When was the last time you sipped a cognac? Located just to the north of Bordeaux, this jewel in France’s spirits crown is famous for its brown spirits made with twice-distilled fine wine.
More opulent, viscous and citrus-scented than its whisky cousins made from grain, cognac is finding new favour on the global cocktail scene, yet it still delights spirits aficionados with its epic, long-aged, special bottlings. If you’ve neglected this spirit in the past, now is the time to try it again.
While it tends to be the more entry-level cognacs such as VS and VSOP used in cocktails (unless you’re partying with Jay-Z), it’s the XO (‘extra old’) cognacs and special bottlings that are created to be sipped and savoured, throwing out alluring, complex notes of leather, apricot, hazelnut and chocolate that evolve with every sniff. Several luxury cognacs blew me away on a recent trip out to the region. Here are some you must absolutely taste in your lifetime:
‘Plume’ by Frapin
This exceptional, family-owned house is the only producer in the Grand Champagne part of Cognac (the highest quality part) to grow their own grapes, distil and age their own spirits, which means they are in full control of every stage of creation. Frapin’s style is floral and fine with a cool, mineral core thanks to the chalky soils of the region. Their top cognac expression is ‘Plume’, named in homage to a famous French Renaissance writer François Rabelais, who was a member of their family.
Presented in a glass with stunning, rose gold detail, this ancestral cognac is made with grapes from their own vineyards at Château Fontpinot, with a blend of over 20 Eaux-de-vie, many of which have aged patiently for over 60 years in their humid cellars. The result is insane complexity, but with silky smoothness; approachable with ethereal fruit, liquorice and delicate spice.
RRP £2500- £2700. Find it at thewhiskyexchange.
L’Essence de Courvoisier
L’Essence is a blend of over 100 Eaux-de-vies, some dating back to the early 1900s. In their ‘paradise’ cellars, old demijohns of Grand Champagne cognac created by Louis Renard, the first Courvoisier master blender of the 20th century, still remain. The team tasted all the very old Grand Champagne cognacs in the demijohns and selected the best of them to be the basis of this blend. The final blend is a result of cognac from over two centuries that was further aged in barrels.
I was lucky enough to taste this iconic cognac straight from the barrel in the cellars. It was brooding and dark, with notes of tobacco, honey and marzipan, with ripe fruit peeking out from underneath. Powerful and aromatic with a long finish. This very limited edition comes in a crystal, teardrop decanter designed by Baccarat with a special, crystal stopper.
RRP £1900- £2000. Find it at hedonismwines.