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Posts Tagged ‘Cognac’

Some Help on Father’s Day

Posted by Arctic Wolf on June 21, 2015

Dictador Insolent

Dictador Insolent

Today I thought I would give everyone who is scrambling at the last-minute a few suggestions for Father’s Day with the same list of ten spirits which I posted on my refrigerator for my wife and kids. Every item on my list is considered by myself to be a top-notch spirit, however each is available in my local market for less than 100 bucks. That may seem a high watermark for some, but I have three kids and they can chip in together.

Any gift from his list would make any reasonable Dad happy:

1)  Dictador XO Insolent Rum
2)  Ron Millonario XO Reserva Especial Rum
3)  El Dorado 21 Year Old Special Reserve Rum
4)  Booker’s True Barrel Bourbon
5)  Highland Park 12 Year Old Single Malt
6)  Gibson’s Finest Rare 18 Year Old
7)  Wyborowa Exquisite (Wodka)
8)  Botanist Islay Dry Gin 
9)  Corzo Reposado Tequila
10) H by Hine Fine Champagne Cognac (VSOP)

SAM_0699 Graham's Six Grapes

Graham’s Six Grapes

I realize that not everyone can or would want to spend 100 bucks. If you are more budget conscious, then here is a list of ten great budget priced spirits which would still make any Dad happy (including me):

1)  Bacardi 8 Yr Old Rum
2)  Appleton Estate Extra Old 12 Year 
3)  Diplomático Añejo
4)  Ninety “Decades of Richness” 20 Year Old Canadian Rye Whisky
5)  Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey
6)  Alberta Springs Canadian Whisky 
7)  Highwood Premium Vodka
8)  Broker’s Premium London Dry Gin (40 %ABV)
9)  Herencia de Plata (Reposado)
10) W & J Graham’s “Six Grapes” Reserve Port

The two lists are in no particular order, but I have tried to include a good range of spirit types with the emphasis on Rum of course. Hopefully this helps someone, if not for Father’s Day, then maybe for your own personal shopping.

Chimo!

Posted in Extras | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Review: Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula Cognac

Posted by Arctic Wolf on March 14, 2015

SAM_0801 Oh Mai Mai

Heretic Cocktail

Cognac Ferrand is the result of a rare opportunity offered to a young man (Alexandre Gabriel) in 1989 by one of the oldest wine growing families in the Cognac region of France. According to Mr. Gabriel:

” I met a small Cognac producer who needed help selling his products to finish off his stock. This was Cognac Ferrand. I fell in love with the product and with the region. It all reminded me of what I grew up around. So when I was invited to become a partner and told that no one was going to continue if I didn’t, I just said….yes.”

Although that beginning may have seemed rather precarious to those on the outside, Alexandre Gabriel plunged headlong into the task of rebuilding what he described to me as:

“A run down business with no distribution network, with no real sales, good stocks but no organized production”

Alexandre Gabriel made the most of his opportunity, and now that run down business with no distribution network is s a well-respected producer with sales in more than 40 countries world-wide.

For Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula Cognac, Mr. Gabriel collected old bottles of cognac that were bottled at a young age and designed his Cognac based upon a particular bottle from 1840 thus replicating a style of cognac which had heretofore been lost to time.

Here is a link to my full review:

Review: Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula Cognac

“… I received enticing aromas of wood spices which gave me impressions of freshly sanded oak and sandalwood. Hints of cinnamon stained the oak spices; butterscotch and honey gave the breezes a hint of sweetness; and a fruity citrus zest  contributed to an effervescent quality which was apparent in the air …”

Because, some of my friends believe it is sacrilegious to mix brandy or cognac in bar drinks and cocktails, I decided to call my recommended cocktail which features both the 1840 Cognac and a well aged brandy, the Heretic. (And for the record, it is a thoroughly delicious cocktail!)

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Review: Courvoisier Cognac (VS)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on March 8, 2015

Baby Doll

Courvoisier Cognac VS & the Baby Doll

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 this small suburb, Napoleon insisted 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, France today.

To produce their cognac, Courvoisier utilizes eaux-de-vie from four of the crus in the Cognac appellation, Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies and Fin Bois. The grape juice from which the cognac is distilled is produced solely from white grapes which have been grown within these appellations. The spirit is distilled twice upon a copper Charentes Still, and the resulting eaux de vie is aged in barrels hand-made from 200-year old oak sourced from the Tronçais Forest in France.

You may read my full review of Courvoisier Cognac VS  by clicking on the following link:

Review: Courvoisier Cognac (VS)

“… As I allowed the glass to sit for a while, the wooded sap-like scents of cedar seemed to dissipate and were replaced by light baking spice aromas (brown sugar, vanilla, allspice, cinnamon, and clove) reminding me a bit of the scents and smells from a glass of aged Demerara rum. There are indications of tobacco and toasted walnut rising into the breezes as well a few hints of chocolate and a touch of cola … “

Please enjoy my review which includes as my suggested recipe for the Courvoisier VS, the Baby Doll.

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Review: CAMUS VSOP Elegance

Posted by Arctic Wolf on February 21, 2015

CAMUSCAMus ELEGANCE VS 70CL is the last of the major Cognac Houses that is entirely family run, and the House has been that way for five generations. Cyril Camus who represents the fifth generation of the Camus family currently remains in sole control of the company which currently has employees on three separate continents responsible for sales of cognac in almost every country of the world.

The CAMUS VS Elegance is the introductory spirit of the CAMUS Range. Its construction begins with a selection of eaux-de-vie made from wines distilled without lees. Of particular note on the CAMUS website is a reference to the aromas of the wine and the flavors of the Charente terroir, characterized by delicate fruity and floral notes which are particularly important for the CAMUS VS Elegance blend.

French Presbyterian

French Presbyterian

The ages of the varies blended Cognac in the VS Elegance must be (by law) a minimum of two 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 to be aged longer.

You may read my full review here:

Review: CAMUS VSOP Elegance

“… The merry little breezes above the glass bring a very nicely fruited mixture of green grape and apricot brandy into the air which are both melded nicely into rising scents of fine oak spice and light butterscotch. There is a gentle floral sweetness in the breezes represented by indications of rose petals, garden lilies and lightly perfumed iris …”

Please enjoy my review of the Camus VS Elegance which includes my suggested mixed drink recipe, the French Presbyterian Cocktail.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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Review: Hennessy Very Special Cognac

Posted by Arctic Wolf on February 14, 2015

Hennessy V.S.Hennessy Cognac is produced from the fruity Ugni Blanc grape picked from one of the four great crus of the Cognac region (Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies and Fins Bois). The grape wine produced from the Ugni Blanc harvest is (of course) double distilled upon Hennessy’s own copper Charentes Stills, and then selected eaux-de-vie is set down to age for several years in french oak casks which have constructed from old growth oak timbers.

In 1865, Maurice Hennessy, the great-grandson of the original founder, devised a cognac classification system based upon varying numbers of stars which defined the quality of the bottled spirit. Again the classification devised by Hennessy was later adopted by the entire industry. Today, Hennessy’s Three Star Cognac, is now known as Hennessy Very Special (VS).

Blood Orange Bitters SAM_1369

Blood Orange Bitters

You may read my full review here:

Review: Hennessy Very Special Cognac

” … I allowed the glass to breath for a few minutes and was pleased by the melding of aromas that resulted. The oak, the caramel toffee and the fruit all coexist harmoniously with no particular element outshining any other. I notice some new smells of rich vanilla and honeycomb rising into the air; as well, some nutty smells of almond and walnut are wafting in the breezes as well …”

I hope you enjoy this review which concludes with a very nice cocktail which I found on the Jas Hennessy & Co. website, Blood Orange Bitters. It is as tasty as it sounds!

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The Year in Cognac and Brandy (2014 Rum Howler Awards)

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 6, 2015

RH-winner2014I am a little late with my 2014 Rum Howler Awards. As some of you know, I took a sabbatical from my website at the end of the summer when my wife and my youngest son were each going through some medical difficulties. My time and attention was needed on the home front rather than on the web front, and as a result I made the decision in early October to postpone the publication of my Rum Howler Awards until after Christmas. I hope that no one minds the delay.

Earlier this year, I sent out a call to my contacts in the spirits industry as I was hoping to acquire 4 or 5 VSOP Cognac samples for a Rum Chums Tasting as well as for a short series of Cognac reviews to publish. The response I received was nothing short of amazing as instead of just a few VSOP Cognac, I also received an assortment of VS Cognac, and an even larger assortment of XO and super premium Cognac spirits. This meant that instead of a few VSOP spirits to review, I had suddenly acquired a bunch of Cognac spirits, sixteen samples in all. In fact I received enough sample spirits such that I am able to add the Cognac category to my annual Rum Howler Awards. (I also had a few very old Brandies which I added to the festivities.)

And thus it is time to reveal the recipients of the 2014 Rum Howler Awards for Excellence in the Production of Cognac (and Brandy). These Awards are for the best spirits which I encountered in the year 2014.

Here is a link to the Awards Page:

The 2014 Rum Howler Awards – The Year in Cognac (And Brandy)

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Note: The awards page contains links to my latest reviews for CAMUS VS, Courvoisier VS, and Hennessy VS Cognac.

Posted in Awards, Brandy and Cognac Reviews, Brandy Review, Cognac Review, Extras | Tagged: , , , , , | Comments Off on The Year in Cognac and Brandy (2014 Rum Howler Awards)

Ten Great Cognac Cocktails for 2015

Posted by Arctic Wolf on January 4, 2015

Baby Doll

Baby Doll

During the month of December, I had a lot of fun tasting Cognac and researching different ways to enjoy the spirit. In the course of my research I was able to speak directly with experts from both small Cognac Houses like Pierre Ferrand, and larger houses like CAMUS. I also visited many of the producer’s websites, and the recurring theme was that the Cognac industry appears to be embracing the new cocktail revolution. In fact most of the websites I visited offered a variety of recipes for the consumer to enjoy with not just their VS Cognac, but also with their VSOP, and XO Cognac.

When I spoke directly with Richard Bush, the Area Manager (US Travel Retail, Canada and the Caribbean) for Camus Wines & Spirits, he told me that their CAMUS Cognac is not just for sipping in a brandy snifter. It can (and should) be enjoyed in a variety of other ways. In fact, when Richard served me a glass of his very special CAMUS Elegance Extra (see review here), he suggested that this expensive spirit could be tossed into the freezer overnight, and then served in a tulip shaped glass like a glencairn after it was thoroughly chilled. The idea is to slowly sip the Cognac over the course of an hour or so such that you may experience a fuller spectrum of flavours which are revealed as the spirit slowly warms in the glass. (You can try this with any premium sipping spirit, and if you do you will enjoy a similar delightful experience whether this be Rum, Whisky, or even Anejo Tequila.) Richard also offered his support to the notion that Cognac and Cocktails are partners which have a long history together.

I found myself wholeheartedly agreeing with Richard, and when I published my Cognac Review Series, The 12 Cognacs of Christmas, I tried to convey the sentiment that Cognac is a much more versatile spirit than many persons suppose. I made the point in many of my reviews that one of the great ways to enjoy this premium spirit is in a fine cocktail. I suggested that bar drinks made with Cognac are not to be scoffed at, rather they are an intrinsic part of the enjoyment of the spirit. The truth is that mixing cocktails with Cognac has a tradition which dates back to the very earliest cocktails constructed by the original American bartenders who pioneered the art of mixology.

In keeping with the theme of serving great Cognac cocktails, I thought I would give you a list of ten of my favourite cocktail discoveries which I embraced during my review series. They are listed in no particular order, and if you are interested in making one for yourself just click on the highlighted name of the cocktail to be linked to its recipe page.

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1878 Cocktail SAM_1392

1878 Brandy Cocktail

1) 1878 Brandy Cocktail (In the nineteenth century different styles of bar drinks had their own names, the Crusta, the Smash, and the Julep just to name a few. At that time, the word ‘cocktail’ was reserved for a specific type of bar drink, which closely resembles what we call the Old-Fashioned Cocktail today. How the word ‘cocktail’ evolved to encompass all classes of bar drinks is unknown to me; but if you want to go back in time and build an original ‘Brandy Cocktail’, Leo Engels’ 1878 Bartender’s Guide, American and Other Drinks (and a nice bottle of Cognac), is a great starting place.)

2) Baby Doll (Very similar the modern Side Car except that it usually specifies the use of Courvoisier Cognac as the brandy of choice and Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge as the orange liqueur of choice in the construction of the recipe. It really doesn’t matter what we call this particular bar drink; the point is that it is delicious!)

3) Heretic (Because, some of my friends believe it is sacrilegious to mix brandy or cognac in bar drinks and cocktails, I decided to create my own heretical cocktail which features both a cognac and a well aged brandy. And for the record, it is a thoroughly delightful cocktail!)

4) 1878 Brandy Crusta (I also dug this cocktail out of Leo Engel’s 1878 amazing bartender’s guide, American and Other Drinks. It is not necessarily easy to make in its original format; but with the right Cognac, it is certainly worth the trouble to construct.)

5) Blood Orange Bitters (I found this recipe on the Hennessy Cognac website (which has quite a few more great looking recipes). Hennessy and I agree that orange and lemon are great complimentary flavours for brandy or Cognac!)

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The Classic SAM_1370

The Classic

6) The Classic Cocktail (The truth is that Brandy and Cognac are perhaps the original cocktail mixers. It was not until these spirits all but 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. Here is a recipe which has its roots firmly fixed in those earlier times when Brandy and Cognac were kings of the cocktails.)

7) 1878 Mint Julep (The original Mint Julep was probably made with Cognac, not whiskey, in the early nineteenth century. The recipe I am sharing here is loosely based upon the Mint Julep construction found in Leo Engels’, American and Other Drinks. This classic cocktail has stood the test of time and tastes every bit as good today as it did almost 200 years ago.)

8) French Presbyterian (The tall Presbyterian Cocktail is a simple bar drink which mixes Scotch Whisky with ginger ale and soda water. When made with Cognac, I believe it is more appropriate to call this construction a French Presbyterian. This cocktail is hard to beat when a long refreshing dink is called for.)

9) Wisconsin Old Fashioned (This is a regional cocktail which has been receiving bit of press in the cocktail blogs lately. It is not to be confused with the more well-known Old Fashioned Cocktail; however, this favorite of the Dairyland state is definitely yummy in its own right!)

10) Medusa Coil (This is a cocktail of my own construction which evolved when I wanted to put a somewhat modern spin on a traditional (or maybe the right word is ‘classic’) cocktail. I began with a Leo Engels 1878 Brandy Crusta, and with a few additions and subtractions, I arrived at what I call the Medusa Coil. I think it is very good, and I am hoping some of you will try it as well.)

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The 12 Cognacs of Christmas #2 – Pierre Ferrand Cigare

Posted by Arctic Wolf on December 22, 2014

2729_PF Cigare HD (1125x1500)Pierre Ferrand Cigare was produced in very small quantities, created solely from aged eaux de vie produced within the 1st Cru de Cognac, specifically the Grande Champagne Cognac appellation of France. In producing the Cigare Cognac, the aim was to structure the final spirit such that it would be suitable for pairing with a fine Cigar, hence the name Pierre Ferrand Cigare. 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 25 years.

Here is a link to my latest Cognac Review:

The 12 Cognacs of Christmas #2 – Pierre Ferrand Cigare

“… The aroma is oak stained and decadent with dark dry fruit (dates, raisins and prunes), charred coconut, and roasted walnuts all rising into the breezes. I am also greeted with strong oak and cedar smells which carry a rich combination of leather and spice (hints of spicy clove mixed with allspice, and cinnamon and nutmeg) in their wake …”

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Stay tuned as on Christmas Eve I will unveil my final review of the year, and complete the 12 Cognacs of Christmas!

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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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