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Pierre Ferrand Reserve (Grande Champagne Cognac)

Review: Pierre Ferrand Reserve (Grande Champagne Cognac)  90.5/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
December 12, 2014

Pierre Ferrand Reserve 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 20-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 200 ml bottle of the Pierre Ferrand Reserve by the good folks at River Valley Beverage Group who distribute the spirit here in Alberta. This bottle was part of a four bottle taster pack of XO Cognac which bring to the full range of Pierre Ferrand XO Grande Champagne Cognac to the consumer in a very attractive and affordable package. (And yes, reviews of the other spirits in that taster pack are forthcoming.)

cognac-pierre-ferrand-reserve-bIn the Bottle 4.5/5

As I was given one of the 200 ml bottles from the Pierre Ferrand tasting pack I had to rely on this bottle shot from the Pierre Ferrand website to show you the normal 700 ml configuration. 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.

And as you can see, the handsome bottle is housed in a nifty cardboard box which is coloured to represent the hue of the Reserve Cognac.

Note: The Pierre Ferrand Reserve is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.

In the Glass 9/10

The spirit displays itself with a nice amber colour, which I was told may have been enhanced by a light touch of caramel colouring 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 have seen in other VS and VSOP cognac which are theoretically younger, leads me to wonder how much caramel is being used by other producers to achieve their desired darker colour profile. Of course the lighter hue may also be the result of Pierre Ferrand using (on average) more mature barrels to age their eaux die vie.

The aroma from the glass brings forward impressions of lightly musty leather and oak spice alongside indications of dry fruit and raisins. Some lighter aromas akin to Granny Smith apples and fresh green grapes are apparent as well; but it is the darker dry fruit which is more dominant. Some honeycomb reaches up into the breezes giving me an impression of light sweetness, and impressions of almond and crushed walnut round out the aroma.

In the Mouth 53.5/60

Whereas the nose seemed to be dominated by oak and dry fruit, my palate seems to have no trouble finding a more flamboyance in the form of fresh flavours of green grape and yellow apples. I could taste a lovely sweetness as well with light butterscotch and marzipan flavours. There is a nice herbal complement within the spirit as impressions of cinnamon and camphor, bits of lemongrass, and a soothing mint-like menthol all accent the green grape flavour.

As I continue to sip, I notice the oak more and more (it was there all the time), and with the oak we also notice oozing flavours of chocolate cafe’ and bits of caramel treacle.

In the Throat 13.5/15

The finish has some length to it with exit flavours of musty leather, old oak spice, and fresh fruit (Granny Smith apples and green grape). Right at the end, I notice some nice cinnamon heat and some long cooling menthol.

The Afterburn   9/10

I really enjoyed the Pierre Ferrand Reserve! Within its construct, I can taste the both the fruity freshness of green grape and Granny Smith apples, and I can taste flavours of musty leather and oak typical of an aged spirit. Yet the two do not work against each other, rather the combination of fresh vibrancy and oak maturity coexist easily.

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

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Suggested Recipe:

Leo Engels, published his Bartender’s Guide, American and Other Drinks, in 1878. It is a fascinating glimpse into early mixology at a time when bar drinks and cocktails were just beginning to evolve and spread through North America and Europe. At that time, the word ‘cocktail’ was reserved for a specific type of bar drink, which resembles what we call the Old-Fashioned cocktail today.

Other styles of bar drinks had their own names, the Crusta, the Smash, and the Julep just to name a few. Nowadays, these bar drinks are part of the entire class of mixed drinks called cocktails; but back then, they were each their own class of bar drink and the cocktail was class of mixed drink, separate and distinct. 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 ‘cocktail’, Leo Engels’, American and Other Drinks is a great starting place.

1878 Cocktail SAM_1392Here is Leo Engel’s original Brandy Cocktail made with Pierre Ferrand Reserve

Leo Engels’ 1878 Brandy Cocktail

Half a Wine Glass (2 oz) Pierre Ferrand Reserve Cognac
2 dashes of Orange Curacao
3 dashes of Brokers Bitters (see note below)
3 dashes of Plain Syrup
squeeze of Lemon peel

Fill the shaker 1/3 full of ice
Add all ingredients and shake well
Strain into a glass
Garnish with lemon Peel

(Note: I subbed 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters and 1 dash of Fees Cocktail Bitters in lieu of Brokers Bitters)

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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