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The 2014 Rum Howler Awards – The Year in Cognac (and Brandy)

RH-winner2014Earlier this year, I sent out a call to my contacts in the spirits industry as I was hoping to acquire 4 or 5 VSOP Cognac samples for a Rum Chums Tasting as well as for a short series of Cognac reviews to publish. The response I received was nothing short of amazing as instead of just a few VSOP Cognac, I also received an assortment of VS Cognac, and an even larger assortment of XO and super premium Cognac spirits. This meant that instead of a few VSOP spirits to review, I had suddenly acquired a bunch of Cognac spirits, sixteen samples in all. In fact I received enough sample spirits such that I am able to add the Cognac category to my annual Rum Howler Awards. (I also had a few very old Brandies which I added to the festivities.)

Fortunately for me, many of my sample spirits were sampled not just by me, but also by my Rum Tasting Group, The Rum Chums. Although I did not use a formal process for including their scores into the results, nevertheless the thoughts and impressions of my friends did influence my scoring.

And so it is time for me to reveal the recipients of the 2014 Rum Howler Awards for Excellence in the Production of Brandy and Cognac. These Awards are for the best spirits which I encountered in the year 2014.

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Courvoisier VS SAM_1342The 2014 Rum Howler Award for Best VS Cognac

and the winner is:

Courvoisier Cognac VS

Runner-up Award to: CAMUS VS Elegance

Honourable Mention: Hennessy Very Special Cognac

The three VS (Very Special) Cognac spirits which were in the running for this award were separated in scoring by only 1/2 of a point when I reviewed each spirit separately. This very close scoring for the three spirits came as a bit of a surprise to me until I thought about how closely regulated the Cognac industry is. All of these spirits are made in essentially the same way from the same grape varietals and on the same style of copper pot still. This regulation is meant to ensure consistent quality throughout the industry (and it appears to have been widely successful in that purpose).

After side by side tastings both neat and in a traditional Fancy Brandy Cocktail. Courvoisier VS won the day. I found the flavours well-balanced and enjoyable, and its 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.

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Camus VSOP Elegance SAM_1344The 2014 Rum Howler Award for Best VSOP Cognac

and the winner is:

CAMUS VSOP Elegance

Runner-up Award to: H by Hine  (VSOP) and Hennessy Priveledge VSOP

Honorable Mention: Courvoisier VSOP and Rémy Martin VSOP

For the VSOP category, once again I found the spirits very difficult to judge side by side. The five spirits considered were separated in my judging scores by a mere 2 and 1/2 points. After all was said and done however, CAMUS VSOP Elegance was my clear choice. With the scoring as close as it was, I decided that two Runner-up Awards, and two Honourable Mentions were in order.

By the way, when serving fine spirits such as these, a classic cocktail should certainly be part of your repertoire for your guests enjoyment.

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Hennessy XO SAMThe 2014 Rum Howler Award for Best XO Cognac

and the winner is:

Hennessy X.O (Extra Old) Cognac

Runner-up Award to: CAMUS XO Borderies and CAMUS VSOP Elegance

Honorable MentionPierre Ferrand Ambre and Pierre Ferrand Reserve

For the XO category, I judged each spirit by sipping them neat. The winner, Hennessy X.O (Extra Old) Cognac, impressed me with its overt oakiness which had not turned bitter with age. The magicians at Hennessy have given life to the oak, yet (probably through careful barrel management) they have not allowed that life to turn bitter with age. The result is an X.O cognac which is simply wonderful!

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c-IMAGE CAM ELEGANCE EXTRA 70CL BOTTLEThe 2014 Rum Howler Award for Best Super Premium Cognac or Brandy

and the winner is:

CAMUS Extra Elegance

Runner-up Award to: Pierre Ferrand Cigare and Pierre Ferrand Selection Des Anges

Honorable MentionTorres Jaime I Brandy

For this category, I had to make a determination between what constituted a XO Cognac/Brandy and what constituted a super premium Cognac/Brandy. For the most part I let the labeling and the price determine where the spirit fit. The only anomaly was the Torres Jaime I Brandy which had super premium packaging and taste, but an extremely attractive price point. The Torres Brandy oozed such luxury and class, that I decided it should be categorized as a super premium product, especially considering that some of the brandies within its construction were aged up to 30 years.

Once again the scoring was extremely close in this category, however I felt that the CAMUS Extra Elegance was the clear winner.

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RH-winner2014The Winners:

The 2014 Rum Howler Award for Best VS Cognac: Courvoisier Cognac VS

The 2014 Rum Howler Award for Best VSOP Cognac: CAMUS VSOP Elegance

The 2014 Rum Howler Award for Best XO Cognac: Hennessy X.O (Extra Old) Cognac

The 2014 Rum Howler Award for Best Super Premium Bandy or Cognac: CAMUS Extra Elegance

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RH-Runner-Up-2014The Runner-ups:

The 2014 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best VS Cognac: CAMUS VS Elegance

The 2014 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best VSOP Cognac: H by Hine Fine (VSOP) and Hennessy Priveledge VSOP

The 2014 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best XO Cognac: CAMUS XO Borderies and CAMUS VSOP Elegance

The 2014 Rum Howler Runner-up Award for Best Super premium Brandy or Cognac: Pierre Ferrand Cigare and Pierre Ferrand Selection Des Anges

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RH-HM-2014The Honourable Mentions:

The 2014 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Award for Best VS CognacHennessy Very Special Cognac

The 2014 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Award for Best VSOP Cognac:  Courvoisier VSOP and Rémy Martin VSOP

The 2014 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Award for Best XO Cognac: Pierre Ferrand Ambre and Pierre Ferrand Reserve

The 2014 Rum Howler Honourable Mention Award for Best Super premium Brandy or Cognac: Torres Jaime I Brandy

 
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