Cognac, the lesser Armagnac. There, I said it, and I absolutely mean it. At least in general. There are tons of exceptions of course. I’d go as far as saying that Armagnac is better overall, but that Cognac has some of the absolute gems out there. But then again, perhaps that’s just me. Anyway, as you are about to see, we’ve had one heck of a session!
Jean Fillioux Réserve Franz Keller Vieille Réserve (Grande Champagne, 46%): Nose: Spices and associations that are shaped by spices such as ginger bread, cinnamon, fruit cake and speculoos are my first impressions. Later more light fruits (think apples, sweet peaches, banana even), not too much oak, hints of old coffee (i.e. made from stale beans) and now clearly also cloves. This smells incredibly nice and complex, even though I am missing that “wow-effect” a little bit. Palate: Once again more on the spicy side with ginger, fresh and fermented garlic, paprika powder, pepper, three year old walnuts, olive oil, old oak and cloves again. This is quite different from the nose and I must say that I prefer the palate by quite a bit. It’s definitely on the bitter side of things, as the influence of the oak squeezed out tannins and those nutty notes but I like it. Now also orange peel, plums and antique furniture. Very nice. Finish: Long, bitter and woody with wood varnish, walnuts, coffee beans and cococa. Cool stuff, but it may have been better at a younger age. (87/100)
Navarre Vieille Reserve (Grande Champagne, 45%): This is a cuvée containing the vintages 1965, 1970-1975 and 1978-1979. Nose: Staller, really! Grapefruit and related citrus fruits, plums, oak, exotic fruits such as mango or passion fruit but also leather, humid moss, hazelnut, toffee and caramel. The stuff that dreams are made of, especially for us Rum geeks. Palate: Right on. Peach (flavoured ice tea anyone!?), mango, passion fruit, vanilla, sweet cherries, nutmeg, oak, tobacco, plums, a solid astringency… What more can we ask for? Towards the finish maybe some more herbal notes, caramel and sweet popcorn. And then this furry mouthfeel, the Rancio and again the fruitiness. You gotta be kidding me – this is crazy good. Finish: Ultra long and in different shifts offering most of the notes we’ve just witnessed. I adore this mix of passion fruit, mango, vanilla and cherry in particular. But I am sure you can find even more. I think we need to stock up. (93/100)
Francois Peyrot Héritage Lot 59 (Grande Champagne, 44,2%): 61 years old… oh my. Nose: Very dusty. There goes your old antiquity store. The might be the style, but it might also simply need some more time. After half an hour, a bit has changed and after another fifteen minutes even more. We now find oranges, dates, pastry, more old and dusty wood, grandma’s old attic, plum juice and dark stone fruits. Certainly interesting but we will have to taste this first. Palate: Quite sweet and smooth. I believe that this might be slightly adulterated. If not, we are talking about a world-class texture here. It doesn’t get much better than that. Flavourwise, it is a bit dull I am afraid. Oranges, plums, marzipan, wood, grassy notes, grapes… it is all there but it feels very simple and not complex at all. Some might call this an extraordinary balance though… I am still contemplating if it is clean or not but anyway, this is more or less the oposite of memorable. Finish: Medium long and same same. Solid stuff, but it could be a bit more exciting for my liking. Funny, that this one was probably the Cognac of the session that I was most excited about. (82/100)
Fortnum & Mason Cognac 25YO (~1940s/ 50s, 40%): Nose: Quite woody but also still with a very lifely fruitness in the form of apricot jam, peach and caramelised plums with cinnamon. Later more and more nutty and woody notes from the cask. If this were a Rum, we’d probably been talking about excessive tropical ageing even where the wood has taken over but the nose gained a lot of intensity. Just a pretty good nose, my friends! Palate: Kinda what you expect after this nose. We get a mix of wood, leather, tobacco and that apricot jam. Later also a whiff of pineapple, clearly cinnamon again, coffee perhaps, some beeswax and more wood. Towards the finish also something akin to chest- and hazelnuts and with the third sip an even stronger coffee note. Very good! Finish: Long, dark and but not very rich with mahogany, the nuts and dry licorice. I am not sure why I am surprised but this is an excellent product. 40% aren’t a problem at all and we definitely don’t feel like we are missing out on anything. (88/100)
Bertrand Heritage Batch No. 1 (49,2%): This one should be older than 50 years. Nose: You can tell that this is complex stuff and if you take a sniff every now and then over the course of an hour, you’ll notice how radically it changes. At the beginning it is very dusty with a promise of plenty rancio, then you’ll find chocolate and leather, later stone fruits such as plums and apricot, and even later soy sauce and morel, fruity vinegar and that dusty wood again. I must say that this is extraordinary, even though it doesn’t match my ideal profile perfectly. What I try to say is: we cannot not be subjective, but objectively it is outstanding, understood!? Palate: Absolutely delightful. Very mellow, sweet, fruity and chocolatey. We get mango, peach, milk chocolate, honey, a mix of herbs, subtle oak, vanilla, now also bittersweet chocolate, and we could go on and on… The texture is insane, the intensity is alright, but the complexity is just unheard of. Some more watts and we’d be going places. Finish: Long and just as complex with chocolate, nougat, oak, herbs, mushrooms, rancio and slightly bitter plums. I think Bertrand has pushed cask management to the limits with this one. This is pure nectar. (92/100)