Brandy Review

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: 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.


Review: Tiffon Tres Vieille Reserve Grande Champagne Cognac by Jason Hambrey

Pierre+Ferrand+Renegade+Barrel+2.jpg
ABV
40%
Aging
80 yrs
Recipe
Grande Champagne Grapes
Distiller Tiffon (Jarnac, France)

Now here is a rather impressive one. 95% of all cognac is produced by 5 massive companies, but there are a handful of small, family owned cognac producers who give out some excellent product often for a very reasonable price. Here is one.

Ages for this product on the internet are different – some say 70 to 80 years, some say 90 – but Tiffon’s website says the cognacs in this blend are all more than 80 years old. Wow! There is some very old cognac in here and all the grapes are from the best region of cognac, Grande Champagne from Tiffon’s old vineyards (many cognac houses just buy grapes, they don’t own vineyards).

There are different versions of this “Tres Vieille” bottling from different regions – for example the more available ones from Fins Bois and Borderies.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2016 (purchased 2016, not sure when bottled)

The nose has a beautiful fruity sharpness to it, with notes of fresh cherries, plums, but more intense – in the way that the flavour intensifies as the fruit dries. Lots here: French oak, vanilla, caramel, dark maple syrup, cardamom, clove, nutmeg, cherry pits, rancio, toasted almonds, red currant jam, strawberry jam, and elderberry. Honey really grows with time – strong honey like manuka. Some really nice ethereal aged-spirit notes, too. The palate is oaky (especially with water) and a bit tart but balanced with a heavy dose of rich dried fruit, spice, and French oak characteristics. Nuttiness really comes out on the palate. It’s not too oaky or unbalanced on the palate. The sharpness of the dried fruit remains, and the spiciness is rich. Too bad it’s only 40%, a bit higher ABV would balance the richness of the palate and the finish better.  The finish is lightly tart and oaky, with lots of old wood notes and rancio. The tannins really pick up on the finish, and the oak is a bit too central at the finish – the other notes are there, but they are a bit too masked by the oak. Oddly enough, if you move your tongue in your mouth it seems to release more flavour on the finish.

I really like the nose, I can smell this for a long time and be quite entertained. The palate and finish, while very good, falls a bit short of the nose but are still good.

How about some reference points: St-Remy XO is reminiscent of a light unaged fruit spirit compared to this (age really does show up in side-by-side tastings); it is very rich compared to many of the spicy, fruity, and somewhat clean mass market cognacs; it is richer even than some of the old Armagnacs (40+) in my cabinet – but I find Armagnacs tend to lighten favourably with age. Though it has a better nose, this isn’t quite as nicely balanced as Dartigalongue’s 1975 39-year-old Armagnac, which I rate slightly higher. It has perhaps the best nose I’ve ever encountered on a Brandy, Cognac, or Armagnac.

This has been a stunner for every guest I’ve shared it with.

Assessment: Very Highly Recommended.

Value: Low, based on $260.


Review: Pierre Ferrand Renegade Barrel 2 Eau De Vie De Vin Chestnut Wood Finish by Jason Hambrey

Pierre+Ferrand+Renegade+Barrel+2.jpg
ABV
47.1%
Aging
6-26 yrs
Recipe
N/A
Distiller Maison Ferrand (Cognac, France)

Despite coming from a cognac house, this is not a cognac because of its rather unique aging regimen - a chestnut barrel! Apparently, this was a practice before the second world war but it has fallen out of fashion (and regulation – this is called a grade eau de vie because it cannot be called cognac due to the cask type). This is made with a Pierre Ferrand cognac from Ugni Blanc grapes, matured for 5-7 years in 350 litre new and used oak barrels. There is a small amount of 25 year old cognac included as well. Then, the blend is finished in a 225 litre chestnut cask for a year which apparently gives notes of candied fruits, floral, and honey notes. 18 casks went into this release.

Although we don’t see many chestnut casks for whisky or other spirits, they are still used in the production of certain items, like balsamic vinegar.

Currently available at the SAQ in Quebec.


Review (2019)

  • Batch: Renegade Barrel #2, cask 1/18.

  • Bottling Code: 1P020518

  • Bottling Date: 2017

A spicy, oaky nose with charred oak, wood spices, raisins, dried cranberries, black tea, and deep woody notes. It’s quite torn between rich dark fruit, rich oak, and spice. Caramel, fig, berry jams, star anise, pineapple, stewed plums, wet wicker baskets, brazil nuts, and even some woodworking shop notes like leather and maybe furniture polish. I really like that this is bottled at 47.1% since it brings out the wood notes really well.

The palate has lots of wood notes, and, indeed – some chestnut notes. Vanilla, dark chocolate, dried currants, dried cranberries, dried papaya, dried pineapple, chesnut spread, and sweet fresh sawdust. It has some nice, unique roasted notes – like roasted wood, but not oak. It’s richly creamy, but more like a cacao butter than vanilla. The finish is slightly tannic, with dried hibiscus flower, dried cranberries, golden raisins, and buttery wood notes. The finish is deep and complex.

Well, this is quite unique – especially in the unique creaminess and woodiness – it’s one of the rare spirits which is pushing me to increase my tasting vocabulary.

Assessment: Highly recommended. There are some incredibly complex threads woven into this one.

Value: Low, at $136.