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Cognac?

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Re: Cognac?

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Sun Jan 22, 2012 10:56 am

"in my entourage".

LOL Tim. How do I get one of those?
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Re: Cognac?

by Paul B. » Sun Jan 22, 2012 12:47 pm

I confess that I'm not too crazy of all the iodine in some Scotches that I've tried. Did anyone else who is, say, a single malt fan, start out that way, but eventually came to like that aroma? And, it is from the peat, is it not?
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Re: Cognac?

by Oliver McCrum » Sun Jan 22, 2012 2:16 pm

There used to be a pub in San Francisco called the Edinburgh Castle owned by two Scotsmen. I asked one of them once for a Laphroig, and he shuddered theatrically and said 'tastes like seaweed and dead bodies.' These days I drink Highland Park more, it seems to me a cross between Highland and Islay styles.

The best Calvados is amazing, I completely agree. I imagine the point about caramel and boisé applies to all of those French spirits, making a stylistic gulf between the good ones and the rest. I've had even very expensive brandies from the big houses that seemed to me too sweet.
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Re: Cognac?

by Oliver McCrum » Sun Jan 22, 2012 2:20 pm

K and L Wines in CA now has an excellent spirits buyer, David Driscoll, and his spirits blog right now coincidentally has him traveling through France and talking about Cognac and boisé. I recommend him highly as a source for interesting spirits and knowledge for anyone who can legally ship from CA, his blog is http://spiritsjournal.klwines.com/
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Re: Cognac?

by Tim York » Sun Jan 22, 2012 4:40 pm

Paul B. wrote:I confess that I'm not too crazy of all the iodine in some Scotches that I've tried. Did anyone else who is, say, a single malt fan, start out that way, but eventually came to like that aroma? And, it is from the peat, is it not?


Paul, I think you are right about its being an acquired taste, rather like oysters. I know nobody who liked oysters the first time. I grew to love them by persisting after witnessing the obvious enjoyment of friends and family.
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Re: Cognac?

by Rahsaan » Sun Jan 22, 2012 4:52 pm

Tim York wrote:I know nobody who liked oysters the first time. I grew to love them by persisting after witnessing the obvious enjoyment of friends and family.


Unlike scotch which requires some practice to understand because of the alcohol (same could be said for all spirits), I think a bigger factor with whether one likes oysters is the quality of specimen. High quality oysters are much 'cleaner' in the mouth and much easier to like if one is predisposed to be afraid of the textures/flavors.
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Re: Cognac?

by Hoke » Sun Jan 22, 2012 5:03 pm

You guys realize of course that you don't want to get me started on scotch, right? Too late. :lol:

Paul B.: Some of what you're talking about comes from peat smoke,yes. But not all. The characteristics of a scotch come from the malted barley flavors, the type of yeast used, the way it ferments, the way it's distilled and the way it is matured in cask.

The iodine is going to come primarily from a couple of sources. The peat smoke is part of it, but another part is that Islay scotch (the most common for heavy peat smoke, or what the Scots call "peat reek") is heavy smoking of the malt by putting the malt on a perforated floor with the peat kiln underneath, letting the smoke rise up through and adhere to the barley grains before they are milled, etc. The other part comes from long exposure to the weather, sitting primarily on the seaside with the windy, seasalt air. So peat smoke and salty air.

Oliver: Once again you prove yourself a man of excellent taste (i.e., similar to mine :wink: ). I think Highland Park is one of the best and finest of all-around single malt scotch. It is indeed low on the peat reek scale, never exceeding more than about 20% of the portion peat smoked, the rest closed kiln. The touch of wildness and sea breeze comes from being in the Orkneys, the northernmost islands of scotches, a wild and windy place with awesome storms.

For those wishing to experiment, not all Islay scotches are smoke monsters. The most peaty/smoky/iodiney in current distribution is Ardbeg. It's in the fifties on the peat reek scale (Octomore is way higher, but try to find some; besides, Octomore is more an intentional oddity anyway). Lower down the scale is the Laphrioag. Lower down again is the Lagavulin. Then you get down to the relatively benign but still peat reeky (with significantly better balance, I think) of Bruichladdich and Bunnahabain.

For those who don't like peat reek, there are several single malts without any, the most prominent being the famous Macallan from Speyside. They use closed kilns...but they also age their single malts in used Oloroso sherry barrels, so it tends to be "sweet/wine flavored" and isn't smoky atall atall. (Although I've had plenty of people argue loudly with great spittle spraying that there is of course peat smoke in there BECAUSE IT'S SCOTCH. They are wrong, however.)

I would advise those who want to experiment with single malts to go to a very good bar that stocks a lot of scotches and sample a dram of whatever to distinguish what you like and what you don't. The single malts can set you back dearly if you're looking for the good stuff.

I;m with Oliver on the Highland Park. The 12 is just fine, thank you very much, and it's what I most often reccommend for people who want to venture in single maltdom. But for me the sweet spot, the perfect combination and balance and expression of malt, light peat, and age, is the Highland Park 18 yo.

For a very good and significantly less expensive scotch experience, I heartily recco The Famous Grouse. It's a blended scotch (which means single malts blended with neutral grain whisky---and which I most definitely do not sneer at in disdain, as long as you get a good one) and the most popular blended scotch in Scotland, where you'd think they know a little bit about good scotch, nu? It is a blend of a little Macallan, a little Highland Park, and neutral grain spirits. And it's lovely. If you want to see the influence of peaty Islay, there's a Black Grouse that mixes in a bit of that with the Famous Grouse. Easy peasy to tell the difference too. And waaaay cheaper than a single malt, trust me.
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Re: Cognac?

by Hoke » Sun Jan 22, 2012 5:07 pm

Rahsaan wrote:
Tim York wrote:I know nobody who liked oysters the first time. I grew to love them by persisting after witnessing the obvious enjoyment of friends and family.


Unlike scotch which requires some practice to understand because of the alcohol (same could be said for all spirits), I think a bigger factor with whether one likes oysters is the quality of specimen. High quality oysters are much 'cleaner' in the mouth and much easier to like if one is predisposed to be afraid of the textures/flavors.


Couldn't agree more, Tim and Rahsaan.

I'm particular with my oysters, I am. Don't care for the bloated big fat ones. Love the smaller, more focused, and more briny little ones. My favorite, which I'll almost always try if available, is Kumamoto. Briny to perfection, just the right amount of chewiness, and a lovely meaty flavor in a small mouthful. Also, while living in California and having availability to oysters pulled wet and fresh out of Tomales Bay, I discovered the delights of barbecued oysters served piping hot with hot sauce and locally made spicy onion mushroom sauce, along with whatever wine you wanted to bring, and lapped up while dabbling your feet in the tidal waters.
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Re: Cognac?

by John Treder » Mon Jan 23, 2012 12:20 am

Hm. Favorite Grouse is my standard blended scotch, sitting in the cupboard all the time. I try to find a single malt that I've never heard of whenever my previous bottle runs out. Right now I have about two shots of Aberlour 10 yr. left (I bought it before the Dragon Tattoo!) and it'll be Bruichladdich next.
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Re: Cognac?

by Tim York » Mon Jan 23, 2012 8:10 am

Hoke wrote:
Rahsaan wrote:
Tim York wrote:I know nobody who liked oysters the first time. I grew to love them by persisting after witnessing the obvious enjoyment of friends and family.


Unlike scotch which requires some practice to understand because of the alcohol (same could be said for all spirits), I think a bigger factor with whether one likes oysters is the quality of specimen. High quality oysters are much 'cleaner' in the mouth and much easier to like if one is predisposed to be afraid of the textures/flavors.


Couldn't agree more, Tim and Rahsaan.

I'm particular with my oysters, I am. Don't care for the bloated big fat ones. Love the smaller, more focused, and more briny little ones. My favorite, which I'll almost always try if available, is Kumamoto. Briny to perfection, just the right amount of chewiness, and a lovely meaty flavor in a small mouthful. Also, while living in California and having availability to oysters pulled wet and fresh out of Tomales Bay, I discovered the delights of barbecued oysters served piping hot with hot sauce and locally made spicy onion mushroom sauce, along with whatever wine you wanted to bring, and lapped up while dabbling your feet in the tidal waters.


Hoke, you make my mouth water with those description of Californian oysters. Have you tried enough European oysters to say how they relate to ours?

These come in two broad families, Creuses (deep crinkly shells) and Plates (flat shells); the latter tend to be fatter and richer tasting as well as more expensive and mainly come from more northerly oyster beds, e.g. in Brittany (Belons), the Netherlands (Zeeland) and the UK (Colchesters). I love the more invigorating Creuses from the south-west of France (Arcachon, Marennes, etc) but there are also good ones from Normandy (very salty with a lot of iodine) and richer ones from the Mediterranean (Bouzigues). I've never had oysters in Italy but Spain should have good ones from its Atlantic coast line.

Apologies for thread drift.
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Re: Cognac?

by Kelly Young » Mon Jan 23, 2012 11:54 am

Hoke wrote: Cognac Pierre Ferrand Reserve des Anges. It's thirty years old minimum, and it's elegance and harmony in a glass, a Cognac as complete as I want it to be.)


As fate would have it I had some this past weekend. My brother-in-law and myself had a bit of a spirits tasting session, actually a hell of a spirits tasting session, which I will describe elsewhere. The Reserve des Anges was simply stunning. Complex, complete, with a taste that went on for ages. One of those drinks that spoils one for everything else tasted around it. For Otto I would note that it didn't taste "oaky" in the way one thinks of "oaky" with wine. I have a theory that in the world of spirits many of the oak flavors & tannins are operating in the same flavor space as the higher alcohol so the impact of those flavors is somewhat mitigated, or at least better integrated. But what do I know.
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Re: Cognac?

by Hoke » Mon Jan 23, 2012 1:02 pm

Kelly, I'll drink with you anytime.

Tim, no apologies necessary. I'm not as familiar with Euro oysters as I'd like. my wife doesn't eat them so that somewhat restricts my explorations.

The faves I've had we're from Rochelle, consumed in Tain l'Hermtage, and in red wine, shallot and vinegar sauce; and some of those Normans you mentioned, or at least I believe that's what they were, with a salty sea taste, dressed with a touch of tart apple cider (!).

And even though my family didn't eat oysters when I was a child, one of the most sinfully rich dinner treats we had was the joy of oyster stew---essentially milk and butter, I know, but with that wonderfully briny, earthy, umami flavor and smell!

I'm actually more into mussels than oysters though. And anything having to do with fruits de mer in the Provence, yowza!
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Re: Cognac?

by Otto » Thu Feb 02, 2012 2:24 pm

Delamain Pale & Dry will become available in a week. Vespers available already but I haven't bought it. Which of these two would you think more to my taste? They aren't cheap, so I can't buy both.
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Re: Cognac?

by Hoke » Thu Feb 02, 2012 2:41 pm

Otto Nieminen wrote:Delamain Pale & Dry will become available in a week. Vespers available already but I haven't bought it. Which of these two would you think more to my taste? They aren't cheap, so I can't buy both.


For you, Otto, I'd go with the Pale & Dry. They are both XO grade cognac. The Vesper is a bit older blends, and I think it has perceptibly more oak/vanilla to it, where the P & D has less and is more light and delicate. The balance is weighted to more of the fruit spectrum and more subtlety of flavor in the Pale & Dry, where the weight is shifted to older cognacs with more of an imprint of oak in the Vespers.

So for you, Pale & Dry.
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Re: Cognac?

by Otto » Thu Feb 02, 2012 4:18 pm

Thanks Hoke, I've now sent an order for the pale and dry from our special selection. Hopefully by next week Friday I'll have a bottle of it to try!
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Re: Cognac?

by Otto » Fri Feb 10, 2012 5:19 pm

I didn't manage to get the Pale & Dry yet, but I did spot another name mentioned here, that I thought I would try though still only a VSOP (aged 5 years) from Fins Bois. Leopold Gourmel Bio Attitude, 42% abv but I forgot to check the sugar and since Alko isn't allowed to list beverages above 22% abv on their website, I can't check the amount of sugar now. This was a delightfully pale colour compared to all the other Cognacs on the shelf - no additives, no caramel, no chemical products it says on the label. I really rather like this Cognac! It smells fresh and even grapey (the first time I have smelled a brandy that actually reminds me of grapes! - are there others?), very floral and fruity, but refreshing and citric as well. It's a pity I forgot to check the sugar, because this does taste a bit sweet, so I wouldn't be at all surprised if this has more than the Braastad I tried previously. But the sweetness isn't bothersome since there is an almost citric freshness running through the brandy. And since the alcohol is well hidden, I find this a well balanced drink. So, finally, a Cognac that I actually do like.
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Re: Cognac?

by Hoke » Fri Feb 10, 2012 6:09 pm

This would correspond with Gourmel's "age of fruit" grade cognac, Otto. Gourmel is one of the best. And he is an absolute, uncompromising fanatic of purity. I would suspect the 'sweetness' you taste is primarily an impression of fruit, not sugar.

Glad you found one you like. Gourmel, sadly for us plebeians, gets very much more expensive very quickly. :lol:
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Re: Cognac?

by Victorwine » Sat Feb 11, 2012 2:40 pm

Hi Otto,
A while back ago Hoke in a post entitled “as of right now…” when he received his Cognac educators certificate, he made reference to BNIC (Bureau National Interprofessionals of Cognac). Their website is well worth visiting (it includes sections on history, producers, Cognac production, and also includes a Cognac Aroma Wheel).
Aging a wine or spirit (Cognac) in an oak cask might be referred to by some as just “bulk aging”, but the French refer to this as part of “élevage” (basically the same term they use for “raising” their children).

Salute
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Re: Cognac?

by Hoke » Sat Feb 11, 2012 2:52 pm

Victorwine wrote:Hi Otto,
A while back ago Hoke in a post entitled “as of right now…” when he received his Cognac educators certificate, he made reference to BNIC (Bureau National Interprofessionals of Cognac). Their website is well worth visiting (it includes sections on history, producers, Cognac production, and also includes a Cognac Aroma Wheel).
Aging a wine or spirit (Cognac) in an oak cask might be referred to by some as just “bulk aging”, but the French refer to this as part of “élevage” (basically the same term they use for “raising” their children).

Salute


Quite correct on both points, Victor. The BNIC website is a fount of great information, and fun to navigate as well. The Aroma Wheel is a wonderful construct to show the range of cognac expression. And the point about 'bulk aging' versus elevage is absolutely crucial to the quality differentiation, both differentiation of cognac from other brandies and the differentiation among cognacs internally.

THE BNIC won't say so (they can't), and the producers are loath to publicly saying anything, naturally, but there is, within the cognac community, a very profound recognition of the bulk producers, the quality producers, the artisanal/craft producers, and the exemplary/fanatic producers.

Elevage is one of the things that distinguishes the better producers. Lots of VS grade can (and is) churned out by some cognac houses, and there's very little of the sense of elevage there. In direct contrast, you have the very selective sourcing, the intricate and complex elevage (which is massively expensive in every way as well as a long term project that spans generations--the managing director of Delamain, for instance, told me, "The cognac I am selling is what my father and grandfather made; the cognac my son will be selling is what I and my father made." There is power and majesty in that, and it shows in the cognac.
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Re: Cognac?

by Otto » Tue Nov 05, 2013 9:40 pm

I'm still continuing on this tour - though slowly and infrequently. But I now tried Delamain's Vespers that Hoke suggested. And though a very sweet tasting one, I have to admit I did enjoy it (like most humans, I do like sweetness as long as it's not overbearing, so I guess I shouldn't just stare at Alko's sugar statistics). In fact I enjoyed it enough that I finally ordered bottles of both the Vespers and the Pale and Dry to my nearest Alko. I assume Cognacs will keep open well so I can sample both side by side to learn more? (Because I only just finished the Gourmel I bought (and I didn't see any deterioration in that), so it's not like Cognac is a moreish beverage chez Nieminen! :D )

But at least from this small glass I had, I can't really fit it into any of those four categories described: this Vespers seems like it's woody, spicy, floral and fruity! Aaargh! Back to the beginning, apparently, just when I thought there would have been a clear way to internally visualize things. But at least it was enjoyable and that is after all the reason why we get geeky about these beverages.
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Re: Cognac?

by Hoke » Wed Nov 06, 2013 12:10 am

Good on you, Otto!

I think the Vespers is remarkable in all ways. It goes beyond the fruit/flowers/spice/oak to the beloved full rancio that the Cognacais dream of: all the essences revealing themselves from the four seasons, but mingled together in a beguiling way that transcends the constituent parts. That's the magic and the mystery of truly great cognacs.

It fascinates me no end that a cognac like Vespers, once the constituents of the final blend are finalized, takes three years or more to slowly trickle the water, a few drops at a time, to reach release proof, all delicately done to prevent any 'bruising' or spoiling of the spirit.

And, no, cognac doesn't deteriorate in the glass enough to make a difference. It has already gone through oxidative reduction while in the barrel, so a little more doesn't affect it.
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Re: Cognac?

by James Dietz » Wed Nov 06, 2013 4:45 pm

Another awesome post. I have yet to get my head around Cognac, but that would seem to be because I've been only drinking the cheap stuff. I'm kind of in shock at the prices of the good producers, but I'm going to follow Otto's lead.

And though Cognac is wine, I might have noticed this thread sooner if it had been in a separate spirits forum....or maybe if there was a way to click somewhere to see ALL new posts regardless of which forum in which they appear (I'm sure I'd see more food threads that way).

I'm amazed at the knowledge of so many of you. Kudos.
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Re: Cognac?

by Hoke » Thu Nov 07, 2013 4:26 am

Had a cocktail which caused an epiphanetic mind-shift...a cognac old fashioned made with H by Hine VSOP Cognac instead of the usual whiskey. Made me rethink a lot of things. And was instantly one of my cocktails of the year.

Then tonight I accepted a bartender's invitation and went to Kask, where he made another cognac old fashioned---but this time with Park Borderies 15 year old single vineyard cognac. Tremors and aftershocks.

Naturally I compared it to the recent rocking Hine Old Fashioned...but they were entirely different cocktails. The H by Hine had significantly more force majeure; younger cognacs with a lot more aggressivity and jumping from fruit well into the warm spice zone.

The Borderies, as befits the terroir and age, is more smoothly elegant, softer but still pungent, with more dried fruit and faded roses.

Both delicious, both quite unexpected, and both remarkable in the combination of fruit and spice, smoothness and power.
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Re: Cognac?

by Rahsaan » Thu Nov 07, 2013 7:10 pm

Hoke wrote:Had a cocktail which caused an epiphanetic mind-shift...a cognac old fashioned made with H by Hine VSOP Cognac instead of the usual whiskey. Made me rethink a lot of things. And was instantly one of my cocktails of the year..


Yes, this sounds like a very nice and brilliant idea. Adding more complexity to what is already a great drink.
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