Brandy

Review: Gauthier VS Cognac by Jason Hambrey

Gauthier VS 2.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
>2 yrs
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Maison Gauthier (Cognac, France)

While this isn’t one of the “big four” cognac brands that account for 90% of the world’s production (Hennessy, Remy Martell, Courvoisier, and Martell) it is still one of the bigger brands and not too difficult to find. It’s also (relatively) inexpensive.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2020

Spicy with rich raisin/grape character, sharp baking spices, vanilla, nutty, dried orange, red currants, and a plethora of dried fruit. I really like how this cognac comes together – the rich spicy character contrasted with the grape and a minerality that peeks through. The finish is surprisingly sweet and confectionary – a relatively rich cognac, which I like.

Assessment: Recommended.


Review: Hennessy VS Cognac by Jason Hambrey

Hennessy.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
>2 yrs
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Hennessy (Cognac, France)

Perhaps the most recognizable brand of cognac? I like cognac, but I find it expensive for what it is, especially beside its sibling Armagnac (which I like better). However, it also mixes very well in premium cocktails (and is also. expensive for that). Every now and then I’ll treat myself and get one of these - handy because they are easy to get in small format samples.


Review (2021)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2020

The nose is very fruity, and it really has an attractive oiliness to it. There is vanilla and a light floral character, caramel, and a really nice rich raisin character. The taste is full of raisins, light caramel, and a touch of spice and vanilla. The finish has some grape and baking spice – the grape on the finish, surprisingly, is fresher than on the palate.

It is very well balanced and straightforward. It’s on the lighter, clearner, and more acceptable side, but there is really nice depth. This is a mainstream brand which does a nice job.

Assessment: Highly recommended.


Review: Great Plains 18 Year Old Jerez Brandy Finish by Jason Hambrey

Image courtesy of Great Plains Craft Spirits.

Image courtesy of Great Plains Craft Spirits.

ABV
54.5%
Aging
19 Years
Recipe
91.5% Corn, 8.5% Rye
Distiller Highwood (High River, Alberta)

I am quite fond of old Canadian corn whisky. However, at times, despite the complexity, it can fall into a somewhat narrow style. A few years ago, I gave some feedback to a brand that they might want to consider finishing the whisky, just to touch up the flavor a bit - but not take it over. Well, Great Plains is starting to do that! The corn whisky here was distilled in 2000, and, despite the 18 year old age statement, was over 19 years of age when put into the bottle since its finishing time stretched from 12 to 15 between the time that the labels were made and the whisky was actually bottled.

Great Plains started with the idea of putting forward something that (almost all) the big producers weren’t doing, namely, taking old Canadian whisky, adding a bit of “snap” with some younger rye whisky, and then finishing it effectively. The finishing casks selected were inspired by a trip through Europe, where tasty eau de vies and brandies are produced in just about every neck of the woods. The other important step for Great Plains was getting past the nearly-ubiquitous 40% ABV of Canadian whisky by amping up the flavor with an appropriate bottling strength. For this release, they narrowed in on 54.5%. Mike Gordon, who oversees production, finds that these whiskies are sensitive “even to half a percent”. My experience concurs, especially for the old corn whisky out of Alberta which sometimes exits the barrel above 85%.

Great Plains has imported a few brandy casks - Jerez Brandy casks, Cognac Casks, and an Armagnac Cask. They were all imported whole. The brandy casks used for this product came from Bodegas Osborne in Jerez, Spain, where they held brandy for somewhere between 15 and 20 years. The cognac casks, were about 25 years old and were filled with the same 17 year old base as this product. The finishing process is still underway as the cognac notes are taking more time to gain appropriate weight and balance And, there is an Armagnac finish lined up, which started with a 32 year old base whisky and may be released at 35 years.

Exciting stuff!! The whisky, notably, won a gold model at the Canadian whisky awards - an accolade that I find is generally synonymous with the best products available in Canadian whisky, as well as the “Best New Whisky” at this year’s awards which included well over 100 Canadian whiskies.


Review (2020)

  • Batch: Bond date – 09 01 2000

    Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2019

The nose and palate have burnt match, old whisky notes, light oak, and a great ethereal quality. I always like this style, there is so much here – deep oak, dried fruit, parmesan, raisin, grape soda, vanilla, stewed prunes, a touch of rancio and some mixed fruit preserves – marmelade, blackberry, and red currant – with a good dose of tannin. A really nice balance of fruit here – the rancio and dark fruit builds the more you have of this (that is, there is a difference between a full dram and half a dram here). The finish, particularly, has a decent dose of tannins -drying, with dried fruits slowly unfolding and held together by somewhat sticky vanilla. At the end, it’s almost more of a light brandy finish than a whisky one.

Nice, old Canadian whisky. Even with the rye, and the brandy finish, the old corn isn’t lost. Well done, especially for a first release. It opens well with water, and I find I generally prefer these light old Canadians watered down a bit - but not this one. Interestingly, I find the brandy notes shine at the bottle strength and the whisky notes at lower ABV. So, I suppose Mike was right in saying that there is an appropriate ABV down to the "half percent"!

Very Highly Recommended (19% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).
Value:
Average, from a pure taste perspective against the market – this is what I hope to find if I spend $120.But, when we look at this age and cask provenance - great value.


Review: Boulard Calvados Pays d'Auge by Jason Hambrey

Boulard+Calvados.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
N/A
Recipe
Distilled from whole apples
Distiller Boulard (Coquainvilliers, France)

I haven’t had many Calvados – not many come to Canada. It is the most well-known type of apple brandy in the world, made in the Calvados region of France. This is one of the more accessible bottles that you can find, certainly in Canada, clocking in at about $50. It is from the Pays d’Auge region in France, where Calvados must be double distilled in pot stills, and it is distilled from whole apples.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2017

Clean apple aromas, but also an odd funky earthiness – almost mouldy – which I don’t like. I found it carried through even into cocktails, but it’s funky in a way that some people might really like it. We also have cloves, vanilla, applesauce, white pepper, unfiltered apple vinegar, and filtered apple juice. The taste is clean and clear apple, but also with spice and some light earthiness and almonds. The finish is earthy, a bit musty, and some honey.

I preferred the Pemberton Apple Brandy which I tasted earlier this year.

Value: If you want to taste an apple brandy from France, give it a go, but I’d see if you can find a different option. I wouldn’t buy the bottle.


Review: Sullivan's Cove XO Brandy Single Cask by Jason Hambrey

Sullivan%27s+Cove+Brandy+XO.jpg
ABV
47.7%
Aging
>10 yrs
Recipe
100% Tasmanian Grapes
Distiller Sullivan's Cove Distillery (Hobart, Tasmania)

Another Tasmanian spirit, made from Tasmanian wine and matured in a single cask. Sullivan’s Cove makes a number of good spirits, and after visiting and trying a number - this was the most striking to me. A rich brandy, deep in flavor - I do love good brandy, so it was nice to find. As with the other spirits from Tasmania, it isn’t cheap.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Barrel TDB0012 (bott. 241 of 250)

  • Bottling Date: 2017

  • Bottling Code: N/A

This cask was filled on 6/8/2007 and bottled on 27/09/2017.

Brilliant rich, wine notes come off the nose of this one. An incredibly dense, rich nose – loads of aged brandy notes, spicy oak, wet earth, baking spices, vanilla yoghurt, maple, and dry twigs. Lots of dried fruit, too – currants, figs, and prunes. And lots of orange, too. The palate holds sharp spices, rich and sweet oak, apple seeds, light smoke, and a really nice rancio. The finish has rancio, lots of dried fruit, light smoke, apple, and even some dark chocolate. The finish is deep and long-lasting. There is a really nice big oakiness to this.

Brilliant brandy. I actually like this stuff more than their whisky, which is also quite decent.

Assessment: Very Higly Recommended.

Value: Very low. It sits at about $275 AUD (~$185 USD, $250 CAD) for a bottle.