Torres 20 Hors d’âge Brandy
Review: Miguel Torres 20 Hors d’âge 84.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published May 19, 2013
Last month, I was invited to as a guest to attend Pacific Wine and Spirits, 40th Anniversary Portfolio Tasting at the Edmonton Golf and Country Club. At the event I was able to meet many of the people who are responsible for making the great wines and spirits which Pacific Wine and Spirits have as part of their portfolio here in the Province of Alberta. One of the great people I met was Anna Manchon, the Canadian Torres Export Manager who is of course, responsible for the entire line-up of Torres Brandy which is available here in Canada. I spent some time with her discussing her Brandy line-up, and after the event, I was happy to learn that a bottle of the Torres 20 Hors d’âge Brandy was being delivered to me for review upon my website.
Miguel Torres 20 Hors d’âge, is a double distilled brandy made by the Torres family (or bodega) who have been intrinsically linked to the wine making region of Spain known as the Penedès for over three centuries. Their brandy is produced from selected wines of the Parellada (a traditional Catalan white varietal) and Ugni Blanc (also known as Trebbiano in Italy) grape varieties. After distillation of the wine in copper pot stills, a careful selection process is undertaken to choose the most positive aromatic fractions, and these are aged in french Limousin oak barrels.
In the Bottle 4.5/5
The Torres 20 arrives in the masculine 12 sided, 750 ml bottle shown to the right. The overall look is clean and professional, especially as the bottled is sealed with a solid straight sided cork topper. I would have preferred a little more information about the brandy on either the front or the back of the bottle, although I did appreciate that the labeling includes a circular crest above the main label which reads Torres 20 Hors d’âge. This crest tells me the brandy has been aged for 20 years, and the main label tells me it was bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.
In the Glass 9/10
The spirit possesses a nice dark mahogany colour when poured in the glass, and exhibits an obvious oak character which is interlaced with scents of both fresh fruit (grapes and pears), and dry fruit (raisins, dates and figs), as well as some nice caramel candy and vanilla. Orange peel and oak spices build in the glass as you let it breathe giving me impressions of black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, marmalade and dark rich tobacco. Also rising into the breezes above the glass is a somewhat earthy note of walnuts and nutmeg with perhaps a smattering of dry tea leaves and a touch of cocoa. The the aroma from the glass is very complex, although perhaps the oak sensations dominate the breezes just a little more than I would personally prefer.
In the Mouth 50/60
The initial entry into the mouth brings flavours of chocolate and lightly sweet caramel forward. As I sip the brandy, these softer sweeter flavours of caramel and chocolate soon give way to flavours of fresh wood. Rough oak, and impressions of willow bark combine to give the brandy a bit of a tannic dryness as it continues to cross the palate. Woody spices build in the mouth with flavours of fresh sap, cloves, orange peel, dark tobacco and cinnamon spicing up brandy. Within that stream of spiciness, we can taste nuances of cola, scattered tea leaves, vanilla and dry lightly bitter walnuts.
The Miguel Torres Brandy is complex and rugged. The flavour tilts more towards the oak and spice (and away from the caramel) with each sip.
In the Throat 12.5/15
The exit feels the rush of oak and spice far more than the entry as the brandy reaches a crescendo of spicy oak flavour. However, subtle impressions of caramel and milk chocolate linger helping to bring balance to the overall flavour profile in the exit.
The Afterburn 8.5/10
For me, this will be a spirit which I will enjoy in well spaced visits. Frankly, the 20-year-old brandy intimidates me. The oakiness of the spirit is enjoyable at first; but it builds as you sip to the point that by the time you reach the bottom of the glass the Torres 20 is taking as much from you as it is giving in return. Only by taking it slowly and nursing my glass am I able to enjoy the experience fully. Of course when I think about it, taking it slowly is probably the best way to enjoy a well aged brandy.
My score of 84.5 represents a well made Brandy, but one which perhaps allows the oak a little too much freedom such that the other subtle nuances must struggle to fully reveal themselves.
You may click this link to read some of my other Brandy and Cognac Reviews
This is an old recipe usually credited to Leo Engels, an American bartender (working in London) who published the recipe in 1878 (recipe number 192 by the way) in his cocktail book, American and Other Drinks. The recipe bears a resemblance to the modern Sidecar, but with one significant difference. Mr. Engels used Angostura Bitters in the recipe (with the lemon juice and orange Curacao), lots of Angostura Bitters.
His recipe can be summarized as follows:
half a wine glass of brandy (about 1 3/4 oz)
2 teaspoons Orange Curacao
1 teaspoon Angostura bitters
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Shake well over fine (crushed ) ice
Strain into a wine glass
I have seen a few modern versions of the recipe, usually with the bitters toned down and the teaspoon of sugar replaced with a teaspoon of simple syrup. However, I recommend the original construction as well as the use of a robust brandy which will stand up to the bitters.
In the photo above (as you can see) I used Miguel Torres 20 Hors d’âge Brandy, which, with its strong oak flavour running throughout works very well with the heavy dose of bitters. I also used the Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao (see review here) to obtain as close to an original 1878 Curacao flavour as possible. Do not skimp on the sugar, as the lemon juice and bitters are unforgiving if not balanced by the appropriate amount of sweetness.
My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret the score as follows:
0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing spirit. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.
Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and Bronze medal scale as follows:
70 – 79.5 Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5 Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95 Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+ Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)