I’m with Alan Rath on this one. This board is called WINE in capitals Berserkers and we have a Rum thread, a Scotch Whisky thread and a Bourbon thread – but no COGNAC and/or ARMAGNAC thread at all in the Beer and Spirits forums?!? Disgraceful!
Cognac has a soft spot in my heart for being the first spirit that I ever tried and liked. I avoided spirits like the plague my entire life believing they were all like crappy grain and potato based vodka and meant entirely for alcoholics. Cognac is the spirit that changed all of that for me.
So much so that my first thought upon tasting Cognac – and which now applies to all spirits for me – was why would anyone deliberately dilute the tastes and aromas of this stuff in a cocktail? It’s because of Cognac that I take all of my spirits neat with the ever so slightest of chills, the way they were meant to be appreciated as far as I am concerned.
Cognac proved to me that spirits do have a taste and aroma all their own to be savored and was the gateway into my appreciation of Scotch whisky, American bourbon, Spanish brandy, Canadian whisky, Italian grappa and French fruit eau-de-vie especially Calvados.
I like Armagnac too, by the way, as I find it a lot more fruit-forward in flavor than Cognac but I like the silky mouthfeel of a Cognac much better. As a result, I find myself tending towards more fruitier and floral Cognacs, especially those from independent houses.
In terms of regions, I tend to focus on Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne and Fine Champagne (a blend of the other two). I’ve only ever had one Borderies Cognac and there was enough of a difference to convince me to stick with the Champagne regions.
I also find myself acquiring only XO designated Cognacs, and avoid VSOP and VS designations like the plague. Aside from the fact that I think the quality difference is just vast (and VS I find especially substandard), the only advantage of lower designations is their price point and if you shop well for XO Cognacs then it becomes moot. Sure, you’ll never pay less than $100 CDN for a bottle but the $40-50 difference from a quality VSOP makes it worth it for me. Also, I find the decanters for XO Cognacs way more beautiful in general.
The catch is that you have to do your research and beforehand and shop well. Although I love their Cognacs when I’ve sampled them, I avoid the big houses of Remy Martin, Courvoisier, Hennessey and Martell like the plague (with one exception mentioned below) simply because of QPR value. They charge two to three times what an equivalent quality independent producer does.
In my very brief time as a Cognac Berserker, I’ve found the following amazing Cognacs that I would highly recommend. I’ve listed the price I got them for in $CDN as well to prove the point of value versus the big houses above and prove you don’t have to break the bank to be an XO Cognac lover. I’m sure our American compatriots can find these at much better prices:
- Chateau de Beaulon Folle Blanche 7 Ans ($56) – An absolutely incredible QPR bargain of a Cognac
- Audry Vieille Reserve Fine Champagne ($129)
- Vallein Tercinier Vielle Reserve Fine Champagne ($130)
- Remy Martin Coeur du Cognac ($99) – Much sweeter and fruit forward than you average Cognac and even some Armagnacs I’ve tried
- Gaston de Lagrange Grande Champagne ($99) – Actually an Otard XO! For some bizarre reason, they market in Canada with a generic out of date brand name and have completely forgone the cooler sounding Otard name along with its beautiful teardrop shaped bottle. (Oddly, the VSOP Otard is available here in Canada making the decision even more perplexing.)
- Croizet XO Grande Champagne ($105)
- Bache-Gabrielsen XO Fine Champagne ($110)
- Hine Homage Grand Cru Fine Champagne ($145)
- De Luze XO Fine Champagne ($156)
I’ve finished off the first four Cognacs as well as used some to make my Marnier style liqueurs which I posted about in another thread. The others are all waiting to be opened and savored this holiday.
So feel free to add to this thread and keep it going. What’s your favorite Cognac? What are you drinking right now? What are you acquiring this holiday season? Discuss.