Cognac is perhaps the world’s most highly esteemed and least understood spirit. So the chance for a tasting with The Whisky Exchange buyer Dawn Davies MW at The Whisky Exchange’s Covent Garden flagship was one I relished.
The basics of Cognac are as follows.
It’s grape brandy from the Cognac region of southwestern France that’s twice distilled in copper pot stills and aged for at least two year in French oak barrels.
Cognacs range from very good to fucking awesome, from straightforward and singular in flavour to incredibly complex, and from nicely affordable to excessively dear in price. But whether you’re going for a VS (with the youngest eau-de-vie at least two years old) or a Vintage (usually reserved until quite hold with eau-de-vie from a single year) or (mostly likely) something in between such as a VSOP (youngest eau-de-vie at least four years old) or an XO (youngest eau-de-vie at least six years old) – it’s all good value for flavour delivered.
During my tasting with Dawn, I tried four Cognacs and one Armagnac (another grape brandy made nearby but not within the Cognac region). We started off with a generic bottle of VS – perfectly adequate for sips and great for light cocktails – before moving on to some heavy hitters.
Hine Rare VSOP (£46.45) was a tasty four-year worthy of contemplation with a citrus nose, apple palate and smooth lasting finish.
After that was the Armagnac: Chateau de Lacquy VSOP (£50.45), a seven-year with a spiced peach palate.
Next up, Frapin Chateau de Fontpinot XO (£105) wowed with a grapefruit and nutmeg notes. Aged for “many years” (probably 20-plus), it’s a gorgeous single-estate vintage.
And then – taking the tasting to another level of wonder all together – was the Prunier 1986 (out of stock at the moment, priced around £170). Really one of the most delicious liquids I’ve tasted this year, this cask strength vintage was fig and buttery with an oak presence and a remarkably long chocolaty finish.
Cheers to Dawn for such a well-rounded tasting. Though the great thing is that there are so many other Cognacs out there (not to mention all those Armagnacs to boot). I’m keen to keep sipping!
The bulk of trade for Scotland-based The Whisky Exchange is online, but there is a lovely shop located at 2 Bedford Street, WC2E 9HH with another London outlet said to be on the way soon. Find out more at thewhiskyexchange.com.
And for loads more info about Cognac, visit cognac.fr.