Lhéraud 1973 Cognac Petite Champagne (Cognac) – Forcefully classy. Like drinking fine pastries, with a boozy core. Is it as complex as an Armagnac of similar age? No, but it’s silkier. There’s your tradeoff. (11/12)
Darroze “Domaine de Rieston” 1990 Bas-Armagnac (Southwest France) – Armagnac turned up to 11, or maybe even 12, in darkly-oaked intensity laden with succulent dried fruit. Showy and rather fantastic. It is not, I think, designed to appeal to lovers of older, more reticent and well-matured spirits, but it’s impossible to ignore and, frankly, very difficult not to like. (4/11)
Tempier 1998 Marc de Provence (Provence) – France is rife – one might legitimately say littered – with distillates that almost no one knows. Of all the European spirits that have been aggressively, relentlessly exported, the micro-marcs are so far down the queue that there’s little hope of ever seeing them out-of-region.
And thus, one must drink them in situ. Or at least in restaurant. I have, I admit, a bit of a fetish for asking after such spirits, but it’s all too often the case that the obvious liquids are so obvious to my interlocutor that they don’t arise in conversation. And when they do, it’s often in the negative: “oh, that’s…rough” as the declination goes. I was turned away from spirits like this very one countless times, in hotel and restaurant bars.
I don’t brag to say that I’m no ordinary drinker; I’ve learned to like the chaos of the private distillation, and I don’t discredit those who would, looking after my well-being, try to dissuade me for cogenerative reasons. But – barring the next-morning hangover from a poorly-distilled spirit – I just don’t mind the weirdness that often results. And so there’s cajoling, and sometimes a measure of begging, but eventually the spirit arises. So to speak.
At Tempier, where I acquire this particular example, the problem isn’t existence – there’s a bottle of this prominently displayed in their foyer – so much as saleability. Where’s the capsule? What’s the price? Can we sell it? Which “vintage”? And so forth. No importer’s last-second demands have caused as much frenetic trauma as my request for a bottle of this spirit, while chez Tempier.
And, so? It’s…majestic. As would, admittedly, be expected from Tempier. Gravels and sands, rocks and earthquakes, bronzed plums and ambered figs. It’s breathtakingly great. (5/12)
Torres “10” Penedès Brandy (Cataluña) – Supple caramel, wet satin, a touch of cane sugar. I don’t want to like this as much as I do, but it’s awfully easy to like. (6/11)
Duffau Bas-Armagnac Napoléon (Southwest France) – I dally with Cognac, with brandies from elsewhere, and yet for my bronzed grape spirits I always feel the urge to reunite with my first love: Armagnac. There’s just something more appealing, to me, about the richness piled upon complexity. Less perfection, more appeal? Perhaps that’s it. As for this particular bottle…it’s fine. By-the-numbers. It just so happens that I like the numbers. (12/10)
Armenia 25 Year Old Armenian Brandy (Armenia) – Nice grab on the brand name (there’s another word in Armenian on the label, which I suspect is the actual name, but we’ll leave that one be for now). As for the spirit? It is brandy, and the toasty character of extended wood aging is indeed there, but alongside a really bitter, pine-like whine. And the alcohol is strident and angry. This is packaged like something upscale, but it has the fierce, dangerous edge of backwoods rotgut. It’s not bad, exactly, but it certainly has some book-learnin’ to do before it can rest easily amongst its international peers. (12/10)
Ferrand Cognac Grande Champagne “1er Cru du Cognac Réserve” (Cognac) – A little over-succulent and almost candied on the nose, at first opening. Let’s let it breathe for a bit. […] And we’re done. Blood orange? Yes, that and butterscotch. We’re verging into California chardonnay territory here. More air? Yes, please. […] Settling down, at last, but there’s still an inexorable pumpkin pie element, both aromatically and texturally, that I can’t quite get past. A lot of soil is to the good, but it’s not enough. I admit that all beverages of this type are almost exclusively aromatic pleasures for me; I can enjoy drinking them, but were that all there was to them I’d still to wine. So that the palate here is a little diagonal and slashy, bringing a great deal of heat and white chocolate for which I don’t care, is no big deal. I want to smell, not quaff. And thus, I wish the nosegrab was more enticing. [one hour later] Starting to get a lot better, knitting and filling out, with less of the fetid and more of the elegantly feral. I suspect it might be days before this rounds into form, though. More later. (11/10)
Ferrand Cognac Grande Champagne “1er Cru du Cognac Réserve” (Cognac) – Third night after opening. All the faux candied sweetness is gone, leaving something a lot more elegant. No, that’s not the right word. Sophisticated. Perhaps a little over-jacketed in layers of formality, to be honest. Loosen the bowtie! There’s a lot…a lot…of soft, loamy earth, which I like and find intriguing in a Cognac. But there’s also a planar stuffiness to the finish, as if the brandy has a slight head cold. Or as if that aforementioned bowtie is a little suffocating. (11/10)
Ferrand Cognac Grande Champagne “1er Cru du Cognac Réserve” (Cognac) – Over a week after opening, and everything difficult about this spirit is now gone, replaced by subtleties and shadings. Really quite lovely. Does it live up to its price? Probably not quite, but then I find most Cognac to be rather aspirationally priced to begin with; in context, it’s probably more or less OK. (11/10)
Marian Farms “Epirito de la Valda” Brandy “Private Reserve” (California) – Supple, with good acidity and a fun side. Lots of wood, though. A little more than it can handle. (8/10)
Peconic Bay Spirits “Signature” Grape Brandy “sono rinata” (New York) – Apparently merlot, and be warned that it’s a clearer, more grappa-like style than it is a deep, wood-aged style. Or rather, I wish someone had warned me. Because I don’t care for this at all. It tastes like corn, and the alcoholic bite is harsh and ungainly. (8/10)