Let’s start with a longer introduction this time – skip if in a hurry 🙂 : Now that good whisky is becoming a luxury item and many drinkers feel like getting priced out of the market, people need to look for so-called malternatives. Besides R(h)um, Brandy in all its forms is a great category to go. Consequently, more and more independent bottlers release high quality Cognac, Armagnac and more. As so often, the corporation-owned big players miss the train and the category as such is just waking up from a long sleep – tradition as a double-edged sword sometimes … . But the big brands will profit from a rise in interest as well.
Having been a brandy buff and collector for many years, the situation is exciting for me and our club. Slowdrink has always been focused on being open for various drink categories. We have released Brandy many years ago, I met with great producers to learn, educated people in tastings and at fairs about it and I blend products and judge ‚grape juice‘ in competitions. So finally our enthusiasm is catching on. Therefore, I forgive the lack of experience and knowledge of some newbies in this huge and difficult field for the love of many new Cognac and Brandy lovers who come from the whisky world and expect equally high standards of quality and transparency. This helps Brandy too … and it helps whisky people develop finer sensoric skills because Cognac and its brothers are way harder to differenciate.
The grape distillers did many things long before whisky producers did, and many Scotch and Irish techniques originate in France and Spain as Cognac was the main noble spirit of the world back then and for so many years – phylloxera helped other fine spirits become visible but Cognac stayed king way into the 1980s. Nowadays it lost some track in Europe, but this is about to change – if the Charente learned from mistakes and can adapt. I also see a rise in quality in Grappa, another very exciting drink distilled from pomace.
Cadenhead, LMDW, SMWS, Maltbarn, WhiskySponge and others have started to release single cask Cognac and Armagnac recently, some great, others atypical. Woody and fruity brandies like those of Vallein Tercinier become sought after because they can offer what only very expensive old Malt Whiskies render in terms of matured esters (e.g. Bowmore fruit and berries) despite not being typical. The departing from burdening tradition has negative sides to it but I like the general development to a large extent and wish that a broader variety of producers and crus will follow soon. We will also release something again in the future. Stay tuned!
Come to a tasting and learn more, e.g. rancio, boise, prune juice faking, wine choice and crus, oak differences etc. – Brandy is awesome and historical.
Our friends at Wu Dram Clan joined the crowd recently and have released a very old VT from a single cask from the renowned cru of Grand Champagne. I feel confident to test-drive this baby now:
Comment: What makes older VT great is the immense complexity. We have it here too. A mix of spicy (cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, pepper from wood, oriental spices), fruity (crystallized fruits like apricots, plums, figs, sour cherries, apple rings and berries), floral (violets, lilac, elderflower, marigold, daisies), bitter (lemon and orange peel, Italian apero bitters) and sweet elements (white donut, sugar-coated pineapple, marzipan, marshmallow) in fine harmony boggles the mind. What a spirit, so vivid yet mature! Little to no rancio. It is slightly on the woody (hey, it is 53 years old!) and floral side on the palate at first, then the big wave of aromas follows suit. It lands so softly and mildly, more berries and cassis notes emerge. As a single cask, it has atypical and exciting moments. In comparison, the VT Hors d’Age is darker, rounder and sports quite some rancio, this version is spicier, drier and more complex, a wilder ride all in all. Hold on tight, it is a world-class Cognac that will blow you off the rocker if you like it wild and challenging!