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

June 24, 2018





Angus's Corner
From our casual Scottish correspondent
and guest taster Angus MacRaild
An education at Grosperrin   
You can cram a lot into two days it turns out. With good friends I’ve just had an eye opening experience in Cognac where I was able to taste some remarkable examples of this tightly regulated, often underrated spirit. Including everything from ancient samples from the depths of the early 19th century, to recent big name bottlings which seek to chase - rather sadly in my view - this perceived market for American oak doped spirits.


It’s been quite a brain-cramming couple of days. For example, I never knew that prior to the prevalence of Boisé or sugar the common additive to Cognac was Rhum Agricole. Indeed, we tasted some stunning examples of old Rhums from the 19th century and some, admittedly less stunning but undeniably fascinating, Cognacs from the same era which had been sweetened with Rhum.  


Warehouse at Grosperrin


We had a terrific and illuminating visit at Martell at one end of the spectrum, but undoubtedly the most educational experience was spending time at Grosperrin with owner Gilhem Grosperrin. So, rather than a totally cluttered post of notes for all manner of Cognacs old, new and weird, I thought a vertical of some of Grosperrin’s bottlings would be in order. What was most useful was the way we could begin to unpick the ‘voice’ of the terroir from the various crus that compose the Cognac region. When you bottle largely unfiltered, un-sweetened single cask Cognacs at higher, or  natural, strengths the identity of the terroir, and the spirit itself, becomes thrillingly clear and vibrant.  


Fins Bois 2006/2018 (43.9%, Jean Grosperrin, organic) Fins Bois 2006/2018 (43.9%, Jean Grosperrin, organic)
100% folle blanche from a single cask. Colour: Gold. Nose: Ripe pears baked in calvados, caramelised brown sugar and orange peel. Rather resinous but simultaneously pretty fresh and getting more herbal and liqueurish in the glass with air and time. Keeps evolving; now moving more towards a delicate earthiness and nectar like sweetness. Mouth: here you feel the liveliness of youth but there are still the resins, honeys and sweet fruit syrups over more autolytic bready notes which characterised the nose. A nibble of wood spice and a bit of orange liqueur. Finish: Good length, rather on nervous crystallised fruits, lemon peel, wet leaves and sunflower oil. Comments: Excellent young Cognac, treads a neat line between fruits, spices and more resinous, oily aspects. Bottled at a perfect strength as well.
SGP: 541 - 86 points.


Fins Bois 1993/2017 (46.4%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask) Fins Bois 1993/2017 (46.4%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask)
100% Ugni Blanc and aged in a humid cellar - a process which helps most Cognacs to show better at younger ages. Colour: Deep gold. Nose: superbly honeyed, full of ripe mirabelle, damsons, yellow flowers, nectar, pollen and even a wee hint of pink lemonade. Some elegant soft earthiness, a little white pepper and some dried tarragon. There’s a sense of fragility to this one and overall it feels older than it is I’d say. Mouth: runny honey, black pepper, lemon oil and more notes of mirabelle - in pristine eau de vie form this time. A little darjeeling tea and  some orange bitters. Finish: long, gently earthy and full of subtle notes of toasted seeds and freshly baked brown bread. Comments: There was more youthfulness in the mouth than on the nose, but with an overall sense of elegance and freshness in the right places.
SGP:551 - 87 points.


Fins Bois 1983/2016 (48.5%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask) Fins Bois 1983/2016 (48.5%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask)
This one was aged in a dry cellar, a process which takes more time to gain maturity and complexity but you gain more of these qualities when they eventually arrive. Colour: bright gold. Nose: Much more brightly polished on the nose. Still many yellow flowers, pollens and nectars but also varnished hardwoods and old furniture. Some more unusual scents of face creams, talcum powder and then precious hardwood shavings, warm rosewood and sultanas. Continues with meads, aged Sauternes and sweet muscat. Rather concentrated and quite beautiful I think. Mouth: We’re moving into these wonderfully supple tobacco territories that Cognac begins to develop with age (although if you ask any serious Cognac people they would say this was still considered young). Buttered brioche, a touch of soot, some earthen floor and more notes of aged mead and assorted citrus oils. Finish: Medium in length and with a sweet, stewed dark fruit quality in the aftertaste. Comments: We’re beginning to fly pretty high with these older single casks. Cognac really sings at higher strengths and without any excessive sugar dosing or filtration I think.
SGP: 561 - 89 points.


Petite Champagne 1982/2017 (46.3%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask) Petite Champagne 1982/2017 (46.3%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask)
Colour: Gold. Nose: What’s remarkable is that after the first three you start to get a sense of the DNA of the Fins Bois cru - all one honeys, resinous fruits and a rather silky earthiness. So, it’s quite remarkable how jarring it is to move to Petite Champagne; this is really lighter, leaner and more subtle. There’s this leafy and slightly minty edge with a touch of crushed aspirin about it which almost suggests an austere aspect. Toasted sunflower seeds, some pollen and a little mineral oil. Although, with time there is a faintly waxy edge emerging. Elegant but also slightly elusive. Mouth: Arrival is slightly tart and rather crisp - on ripe gooseberry, lime oil, soot, a little hessian sackcloth and some muesli. Pressed wildflowers, sunflower oil, grapefruit peel and some rather sharp lemon curd. Finish: Good length, all on burnt toast, demerara sugar, wet leaf and a resurgent mineral quality. Comments: A different style, perhaps a little more straight and uncompromising. For some palates probably more challenging, although I find it has plenty of charm.
SGP: 351 - 85 points.


Petite Champagne 1974/2016 (47.8%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask)

Petite Champagne 1974/2016 (47.8%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask)
Let’s further explore Petite Champagne if that’s ok... Colour: Deep gold. Nose: Pow! If you distilled some honey and blended in a box of freshly baked croissant then added a few fistfuls of sultans and lightly burned currants you’d be approaching this rather dense and lovely aroma. There’s also a slightly funky earthy quality that alludes to leathery and annimalistic qualities. Many stewed dark fruits, soot and lots of full-bodied cigars and rancio. Mouth: Pear tart tatin, more stewed dark fruits such as figs and dates, a hint of motor oil, some walnut skins and a touch of herb liqueur. Wonderful, syrupy density and punch. Continues with notes of marc de gewurz and lychee. Finish: Long and resinous with a lean earthiness and some candied nuts and citrus peels. Comments: As we say in Scotland: Braw! It seems that Petite Champagne, like is Grande sibling, needs plenty time in the cask to really blossom.
SGP: 561 - 90 points.



Petite Champagne 1973/2016 (60.3%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask) Petite Champagne 1973/2016 (60.3%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask)
Serge already wrote notes for the reduced strength (48.5%) version of this one, let’s see how it behaves at natural cask strength... Colour: pale amber. Nose: We are in real malternative country here. You could almost think there was some malt distillate in the depths. There’s a savoury quality, pumpernickel bread, toasted seeds, trail mix, polished hardwood, furniture wax, nutmeg and ginger biscuits. With time to open it begins to reveal a more classical fruity side - lots of mirabelle, a little ripe melon and some baked green apples. A really wonderful complexity at play here, with many tertiary earthy and rancio qualities. A hint of some old dessert wine as well. Mouth: big, punchy, hugely polished, all on boot and furniture polish, tiger balm and tangerine peel. Lots of caramelised brown sugar, lamp oil, earthen floor and coal dust. Touches of sandalwood, poire williams and lime jelly. Finish: Long, superbly resinous, nervously spicy and beautifully crisp and drying. Comments: A total powerhouse, about as far away from standard, sweetened commercial Cognacs - even older ones - as it’s possible to get. Oh, and terrific as well.
SGP: 561 - 90 points.


Grande Champagne 1972/2013 (55.4%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask) Grande Champagne 1972/2013 (55.4%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask)
On to some Grande Champagne now, often thought of as the kind of ‘top’ cru of Cognac, although most producers/brokers will dismiss this as a myth. It’s often considered dull at younger ages and in need of significant age before it really starts to sing. Colour: Deep gold. Nose: Leathery and earthy which seems to be pretty textbook for Grande Champagne. Lots of waxes, balms, rancio, a little milk chocolate, vapour rub and a touch of natural tar liqueur. Feels rather dense on the nose, which I quite like. Mouth: a big bag of leaf mulch, sultanas, dates, pipe tobacco, rancio and sooty earth. Quite lemony and melony as well with more ripe mirabelle, dried raspberries and guava emerging in time. Finish: Long, bready, oily and with a spicy, leathery quality that verges even on lightly meaty at times. Comments: Great, high flying Cognac. Maybe not quite as stellar as the 73 Petite Champagne but, for a heavier, slightly simpler style, it’s pretty exemplary.
SGP: 461 - 88 points.


  Fins Bois 1968/2018 (55.3%, Jean Grosperrin, two casks)
No image of this one yet I’m afraid as the bottles are yet to be labelled, but, I’m sure you can imagine. It should be available in 2-3 months time. Colour: Amber. A beehive! Really a pure cavalcade of delicate waxes, polished hardwoods, honeycomb, runny honey, aged meads, nectars, pollens, old Glen Grant, 1972 Caperdonich, etc... pure aromatic harmony. Continues with a generous lump of quince jelly, chamomile, bergamot, tropical fruit syrups and jellies, magnificently textured and densely packed with fruit aromas. Really, given blind you could mistake this for a pristine 40 year old Glen Grant or similar. Mouth: Magnificent! Wood oils, boot polish, cola syrup, mead, mint jelly, lime oil, soot, rancio, prune juice... one of these profiles that just keeps on giving and developing and throwing up all manner of wee flavours. In time it becomes slightly mushroomy and moves back towards earthiness and a kind of peppery honey profile. Finish: Long, hugely resinous, honeyed, rancio, earthy and spicy. Comments: We’re hitting our stride now. Totally fantastic old Cognac that really demolishes many old malt whiskies.
SGP: 651 - 92 points.


  Fins Bois 1958/2017 (41.1%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask)
Colour: Amber. Nose: Freshly baked breads, liquorice, coconut, candied citrus peels, ointment, damp earth and straw. Unsurprisingly rather delicate, mushroomy, earthy and with more than a little rancio and soft dark fruit jams. Mouth: a creamy earthiness, more jams - damson, gooseberry, strawberry - golden syrup and some umami and black olive notes. Rather dry and full of aged tobacco, old riesling and dried wildflowers. Finish: Surprisingly good length with hints of eucalyptus resins, dried sage, runny honey and blood orange. Comments: Short and sweet - well, apart from the dry bits (oh, shut up Angus). But again we’re flying pretty high. As Emmanuel points out, this is the perfect cigar accompaniment. I really love it, a perfectly balanced old Cognac.
SGP: 551 - 90 points.


  Grande Champagne 1933/2018 (46%, Jean Grosperrin, single cask)
Another new bottling that should be available in the coming months. Colour: Amber. Nose: the earthiness of Grande Champagne but tamed beautifully by a cavalcade of subtle dark, crytallised and stewed fruits. Lots of fig, prune, date, sultana, lemon rind and orange oil. Some top quality wood aged Grappa, cough syrups, aged muscat and lemon jelly. A wonderfully fragrant, complex and gently exotic nose. A wee slug of very old Chartreuse Jaune and a little sunflower oil. Mouth: Exotic hardwoods, mahogany shavings, lemon and lime jellies, old Cote Rôtie, walnut oil and cherry flavoured medicine. A savoury and wonderfully silky rancio, some black pepper, black olives, dried mixed herbs and a little shaving of white truffle on asparagus. Finish: Thrillingly long and full of runny honey, hardwood resins, rancio, bitter chocolate, green pepper and maraschino. Comments: It’s easy to forget, when you get into your stride with tasting these kinds of old Cognacs, that you are tasting a spirit that has sat in cask for 85 years and has come out the other side vibrant, totally alive, complex and beguilingly beautiful. The price of this one, we are reliably informed, is to be just shy of €500 a bottle. What do you suppose the first 80 year old Macallan will cost in 2020? Or indeed any Scottish whisky of similar age? You can’t help but feel the world of spirits is a tad lopsided...
SGP: 641 - 93 points.


Merci beaucoup Emmanuel and Hitomi  







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