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St-Rémy XO Authentic French Brandy

Review: St-Rémy XO Authentic French Brandy   91/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published September 13, 2017

In 1886 Paul-Emile Rémy Martin II established the original St-Rémy Distillery in the tiny village of Machecoul. After 30 years of experimentation (in 1917), St. Remy launched Fine St-Rémy, the French Brandy which came to define the St-Rémy style and character for decades to come. The distillery began to exported their French Brandy to the rest of Europe in the 1920s and then jumped the Atlantic to Canada in 1967. Within another decade, the St-Remy spirit was sold on all five major continents, and today St-Rémy proudly proclaims itself the World’s No. 1 French Brandy.

The production of St-Remy XO Authentic French Brandy begins with the selection of grapes, harvested in France’s most prestigious wine-growing regions, such as Burgundy, Champagne, Rhône Valley, Languedoc-Roussillon, Loire Valley, Bordeaux and Beaujolais. Distillation takes place in both column and pot stills where the fermented wine is heated until the contained alcohol evaporates and becomes eaux-de-vie. The heart of the second distillation is carefully selected by the distiller to have the proper characteristics such that the eaux-de-vie will develop into brandy as they are matured in small French oak barrels.

French Brandy labeled XO must not have any eaux de vie younger than 6 years.

In the Bottle 4/5

The iconic St-Rémy black bottle was introduced in 1949. In fact, St-Remy makes the claim that it was the first brand to sell their products in such a non standard bottle. Since 1949, not much has changed with respect to the bottle. Each St-Rémy brand within the Brandy portfolio has its own unique colour scheme; but the presentation is essentially the same as we move from the St-Rémy VSOP up the ladder to the St-Rémy XO, the Private Reserve and the Small Batch.

I like the consistency through the range; but I find the overall look and the bottle a little dated. St-Rémy shook things up with a new bottle style in 1949; I wish they would do so again and bring a more contemporary look to their Authentic French Brandy. I also am not a fan of the flimsy pressed on metallic screw cap closure. I think it cheapens the brand image.

In the Glass 9/10

When I pour the authentic French Brandy into my glencairn glass, I see the spirit has a rich lush appearance with a dark copper/bronze colour. When I tilt that glass and give it a slow swirl, I see the St-Rémy XO has a medium body which leaves a slightly thickened film on the inside of the glass the crest of which deposits medium-sized somewhat sluggish legs. (The column distilled eaux-die-vie still has had its impact creating a thinner body than we would typically see in a similarly aged cognac which would not have had any column distilled portion.)

When I bring my nose to the glass the breezes bring me aromas rich with oak and caramel toffee. There are firm oaky vanillans imprinted into the oak and toffee as well as hints of maple. The spirit is fruity with scents of orange marmalade, plump raisins, and impressions of Turkish Delight (red licorice) dancing in the background. Bits of treacle and impressions of leather and chewing tobacco round out the nose which I find extremely engaging.

In the Mouth 55/60

The medium-bodied brandy enters the mouth with a flavour that demonstrates a nice melding of oak spice, caramel toffee, vanilla and fruity raisins. Impressions of figs and dates seem to follow after the impression of raisins with a ribbon of orange marmalade running throughout. A little spicy heat peps up the mouth after each swallow with dry tannins sucking the moisture from the palate leaving echoes of Christmas fruit spice, ginger and cinnamon. Some menthol has found its way in which brings about a faint herbal impression akin to a combination of heather and mint. The St-Rémy XO Brandy demonstrates good balance and complexity especially between the oak spice, the fruity raisins and the caramel toffee. It is very easy to enjoy.

In my second glass I added a single cube of ice and was delighted with a burst of bitter-sweet chocolate followed by lingering, grape, menthol and a light maple sweetness.  Yumm!

Throat  14/15

The mid-length finish features dry wood spice followed by menthol and caramel. When Ice is added the spice and caramel are somewhat subdued and the exit now gushes chocolate and mint. As I said this is very easy to sip and enjoy.

The Afterburn 9/10

St-Remy XO Authentic French Brandy is absolutely lovely especially with ice. The column distilled portion of the dram keeps the body lighter, but brings nice dry heat and fine wood spice which the lively, and the pot distilled portion brings additional body an herbal appeal to the dram. The St-Rémy blending geniuses have created a wonderful melding of the two styles of distillate. (I hope I get to try more of the St. Remy range as this XO is outstanding!)

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

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Suggested Recipe:

Here is a recipe I created based upon the classic Sidecar. Rather than using an orange liqueur in the recipe I have chosen real orange juice and increased the ration of St-Remy XO slightly. The chosen Fees Whisky Barrel Aged Cocktail Bitters seems to provide just the right accent upon the overall flavour. The final recipe is so similar to my previously published Heretic Cocktail that I have decided that it should be called Heretic No. 2.

Heretic No. 2

1 1/2 oz St-Rémy XO Authentic French Brandy
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
1/2 oz Orange Juice
3/8 oz Sugar Syrup (1:1 ratio)
Dash of Fees Whisky Barrel Aged Cocktail Bitters
Ice
Orange Peel

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

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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