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Archive for the ‘Brandy and Cognac’ Category

The 12 Cognacs of Christmas #3 – Hennessy X.O

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 20, 2014

Hennessy XO SAM

Jas Hennessy & Co., is the largest Cognac producer in the world today with sales that exceed 45 million bottles per year. The company was founded in 1765 by Richard Hennessy who was an Irish Officer in the army of Louis XV. Hennessy XO Cognac traces its development back to 1870 when Maurice Hennessy created a special cognac for him to share with his closest friends. This cognac meant for his ‘inner circle’ was given the name X.O to denote it as an “extra old” cognac. This X.O designation has become a labeling standard used throughout the industry, and today denotes an older Cognac style which must meet a minimum age requirement of 6 years for all of the eaux de vie within  its assemblage.

The subject of this review is the modern Hennessy X.O Cognac. The spirit is produced from the fruity Ugni Blanc grapes which have been harvested from the four great crus of the Cognac region (Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies and Fins Bois). The grape wine produced is (of course) double distilled upon Hennessy Distillery’s copper pot stills, and then selected eaux-de-vie is set down to age (some for as long as 30 years) in french oak casks which have constructed from old growth oak timbers.

Here is a link to my review:

The 12 Cognacs of Christmas #3 – Hennessy X.O

“… The initial aroma displayed a strong indication of oak and wood spice with firm scents of caramel and raisin buried within that spiciness. The oak is dominant, however there is enough caramel sweetness and raisin-like fruitiness to compliment the oak and entice me to go further …”

Although I believe this Cognac is wonderful to sip on its own, I could not resist mixing one cocktail to sip on as I watched the stars on a the cold December evening, a Cognac Old Fashioned!

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Stay tuned as between now and Christmas I will continue my series,the 12 Cognacs of Christmas!

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The 12 Cognacs of Christmas # 4 – Pierre Ferrand Selection Des Anges

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 18, 2014

Pierre Ferrand Selection des Anges (599x800)Pierre Ferrand uses only small (25-hectoliter) copper pot stills to produce their Cognac; and after distillation, the resulting distillate (eaux de vie) is matured in 270-liter French Limousin oak barrels. During this aging process, the cognac may rest in any of seven different aging cellars (each with traditional earthen floors). Within each of these cellars, the spirit is monitored, and may be transferred several times during its aging life to different cellars and/or to different oak casks (with differing char levels) to maintain the integrity and character of the spirit.

Pierre Ferrand Selection Des Anges is blended solely from aged eaux de vie produced within the 1st Cru de Cognac, specifically the Grande Champagne Cognac appellation of France. Although the final spirit has no age statement, according to the information provided to me, the Cognac is blended to achieve an average age of 30 years.

Here is a link to my review of this wonderful Pierre Ferrand Cognac:

The 12 Cognacs of Christmas # 4 – Pierre Ferrand Selection Des Anges

“… I was greeted with firm wood spices which oozed chocolate and baking spices (allspice & nutmeg) onto my palate. There is both fresh green grape as well as spicy raisin mingled into the pungent baking spices. I also taste bits of black licorice, hints of damp cigar tobacco, and a lovely cooling menthol. The melded combination of flavours is very appealing …”

I tasted the Selection des Anges three separate times before I wrote this review. Each time I tasted it, I was forced to raise my scoring as my appreciation of the spirit grew and then grew again. My feeling is that the Selection des Anges is a special Cognac, one that perhaps deserves a place on my newly constructed Cognac Shelf!

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Note: You may follow my Countdown list of the 25 Best Canadian Whiskies here:   The Rum Howler – Top 25 Canadian Whiskies of 2014

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The 12 Cognacs of Christmas #5 – Camus XO Borderies

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 16, 2014

BORDERIES XO 70CLThe construction of the CAMUS XO Borderies begins at the home of Camus within the Borderies cru (the smallest appellation in the Cognac region) with a selection of grapes which are produced mainly from the vines of the Domaines CAMUS Estate. The wine produced from these grapes is distilled on the lees after which the eaux-de-vie is set down to age in French oak barrels.

The ages of the various XO Borderies eaux-de-vie which make up the blend must be (by law) a minimum of six years of age, although to achieve the desired flavour profile, it would not be unusual for some of the specific Cognac in the blend to be aged much longer, in fact some of the Cognac for the CAMUS XO Borderies may be aged as for long as 30 years.

Here is a link to my full review of the CAMUS XO Borderies:

The 12 Cognacs of Christmas #5 – Camus XO Borderies

“… The XO Borderies fills the mouth with fruity flavours of fresh green grape, yellow apples, and green pears, as well as with flavours of raisins and dried apricots. So much obvious fruit in front of the oak in an XO Cognac is unusual. There is also firm undercurrent of herbal flavours which remind me of sawgrass, heather, licorice and green spearmint …”

This is one of those spirits which seemed to be under represented by the individual scores I originally assigned to each component of the review. I think it is that lovely cooling mint-like sensation combined with the lightly spicy oak sap and cinnamon in the exit which seems to beg me to repeat the process after each sip

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Stay tuned as between now and Christmas I will continue my series,the 12 Cognacs of Christmas!

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The 12 Cognacs of Christmas #6 – Camus XO Elegance

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 14, 2014

CAM ELEGANCE XO 70CL_WHITE BACKGROUNDCamus is the last of the major Cognac Houses that is entirely family run, and the House has been run that way for five generations. The construction of their Camus XO Elegance begins with a selection of different styles of eaux de vie in an effort to create a specific floral character suitable for the final Cognac. Specifically mentioned upon the Camus website are the eaux de vie from the Borderies Vineyards which are included in the Elegance blend which are said to strengthen the aromatic caharacter of the final Cognac.

Although the distilled spirits which make up the Elegance blend must be aged for a minimum of six years, according to Richard Bush, the Area Manager (US Travel Retail, Canada and the Caribbean) for Camus Wines & Spirits, some of the eaux de vie in the Elegance XO blend has been matured for as long as 30 years.

I have reviewed the Camus XO Elegance in the past; but this was the first time (during my 12 Cognacs of Christmas Review Series) that I had an opportunity to taste it side by side with so many other Cognac spirits. Based upon my side by side tastings, I have adjusting my scoring for this review and you can read the finalized review here:

Review: CAMUS XO Elegance Cognac

“… The initial nose brings forward fresh oak featuring fresh woody notes interspersed with oak spices. Vanilla and almond rise from the glass as well with hints of orange peel and canned apricots weaving into the breezes. There is a fruity vibrancy to the nose which is appealing …”

It was about eight years ago that I wondered into a local liquor store looking for a nice cognac for my bar shelf. I wanted a really good bottle to have on hand should a guest ask for a drink of brandy or Cognac. I bought the Camus XO Elegance after tasting several high-end brandies and Cognac. I never regretted this choice, and my review, demonstrates that my opinion of this fine Cognac has remained unchanged.

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Stay tuned as between now and Christmas I will continue my series,the 12 Cognacs of Christmas!

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The 12 Cognacs of Christmas #7 – Pierre Ferrand Reserve

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 12, 2014

1878 Cocktail SAM_1392When I received my cognac samples for this review series, I was pretty excited when the folks at River Valley Beverage Group parted with one of their Cognac Ferrand, 1st Cru du Cognac 4 bottle tasting pack which I was given which contains not only their Reserve (20 year tasting age) Cognac, but also the Ambre (10 year tasting age), the Cigare Reserve (25 year average age), and the Selection des Anges (30 year average age) Cognac. The Ambre was of course reviewed previously as part of this series, and as you can guess, the Cigare Reserve and the Selection des Anges will be each featured as well as I move through this series of reviews.

Although these spirits have no specific age statements, according to Guillaume Lamy, (Vice President – North America for Cognac Ferrand), they are each blended to a specific ‘tasting age’ profile which corresponds to which each spirit should taste like after spending a certain specified time in oak barrels. To maintain product consistency from year to year, the actual average age of the blended cognac will vary depending upon the cellar conditions during maturation and the interactions between the oak and the aging eaux de vie. In the case of the Pierre Ferrrand Reserve (Grand Champagne Cognac), this tasting age is said to be 20 years.

Here is a link to my review, of the 7th Cognac of Christmas:

Review: Pierre Ferrand Reserve

“… The aroma from the glass brings forward impressions of lightly musty leather and oak spice alongside indications of dry fruit and raisins. Some lighter aroma akin to Granny Smith apples and fresh green grape are apparent as well, but it is the darker fruit which is more dominant. Some honeycomb reaches up giving me an impression of light sweetness with touches of almond and crushed walnut shells rounding out the aroma …”

Oh yes, do try my recipe for Leo Engels’ 1878 Brandy Cocktail which is found at the end of the review!

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Stay tuned as between now and Christmas I will continue my series,the 12 Cognacs of Christmas!

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The 12 Cognacs of Christmas #8 – Camus VSOP Elegance

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 9, 2014

Champs Élysées SAM_1383The construction of the CAMUS VSOP Elegance begins with a selection of particular aromatic eaux-de-vie which are partially distilled on the lees. These include eaux-de-vie from the famous Borderies cru which are selected to strengthen the aromatic character of the VSOP Elegance as it ages. The aging barrels selected for this VSOP are medium toasted rather than lightly toasted which helps to maintain the original characteristic aromas of the eaux-de-vie.

The ages of the varies blended Cognac in the VSOP Elegance must be (by law) a minimum of four years of age, although to maintain a consistent flavour profile from year to year, it would not be unusual for some of the specific Cognac in the blend aged longer.

Here is a link to my latest review:

Review: Camus VSOP Elegance

“… The initial aroma of from the glass brings forward a very nicely fruited mixture of green grape, apricot and raisin all of which are melded nicely into the rising scents of fine oak spices. There is a gentle sweetness in the breezes represented by indications of sweetgrass and butterscotch. As the glass sits I sense a light herbaceous quality within the air with hints of camphor and menthol tickling the senses …”

I have formed a very positive impression of the Camus VSOP. It is a very nice sipping spirit with enough complexity and depth of flavour to keep me interested all the way to the bottom of the glass. I also had a lot of fun mixing cocktails, and I have shared one of the most interesting cocktails as my suggested recipe for the Camus, Champs Élysées.

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Stay tuned as between now and Christmas I will continue my series,the 12 Cognacs of Christmas!

Posted in Brandy and Cognac, Cognac Review | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The 12 Cognacs of Christmas #9 – Pierre Ferrand Ambre

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 8, 2014

Pierre Ferand Amber SAM_1048

Pierre Ferrand Ambre and the Grande Champagne Sidecar

Pierre Ferrand Ambre (Grande Champagne Cognac) is blended solely from aged eaux de vie produced within the 1st Cru de Cognac, more specifically from the Ugni Blanc and Colombard grapes grown within the Grande Champagne Cognac appellation (region) of France. Although the final spirit has no age statement, according to Guillaume Lamy, (Vice President – North America for Cognac Ferrand), this is because the spirit is blended to meet an age profile that represents a 10-year-old spirit. To maintain product consistency from year to year, the actual average age of the blended cognac will vary depending upon the cellar conditions during maturation and the interactions between the oak and the aging eaux de vie.

You may read my review of this outstanding Cognac here:

Review: Pierre Ferrand Ambre (Grand Champagne Cognac)

“… Pierre Ferrand Ambre has a wonderful freshness featuring both floral and citrus elements which reached out of that glass and teased my nostrils. Mixed into those breezes are firm impressions of ripe green grapes and a gentle sweep of vanilla. I also sense an herbal grassy note, as well as a few wisps of spicy raisins, and a mild winding of sandalwood and oak …”

Please enjoy my review which includes not one cocktail recipe but two, the 1878 Mint Julep, and the Grande Champagne Sidecar!

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Stay tuned as we have more to come as between now and Christmas I will continue my series,the 12 Cognacs of Christmas!

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The 12 Cognacs of Christmas #10 – H by Hine

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 6, 2014

The Classic SAM_1370

The Classic

Hine is one of the oldest Cognac Houses in the commune of Jarnac, (within the Cognac appellation of France of course), and Hine has produced their Cognac since 1763. Their new H by Hine Fine Champagne Cognac (VSOP) is produced from a blend 20 Cognac spirits which in turn were each produced from grapes grown in 2 of the finest crus in the heart of France’s Cognac appellation, the Grande Champagne and the Petite Champagne. As this Cognac carries a VSOP designation, I should point out that the youngest eaux de vie in the H by Hine Fine Champagne Cognac blend must be a minimum of 4 years old.

Here is a link to my full review:

Review: H by Hine Fine Champagne Cognac (VSOP)

“… The breezes above the glass carried a nice blended aroma which represents a melding of oak and wood spice, some vibrant fresh fruit and light toffee scents. The spiciness of the oak is firm but not assertive which appeals to me as sometimes oak can dominate a spirit to the detriment of the other aromas and flavours. …”

While some people scoff at the notion of mixing Cognac into cocktails and bar drinks, the truth is that Brandy and Cognac are perhaps the original cocktail mixers. It was not until these spirits disappeared in the 1870’s (until the end of the 19th century because of the phylloxera), that other spirits such as whisky, rum and gin began to dominate the mixed drink category. At the conclusion of my review I share a recipe called The Classic which has is origins in those earlier times when Brandy and Cognac were kings of the cocktails.

Enjoy my review, and stay tuned for more of the 12 Cognacs of Christmas!

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The 12 Cognacs of Christmas #11 – Hennessy Privilege V.S.O.P.

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 4, 2014

Medusa Coil SAM_1382

The Medusa Coil Cocktail

Jas Hennessy & Co., is the largest Cognac producer in the world today with sales that exceed 45 million bottles per year. The company was founded in 1765 by Richard Hennessy who was an Irish Officer in the army of Louis XV.  Fifty two years later, in 1817, Hennessy Cognac was so highly regarded that the Prince of Wales, (who later would become King George IV of Great Britain) asked the Hennessy House to produce what was termed a “very superior old pale cognac“. This was apparently the genesis for the initials V.S.O.P (Very Superior Old Pale), and these initials have become a labeling standard used throughout the industry to this day.

The subject of this review is Hennessy’s Privilege VSOP Cognac. The spirit is produced from the fruity Ugni Blanc grapes which have been harvested from the four great crus of the Cognac region (Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies and Fins Bois). The grape wine produced is (of course) double distilled upon the Hennessy Distillery’s great copper pot stills and then selected eaux-de-vie is set down to age for at least 4 years in french oak casks which have constructed from old growth oak timbers.

Here is a link to my full review:

Review: Hennessy’s Privilege VSOP Cognac

“… The initial aroma displays a rich combination of oak spice and vanilla with leathery cedar accents. To some extent the oak dominates covering over the fruity scents of green grape and raisin. After a few minutes the breezes above the glass show me impressions of rich tobacco, dark baking spices, (vanilla, brown sugar, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon), sticky marmalade, apricot brandy and hints of maple …”

When I was contemplating a cocktail for the Hennessy Privilege VSOP, I wanted to put a modern spin on a traditional (or maybe the right word is ‘classic’) cocktail. I began with Leo Engels 1878 Brandy Crusta, and with a few additions and subtractions, I arrived at what I call the Medusa Coil.

Enjoy my review, and stay tuned for more of the 12 Cognacs of Christmas!

 

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The 12 Cognacs of Christmas #12 (tie) – Courvoisier VSOP (Fine Champagne Cognac)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 3, 2014

Lime Sour SAM_1376

Courvoisier VSOP Lime Sour

We can trace the origins of Courvoisier Cognac to 1809 when Emmanuel Courvoisier began a small wine and spirits company with the Mayor of Bercy, Louis Gallois in the French suburb of Bercy (Paris, France). The company and its Cognac was soon to achieve fame as in 1811, Napoleon Bonaparte visited Bercy, and it is said that after visiting Bercy, Napoleon stated that he wanted to have available a ration of cognac for his artillery companies during the Napoleonic Wars. And in fact, later (in 1869) Napoleon’s heir, Napoleon III stated a preference for Courvoisier and also bestowed the honourable title of “Official Supplier to the Imperial Court” to the company, and this title remains on display at the Courvoisier Museum in Jarnac.

To produce their VSOP Fine Champagne Cognac, Courvoisier utilizes eaux-de-vie from only two of the crus in the Cognac appellation,the Grande Champagne,and Petite Champagne crus which are generally recognized at the two premier regions within the overall Cognac appellation. The grape juice from which the cognac is distilled is produced solely from white grapes which have been grown within these two appellations. The spirit is distilled twice upon a copper Charentes Still, and the resulting eaux de vie is aged in barrels handmade from 200-year old oak sourced from the Tronçais Forest in France.

Here is a link to my full review of the Courvoisier VSOP Fine Champagne Cognac:

Review: Courvoisier VSOP Fine Champagne Cognac

“… The initial aroma is somewhat restrained, but soon opens to reveal fine wood spices and sandalwood in front of some nice aromas of caramel and butterscotch melded into aromas of sugared green grapes and canned peaches …”

As I indicated two days ago, Cognac is a great mixing spirit, and the Courvoissier VSOP is no exception. I used my sample bottle to experiment a little and came up with a sour recipe I quite enjoyed, the Cognac Lime Sour.

Enjoy my review, and stay tuned for more of the 12 Cognacs of Christmas!

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