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Courvoisier Cognac (VS)

Review: Courvoisier Cognac (VS)    86/100  
A review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published January 01, 2015

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.

In 1828, the company moved from Bercy into the Cognac region of France in the town of Jarnac. In 1909, the business was acquired by the Simon family (from England) but remained headquarters in the Cognac region. Today Courvoisier is owned by Beam Suntory, and its main business operations remain in the Cognac region of France, in the town of Jarnac, located on the banks of the Charente River.

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.

The ages of the varies blended cognac in the VS Cognac 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 much longer.

Courvoisier VS SAM_1342In the Bottle 4.5/5

Courvoisier VS arrives in the classic long-necked decanter shown to the left, albeit with its overall shape modernized to look perhaps a little sexier and sleeker. In some places the spirit is sold with the bottle protected by a classy looking light caramel coloured box; however my sample arrived ‘sans cardboard’ and I am unable to provide suitable picture of that nice container.

As is normally the case with cognac, the spirit is sealed with a corked closure, in this case protected by a dark blue plastic covering. The back label tells us a little story about Napoleon Bonaparte taking 100 bottles of Emmanuel Courvoisier’s cognac with him into exile, which apparently earned Courvoisier the reputation going forward as Napoleon’s Cognac. And indeed, the front label of my bottle proudly states “Le Cognac de Napoleon”. The label also informs us that this spirit has been bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume which is standard in the category.

In the Glass 8.5/10

The spirit displays itself as a copper coloured liquid with appealing orange and red tints similar in hue to the colour of a shiny new penny. I gave the glass a tilt and a slow twirl and saw that the liquid was only very slightly thickened and dropped a multitude of medium to small-sized droplets down the inside of my glass which released slender legs as the spirit moved back down into the bottom of the glass. The initial aroma displays a combination of fine oak spice with woody cedar accents, some butterscotch toffee, hints of maple, bits of dried raisins, and some sweet sticky orange marmalade in the breezes.

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. There is perhaps a touch of astringency, but nothing that would be unexpected in a VS Cognac.

In the Mouth 52/60

The initial flavour brings more caramel and chocolate sweetness forward than I was expecting. There is also a nice big hit of spicy oak which heats the palate a little and some lovely underlying flavours of marmalade and canned apricots. It was upon my second sipping that I noticed more of the fruitiness of green grapes and dry raisins and this fruitiness seems to increase as the glass is allowed to breathe.

As a VS spirit, Courvoisier was recommended to me as a cocktail mixer as well as a sipping spirit; and when I had a few friends over for a cognac tasting recently, I served everyone a cocktail which specifies the use of Courvoisier VS called Baby Doll (see recipe below). The bar drink was a huge success as the character of the cognac shone through the cocktail giving it an extra dimension of flavour and character.

In the Throat 12.5/15

The astringency noted when I nosed the glass displayed itself in the medium length finish which carried just a touch of sharpness, along with oodles of milk chocolate, cola and baking spices.  I can be very forgiving of the lightly sharp heat, as the ebbing flavours I described are very rum-like, and very delicious.

The Afterburn 8.5/10

The Courvoisier VS has lived up to its billing as a Cognac worthy of Napoleon. I found the flavours well-balanced and enjoyable, and the rum-like finish surprised and delighted me. This is also a spirit which does a good job of straddling both the path of the sipping spirit, and the path of the cocktail mixer. I will probably use the cocktail path more frequently; but this is more a reflection of my personal taste than it is a reflection of any deficiency in the spirit. It really is a very nice cognac!

You may click this link to read some of my other Brandy and Cognac Reviews!


Suggested Recipe

Baby Doll SAM_1368This cocktail is essentially the same as 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!

Baby Doll

2 oz Courvoisier VS
1 1/2 oz Grand Marnier
1 1/2 oz Lemon Juice
3/4 oz sugar syrup
Lemon Slice (optional)

Add the first four ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice
Shake until the sides frost
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with a lemon slice (optional)

Please Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!


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)

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