08 October 2006

Cognac Tasting Notes for October 5, 2006

Last Thursday, I took my father to a guided Cognac tasting hosted by Frédéric Goossens, the Southern USA Regional Director for Pierre Ferrand. Frédéric is from France originally, and in addition to providing information on the various Cognacs we tasted, he also lectured on the history of Cognac as well as details of the production process. Dad and I arrived early, and got to hang out with Frédéric. I got to show off my poor mastery of the French language, and when Frédéric asked us how we heard about the tasting, I mentioned that I was a regular at this particular host's tastings, and that I'd brought my father because of his love of Cognac. We then proceded to tell him about the time 15 years ago when I, a mere teenager, was awakened by my father on Christmas Eve. He had been at work (at the airport) late that night, receiving gifts from abroad: expensive French cognac from some Japanese friends and fresh smoked salmon from his Norwegian contacts. It was two in the morning, and we stayed up watching old black and white movies, eating huge slabs of smoked salmon, and sipping cognac.

Interesting bits of trivia:
  • Cognac became really popular after the marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine to Henry Plantagenet in 1152, where it was a featured beverage.
  • Armagnac never really became popular worldwide, as it is landlocked and distribution was difficult over land. Cognac, on the other hand, is situated right next to the Charente River, providing easy access to the Atlantic Ocean.
  • To properly sniff Cognac, you must do it three times: hold it against your chest, then at neck level, and finally stick your nose in the glass.
  • Contrary to popular opinion, snifters are not the ideal drinking glasses. Regular wine glasses are much more appropriate.

We tasted six in all--five Cognacs and one Armagnac. The Cognacs can all be found at the above link, and the Armagnac is on a nearby page. We tasted the Armagnac last, but I'm going to write about it first because it was the least impressive of the group, and frankly, after the really old Cognacs, it never had a chance. I found it strong and bold, rougher on the palate than any of the other selections. Much of this was due to single distillation rather than the double distillation required for Cognac. $42.

All of these come from Grand Champagne, the premiere subregion within Cognac. All were served in separate glasses and allowed to breathe for at least 30 minutes before tasting.

Cognac 1: 10 Year Old Ambre. I found it a little thin, but it had a wonderful aroma. It was definitely the most pale of all the offerings. $43.

Cognac 2: 20 Year Old Reserve. Probably my favorite of the tasting, if by favorite you mean something I could potentially afford and really enjoyed. Very smooth, with a light sweetness. Touches of almonds and licorice on the nose and tongue. $64.

Cognac 3: 25 Year Old Cigare. Designed with an attractive cigar band style label above the main label and intended for pairing with cigars. I found more orange and spice on this one, though it was in many ways similar to the 20 year old. $90.

Cognac 4: 30 Year Old Selection des Anges. Named after the "angel's share", that portion of a distilled spirit that is lost due to evaporation. A mild aroma, and smooth as cream on the palate. Smells and tastes included candied fruits, mint, vanilla. Quite complex. $116.

Cognac 5: 45 Year Old Abel. Named after the grandfather of Pierre Ferrand, and poured into a lovely handblown bottle. Smooth and creamy like the 30 year old, but even more so. Some aromas of cherry and almonds. It was hard to keep myself from licking the inside of the glass to get every last drop. $240.


Anonymous said...

I love the Selection des Anges, what a brilliant cognac.
Armagnacs are admittedly more rustic than cognacs, though I was at a tasting five or six years ago of cognacs going back to the 1930s. I still have about an inch of the 1941 in a small bottle, hoading it it for I don't know what.


Hi there - great blog. I came across this the other day; thought you might be interested!

Old Cognac images

Anonymous said...

I took part in a tasting of Pierre Ferrand cognacs last week in New York. It was hosted at The 67 wine shop (beautiful store!!). I had the most extraordinary sipping experience. The young representative of the distillery (Jean francoise) explained us everything about the making and we could really feel the passion and the ethic those guys have. We tasted the Amber, the Reserve, Selection des angels and Abel. I used to drink Frapin VSOP or Delamain XO. I have switched to the Ferrand 30yr and bought a bottle yesterday at the store.

I recommend !

Anonymous said...

The Pierre Ferrand Selection des Anges is truly brilliant. I've had an assortment of the PF cognacs and can say, it's probably my favorite. If you're interested, here is my review (site is new, still adding reviews I've got cataloged).


Cognac Junkie said...

I like the Abmre by Pierre Ferrand. Think they already won some prices for it. Haven't tasted the other ones.