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Courvoisier VSOP Fine Champagne Cognac

Review: Courvoisier VSOP Fine Champagne Cognac   (87/100)
A review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published December 01, 2014

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 Bercy, Napoleon stated 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 bestowed the honourable title of “Official Supplier to the Imperial Court” to the company. This title remains on display at the Courvoisier Museum in Jarnac.

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 VSOP Fine Champagne Cognac, Courvoisier utilizes eaux-de-vie from only two of the crus in the Cognac appellation, Grande Champagne,and Petite Champagne which are generally recognized at the two premier region within the Cognac appellation. The grape juice from which the cognac is distilled is produced solely from white grapes which have been grown within these two appellations. The spirit is distilled twice upon a copper Charentes Still, and the resulting eaux de vie is aged in barrels handmade from 200-year old oak sourced from the Tronçais Forest in France.

The ages of the varies blended cognac in this VSOP must be (by law) a minimum of four 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.

In the Bottle 4.5/5

Courvoisier VSOP 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 than earlier editions of this style of bottle. The spirit is sold with the bottle protected by a classy looking royal blue cardboard box the side of which contains some promotional information about the spirit as well as a few suggestions for enjoyment.

As is normally the case with cognac, the spirit is sealed with a corked closure, in this case protected by a caramel coloured 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 9/10

The spirit displays itself as an amber/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 slow forming medium-sized droplets down the inside of my glass which released medium slender legs which moved at a slightly quickened pace. The initial aroma is somewhat restrained, but soon opens to reveal fine wood spices and sandalwood in front of some nice aromas of caramel and butterscotch melded into aromas of sugared green grapes and canned peaches.

As the glass breathes the air above the glass begins to display a few woody sap-like cedar accents, hints of maple, bits of dried raisins and apricot, and some sweet honey and orange marmalade in the breezes. There are indications of tobacco and toasted walnut rising into the breezes as well a few hints of honey and chocolate.

In the Mouth 52.5/60

When I take my first sip, I am pleased by the approachable smooth flavour which seems to represent me with a combination of fresh green grapes melded into butterscotch and hints of maple all of which is underlain by a foundation of fine wood spices. The oak and wood spices heat the palate lightly, but remain restrained which allows the fresh green fruit and the sweetness of butterscotch and maple to remain as the focus of my attention.

As the glass breathes I notice impressions of canned apricot as well as some orange peel which is just beginning to the move to marmalade.  There are also a few indications of mild marzipan-like almond flavours alongside some nice vanillans and dry fruit (raisins in particular). The spirit is quite sippable, but also works very well as a high-end mixer (see below).

In the Throat 12.5/15

The finish is smooth with flavours of fresh green grape, butterscotch , and bits of maple. The parting fine wood spices leave the palate lightly heated, and this heat is sure to work well as I experiment further in the cocktail realm.

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. As a VSOP spirit, Courvoisier was recommended to me as a bridge between the cocktail mixer and the sipping spirit. I concur, although those who know me best will understand that I prefer to mix even the best of spirits into elegant cocktails as shown by my recommended cocktail at the conclusion of the review (below).

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

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Suggested Recipe

Lime Sour SAM_1376Courvoisier Lime Sour

2 oz Courvoisier  VSOP
1/2 oz Lime Juice
1/4 oz Sugar syrup
dash Angostura bitters
dash Fees cocktail bitters
ice
orange zest

Place the first five ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice
Shake until the sides of the shaker frost (or are very cold)
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with a twist of orange peel zest

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!

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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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