Pierre Ferrand Ambre (Grande Champagne Cognac)
Review: Pierre Ferrand Ambre (Grande Champagne Cognac) 89/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted March 9, 2014
Pierre Ferrand Ambre Cognac is blended solely from aged eaux de vie produced within the 1st Cru de Cognac, specifically from the Ugni Blanc and Colombard grapes grown within the Grande Champagne Cognac appellation (region) of France. Although the final spirit has no age statement, according to Guillaume Lamy, (Vice President – North America for Cognac Ferrand), this is because the spirit is blended to meet an age profile that represents a 10-year-old spirit. To maintain product consistency from year to year, the actual average age of the blended cognac will vary depending upon the cellar conditions during maturation and the interactions between the oak and the aging eaux de vie.
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 small 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.
I was given a bottle of the Pierre Ferrand Ambre Grande Champagne Cognac by the good folks at River Valley Beverage Group who distribute the spirit here in Alberta. I was asked to provide an independent review on this website. The Cognac is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.
In the Bottle: 4.5/5
As you can see, it was a rather cold day when I snapped a photo of the Pierre Ferrand Ambre on my snow-covered deck. (In case you are wondering the cocktail in front of the bottle is a Grande Champagne Sidecar) The bottle is tall and masculine representing a style of bottle which would be perfectly at home in a classy bar or restaurant. The bottle follows the bartenders creed being easy to hold, easy to store, and of course, most importantly, easy to pour.
If you noticed the bottle shot above, you will see that it also arrives in a golden coloured cardboard box which represents the colour of the Cognac.
In the Glass 9/10
The spirit (when poured) displays itself as a nice amber/golden coloured liquid which I was told may have been enhanced by a slight touch of caramel colour to maintain consistency of colour from batch to batch and from year to year. The fact that the colour I see is actually a lighter amber hue than I am used to seeing in cognac of this vintage, leads me to wonder how much caramel is being used by other producers to achieve their desired darker colour profile.
When I examined the breezes above the glass, I discovered the Pierre Ferrand Ambre has a wonderful freshness featuring both floral and citrus elements which reached out of that glass and teased my nostrils. Mixed into those breezes are firm impressions of ripe green grapes and a gentle sweep of vanilla. I also sense an herbal grassy note, as well as a few wisps of spicy raisins, and a mild winding of sandalwood and oak.
I find the different nuances extremely engaging. While some may prefer their cognac to have a stronger oak presence; I feel there is much to be said for being able to enjoy the finer subtleties which come forward when the oak is held in check.
In the Mouth 53.5/60
The nuance and subtlety found in the breezes above the glass translated well into the mouth and across the palate. Strands of thin oak combined with fresh green grapes giving the cognac a crisp mouth-feel and a light spiciness that seemed to cleanse and lightly pucker the palate with each sip. A light impression of vanilla complimented those flavours of oak and green grape beautifully. I also tasted a sweetness which reminded me of canned fruit (apricots and pears), as well perhaps as a touch of cinnamon and ginger spice. Around the edges of the flavour profile there was a light lemon/citrus impression and an almost piny accent within the spirit which was reminiscent of a finely crafted, delicately flavoured gin. The overall effect was quite delicious.
There is much more I could describe, as each time I returned to my glass to continue my tasting session, I discovered new subtleties. Although I would describe these flavour impressions as subtle; I found a delightful and engaging complexity within the delicacies of the spirit.
In the Throat 13/15
The exit is smooth and crisp. Although the oak has been held at bay, it nevertheless brings forward some welcome spiciness through the finish. We taste hints of butterscotch and light flavours of fresh green grape mingling with lemongrass and gooseberry during the finale.
The Afterburn 9/10
The Pierre Ferrand Ambre was a different sort of spirit from what I was expecting. Rather than mature oak dominating my glass as is so often the case with cognac, it was instead fresh green grape that provided the centerpiece of the spirit’s flavour. The oak was there to be sure; but it was tempered oak with fine wood spices, and not filled with a heavy woodiness. Those fine spices provided a backdrop which showcased the fruit and allowed delicate floral and herbal nuances to ripple within the glass.
The original Mint Julep was probably made with Cognac, not whiskey, in the early nineteenth century. This classic cocktail has stood the test of time and tastes every bit as good today as it did almost 200 years ago. The recipe I am sharing here is loosely based upon the Mint Julep construction found in Leo Engels’, American and Other Drinks, published in 1878. It is a little different from other Julep recipes in that it features a dash of Jamaican Rum. I think the results are smashing! (The pun, for those with the wherewithal to notice, was of course … intentional.)
1878 Mint Julep
2 oz Cognac (Pierre Ferrand Ambre)
dash of Jamaican Rum (Plantation Jamaica)
1 barspoon Sugar Syrup
3 or 4 Mint leaves
1 lime slice
Sprig of mint
Muddle Mint leaves, lime slice, dash of rum and sugar syrup in the bottom of a mixing glass
Remove the mint leaves and transfer to a metal shaker
Add Cognac and Ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker frosts
Double strain into a cocktail glass 2/3 full of cracked ice
Float an orange slice with a sprig of mint on top of the cocktail
The Grande Champagne Sidecar
The Grande Champagne Sidecar
1 3/4 oz. Pierre Ferrand Amber Grande Champagne Cognac
3/4 oz Dry Curacao
3/4 oz. Fresh squeezed Lemon juice
3/8 oz. Sugar syrup (1:1)
Add all ingredients to a metal cocktail shaker filled with ice
Shake until the sides of the shaker frost
Strain into a cocktail glass
Serve and Enjoy!
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!
As always you may interpret the scores I provide 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 rum or whisky. 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 more 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)