Google Assorted French brandies

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

April 26, 2020





Angus's Corner
From our Scottish correspondent
and skilled taster Angus MacRaild in Edinburgh
Assorted French brandies
I am absolutely not an expert on brandy by any measure. However, when they’re on form, I really adore them. Indeed, I have to say that lately I’m more and more into good Cognac in particular. Let’s have a random assortment today and see what we find. We’ll go in a roughly theoretical order of ‘goodness’ if you don’t mind. Starting with the ‘cooking’ examples I discovered in my Mum’s larder.


Napoleon Brandy VSOP ‘aged 3 years’ (40%, ‘Blended exclusively for Marks & Spencer’)

Napoleon Brandy VSOP ‘aged 3 years’ (40%, ‘Blended exclusively for Marks & Spencer’)
The rear label lists the ingredients as ‘Water, wine spirit, sugar. Colour: plain caramel’. Sounds reassuringly awful. Colour: amber. Nose: some kind of sweetened varnish, a slight heat of alcohol, some burnt sugar. Otherwise totally empty. Mouth: harsh, bitter, rotten orange peels, slightly sour and dusty and some rather chemical notes of glue. Not good. Finish: disapparates like a stale old wizard. More burnt notes in the aftertaste. Comments: As predicted, this is bad.
SGP: 730 - 28 points.



Remy Martin ‘1738 Accord Royal’ (40%, OB, cognac, -/+ 2019)

Remy Martin ‘1738 Accord Royal’ (40%, OB, cognac, -/+ 2019)
Apparently this sits between the VSOP and the XO, which theoretically means older than four years and younger than 10. Although, of course, in a composition like this there can be varying ages deployed in the vatting. It’s around £40 a bottle in the UK but this tasting note comes from a miniature. Colour: orange/amber. Nose: actually very nice, lots of sultanas, raisins, dried apricots, peaches in syrup and little Seville orange marmalade. Although the ‘smells like Cognac’ thing does spring to mind. Mouth: a tad flat but also nicely bready, stewed dark fruits, more sultanas, oranges, some sweet dessert wines, dried apples. Also slightly leafy. All perfectly easy and pleasant, if simplistic. Finish: short-medium in length, with caramelising brown sugar, fennel seed, bitter citrus pith and some golden syrup. Comments: Given the price and ‘bracket’ I suppose this is pretty much to be expected. Easy, simple and rather direct Cognac that you could quite happily flambée a Christmas pudding with while also sipping a glass of at the same time.
SGP: 740 - 75 points.



Let’s veer off for a quick visit to Normandy…



Chort-Mutel 'Belle Epoque' (41%, OB, Très Vieux Calvados, +/-1980s)

Chort-Mutel 'Belle Epoque' (41%, OB, Très Vieux Calvados, +/-1980s)
I know less about Calvados than I do about Cognac and Armagnac - which is almost equivalent to ‘negative knowledge’. So probably best to take my score with a generous serving of salt. Colour: dark amber / brown. Nose: a beautifully concentrated and pure apple aroma with a kind of leathery quality and these notes that bring to mind actual apple pips. Despite the obvious age there’s still a sharpness and freshness which is impressive - almost like the tart acidity of cut cider apples. Beyond this you also get hints of dark mint chocolate, pipe tobacco and walnut oil. Really beautiful from the viewpoint of these nostrils. Mouth: wonderful arrival and surprisingly powerful. All on brown apples, apple peelings, pear cider and bitter mints. Tobaccos, black coffee with a single teaspoon of sugar and this lovely combination of leathery and earthy depth. There’s also quite a lot of dark fruits such as dates, figs, prunes and sultana, all muddled with chopped walnuts and hazelnut puree. Finish: good length and beautifully warming. Leafy earthiness, more tobacco, more walnuts, more chocolate and now some pretty concentrated stewed apples. Comments: I need to be drinking more Calvados it would appear. Although, not sure they’re all up there at this level of quality. I adored the way this one effortlessly displayed easy charm alongside deceptive levels of complexity and depth while retaining impressive power in the mouth.
SGP: 650 - 88 (ish) points. 



That was a bit of a surprise that Calvados I have to say. Let’s move on to Armagnac.



Bas Armagnac 25 yo 1994/2020 (55.1%, Adelphi, French oak barrique)

Bas Armagnac 25 yo 1994/2020 (55.1%, Adelphi, French oak barrique)
This is another new Adelphi single cask bottling that I’m tasting from the miniature which came with the Royal Mile Whiskies online tasting pack the other day. I am assuming it’s the same liquid which will go into the full size bottles. I’m also assuming there will be full size bottles. Colour: orange / amber. Nose: it’s an Armagnac that’s dressing up as a Cognac. Which is to say: a lighter, more elegant and refined style. You don’t immediately get these more ‘rustic’ vibes that you would from most Armagnacs. This is more on various fruit preserves, plum wine, nectars, yellow flowers, brioche, runny honey and some lighter cooking oils. It’s actually unsurprising that Adelphi would select such a cask as it’s a style that very much appeals to the whisky drinker in me. I would add it’s also very approachable and easy at full strength. With water: drier, leafier, more bready and showing a nice aroma of flower honey. Mouth: more punchy and rustic than on the nose, so more ‘Armaganacy’ for sure. Brown bread, stewed dark fruits, peach stones, nectarines, menthol tobacco, sack cloth, orange cocktail bitters and cloves. With water: gets rather spicy now, lots of ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. You certainly start to feel the oak talking more freely. Still some fruity marmalade notes though. Finish: good length, getting more herbal, nicely bitter, slightly peppery and with more of these notes of peach stone and honey. Comments: A very fine drop that should appeal to whisky drinkers. So a pretty smart selection, even if it isn’t a very classical Armagnac to my taste.
SGP: 651 - 85 points.



Château de Gaube 53 yo 1962/2015 (45%, Darroze, Bas-Armagnac)

Château de Gaube 53 yo 1962/2015 (45%, Darroze, Bas-Armagnac)
Love, love, love Darroze! It’s also super cool that they put these wee collar labels on their bottlings that give you details about terroir, soil type, distiller, wood origin, grape variety etc. One of the areas where whisky can learn so much from Armagnac and Cognac in my view. This one was distilled from 100% Baco grapes. Colour: amber. Nose: yes! A perfect tightrope balance between breads and pastries on one hand, with preserved fruits, earth and tobaccos on the other. Rich, elegant and super classy old Armagnac. In time you start to get some more ripe fruits - apples, banana and even pineapple - along with aged sweet wines and a wee spoonful of custard. Mouth: powerful, deeply earthy, impressively chewy tannins and plenty of dried mushrooms, bitter chocolate, dried mint, walnut liqueur and dark fruits stewed with winter spices. Emphatic, direct and impressively powerful and controlled. Finish: long, nervously spicy, still these grippy, chocolatey tannins, hints of black pepper, star anise and more tobaccos and dark fruits. Comments: Not a surprise at all, just another superbly pleasurable old selection by Darroze. Once again, you cannot help but imagine the price that whisky companies would be charging for such a cask if this were Scotch. This was a bottle I bought for as a birthday present for my Mum, cost was around £260 I think. We don’t score prices here on Whiskyfun, but I think those kinds of comparisons are powerfully illuminating.
SGP: 661 - 91 points.



And back to Cognac…



Fine Champagne 50 yo (70 proof, Hedges & Butler, 1960s)

Fine Champagne 50 yo (70 proof, Hedges & Butler, 1960s)
This was one of two bottles of this particular bottling of Cognac which I bought at auction a few years ago. The first one I opened soon after purchase and Serge recorded notes for at the time (WF:92). Let’s see if this second bottle measures up to such heights, I think this one was probably bottled a little later than the first one. Colour: light amber. Nose: an exquisite mix of fruit jams and preserves. Also a wonderfully exotic edge with these impressions of dried mango, fruit salad juices and guava. Then it’s moving more towards quince, apricot jam, tinned peaches and soft tobacco notes. Impressions of petrichor, hessian and old cigar boxes. The definition of elegance and class! Mouth: soft at first arrival but it really builds in layers with this beautifully structured and textural fruitiness. Fruit jellies, citrus peels, jams, orange marmalade with coriander, bouquet garni of dried herbs, cantaloupe melon and then more specific herbal notes of sage, rosemary and thyme. Finish: long but very soft, leathery, earthy and getting slightly nutty with chestnut puree, walnuts and hazelnuts. Comments: Sheer class! I love the fruitiness in this one, these wee exotic flourishes are just catnip to a whisky lover’s palate. Similar quality as the other bottle to my mind.
SGP: 651 - 91 points.



Héritage de René Rivière ‘Avant 1925’ (49%, Malternative Belgium, Borderies, 66 bottles, 2020)

Héritage de René Rivière ‘Avant 1925’ (49%, Malternative Belgium, Borderies, 66 bottles, 2020)
A very new bottling from the cool folk at Malternative Belgium. Distilled prior to 1925 and put into glass in 1981. Colour: light amber. Nose: a delicate and impeccably balanced ‘muddle’ of preserved fruits, crystallised citrus rinds, dried exotic fruits, exotic fruit teas, syrups, cordials and rather direct notes of chamomile and bergamot. Wonderfully elegant and deeply complex. Peaches and cream, mango chutney and the most ancient of herbal liqueurs - long aged yellow Chartreuse perhaps. Quite beautiful. Mouth: tinned peaches, mango, praline, wood spices, orange liqueurs, jasmine tea, quince jelly and these wonderful notes of aged ointments and herbal extracts. All manner of tiny fruit notes as well which create in impressive level of complexity. There’s also those wonderful earthy/leathery/tobacco combinations that really sing with age in Cognacs. And the strength carries everything with such power and aplomb. Finish: long, herbal, spicy, lots of jellied fruits and various aromatic teas. Comments: Terrific, the depth of flavour and complexity and really show-stopping.
SGP: 651 - 92 points.



Rouyer Guillet 1865 (42%, OB ‘AA Baker import’, bottled circa 1960)

Rouyer Guillet 1865 (42%, OB ‘AA Baker import’, bottled circa 1960)
I won’t bore you with cut and paste historical factoids from 1865 courtesy of wikipedia. Suffice to say, this was distilled almost exactly around the outset of the Phylloxera blight in France (which originated in England, which I’m sure will delight many Brexiters) so should be entirely from pre-phylloxera vines. Colour: ruby/amber. Nose: another world, really. The depth and darkness of the fruits is really astounding. Like bramble syrup, pomegranate molasses and fruity black coffee collided with the most stunning dark chocolate, aged cigar boxes and green walnut liqueur. Hyper-concentrated, dripping with rancio and showing this almost muscular earthiness. Hypnotic and otherworldly. Mouth: just beautiful! A mesmeric display of dark, exotic and dried fruits. All simmered down to their most sticky, fat, concentrated forms and infused with taut wood spices, cinnamon, cloves, dried wild flowers, incense, natural tar, rancio, walnuts, aged tobaccos, lightly salted liquorice and praline. These wee floral touches gain prominence over time and sit beautifully alongside all these superbly deep and punchy earthy and rancio qualities. Finish: wonderfully long, earthy, bitterly herbal, almost sooty and riddled with dark fruit jams and cordials. Not to mention this almost salty rancio quality that infuses everything. Comments: Of course it’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the sheer emotional force of liquid history in your glass when tasting such spirits. But this is unequivocally and by every metric an absolutely brilliant old Cognac. A masterclass in poise, elegance, depth, power, balance, control and complexity. It remains almost poetically beautiful as well.
SGP: 661 - 93 points.



Big thanks to Magnus and Dirk (and to Mum!)










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