let’s try to take comfort from a last one, that we’ll try to choose very carefully…

Charpentier 30 yo (52.4%, Cadenhead, cognac, Petite champagne, 2015)

Charpentier 30 yo (52.4%, Cadenhead, cognac, Petite champagne, 2015) Five starsI hope these Scots won’t teach us lessons! I do not think that Charpentier are distillers, so this might be a merchant’s merchant bottling, so to speak. Let’s try it… At least, the strength is right! Colour: gold. Nose: malt whisky! I’m not joking, they’ve managed to select one cognac that smelled pretty much of malt whisky. Well, it smells much less of cognac than all the other cognacs we’ve just tried (which is why I never taste spirits as singletons, without any comparisons). So overripe apples, hay, barnyard, burnt wood, a little paraffin, and even a very remote smokiness. Plus stewed tropical fruits, perhaps guavas. With water: seriously! It’s quite great, it’s just… malty. It’s well known that the old Scots used to add brandy to their whiskies for improving prior to selling them, but the other way ‘round? Now indeed, these very fine notes of peaches… Mouth (neat): a Scottish cognac indeed. Starts like a malt, and develops like a malt. Vanilla and barley. Oh, did it spend a little time in an ex-whisky cask of some kind? That would be illegal – so we’ll never know, ha-ha – but it feels a bit like that. Apples, green melons… And very, very little raisins. Perhaps one tiny raisins? With water: same feelings, but it really gets complex. Herbal teas, menthol, citrons… And peaches. Finish: long, fresh, parfait. I mean, perfect. Comments: metanoical spirit or cross-genre distillate, I don’t know how to call this. What’s sure is that I find it quite superb. The Scots teaching the French a few lessons, this obviously isn’t rugby ;-). SGP:551 - 90 points.

Mixed feelings today, not all cognacs seem to be worthy malternatives. We’ll try to have more next Sunday (we’ve got some very old ones), stay tuned! In the meantime, whisky whisky whisky…







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