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Single Cask Cognac – Whyever Not?

single caskSingle Cask is a term well known in the whisky industry, it certainly gives a product increased status and price but why is that?  The phrase Single Cask suggests a unique glimpse into a particular set of circumstances that has given rise to a one-off personality. The whisky may be from a certain year where the distillery was using a particular mashing regime, yeast strain or set of stills. It may have been stored in a warehouse that is known to provide certain conditions. The barrel itself is unique as no two trees are identical and coopers’ techniques differ, so the flavours that develop will be only found in that cask. Every distillery has its official range of bottlings which are created to please as many people as possible, but a Single Cask captures the stage before the identity is lost in the blend.  For distillery fans, this takes their experience a step further.  Rarity imparts value and so a Single Cask will be highly sought after.

Many of these special characteristics can also be found in cognac production.  Every year the very best cognacs are selected for long-term ageing, rather than joining the thousands of others destined to be blended.  The cellarmasters’ skills are paramount in bringing these chosen nectars to optimum maturity and many variations to the ageing process maybe employed.  So why are these cognac vintages or age statements not designated as Single Cask?  Perhaps the answer lies in the finer detail.

Amazingly, an industry-wide definition of Single Cask does not exist, but The Scottish Whisky Association (SWA) is clear on the rules that it enforces.  They feel that to be classed as Single Cask, the spirit must remain in the same barrel from the moment the spirit is filled until the moment it is bottled, without any revatting or finishing.  Therefore “a sherry finished single cask whisky” is not acceptable but a “single cask whisky finished in a sherry butt” is.  It is accepted however, that all whiskies will move from one barrel to another in the early stages of maturation, it is what happens next that is important.

The process of moving from new to old wood in the initial stage also applies to cognac so, when a vintage is kept in the same old oak barrel throughout its maturation, it will be Single Cask.  A problem arises though when there are multiple barrels of the same vintage which may be mixed for bottling.  Unlike in the whisky industry, barrel numbering is not common.  Cognacs can also be moved to different barrels during the ageing process.  The cellarmaster seeks to guide the spirit’s maturation path by using newer and older oak barrels at different stages.  This can really benefit the final quality and flavour of the cognac so is deemed to be more important than any benefits derived from being Single Cask.  The rules of cognac production are strict; it may not be put into barrels that have held other types of spirit, but it may be put into previously used cognac barrels.  The BNIC’s definition of Single Cask is a cognac that has always been stored in the same barrel so, the phrase could indeed be used to describe a particular barrel of cognac, but not as often as you might expect.

Chabot Armagnac Limited Edition Single Cask 1998

Chabot 1998Wow, that is an impressive name for an armagnac, but what does it actually mean?  The Chabot vintage, 1998 is the year the grapes used to make the armagnac were harvested.  By regulation, distillation of these grapes would have been completed by the following March (1999) when it became Compte (Aged) 0.  Therefore, on 1 April 2000 it became Aged 1 and so in 2018, this armagnac was Aged 19 years.  An interesting fact as it was released this year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong Airport.  Vintage armagnacs will be aged in a number of casks (each usually holding 250 – 350 litres).  This Limited Edition of 210 bottles has been drawn from just one of the 1998 casks so the contents of each bottle will be identical.  Armagnac from the other casks of the same vintage will be similar but not necessarily identical.  Having taken 30 litres out of one cask, the remaining armagnac may continue to age in its wood for release as a more mature 1998 vintage at a later date.  A complicated explanation but it is always worth knowing what you are buying.  Indeed, some very good armagnacs were made in 1998, all of which are single estate, if not single cask.

Mosgaard Organic Single Malt Palo Cortado Cask Whisky

Mosgaard Palo Cortado #1 is a brand new release. This whisky has been finished in casks built from American white oak, which had been medium toasted, and put into stock with Palo Cortado sherry for 1.5 years (Palo Cortado is a sherry with the nose of Amontillado and the body from Oloroso). Mosgaard Palo Cortado whisky is bottled at a strength of 53% which balances the spicy malt and green citrus notes.

Mosgaard Organic Single Malt Pedro Ximenez Cask Whisky

World Spirits Award 2020 – Gold

World Whisky Masters 2021 – Gold

Pedro Ximenez Whisky is a complex interpretation of a dark and intense Single Malt Whisky, richly flavoured with a combination of spicy and fruity notes.  This whisky is double matured, first in new French oak casks and then it is finished in old Pedro Ximenez sherry casks, adding sweetness and rich, mahogany colour.  Amongst its accolades is the title Best Danish Single Malt Whisky 2021 given at the World Whiskies Awards.

Port Wine Cask Whisky

Mosgaard Organic Single Malt Port Wine Cask Whisky

Berlin International Spirits Competition 2020 – Gold Award

This Port Wine Cask Whisky is Mosgaard’s newest whisky, it is dark and intense with vinous and spicy sweetness.  The barrels are the secret, built from two types of old Port Wine casks. Staves from both Ruby and Tawny port casks are mixed to make the Mosgaard casks.  The result is that the Port Cask whisky matures in balance with vinous notes from Ruby port and spicy notes and sweetness from Tawny.

Oloroso Cask Whisky

Mosgaard Organic Single Malt Oloroso Cask Whisky

World Whisky Masters 2021 – Gold Award

Oloroso Cask Whisky is the most elegant whisky from Funen, with sweetness, softness, and fruity notes. This charming single malt has been matured in bespoke-built 50 litre casks made from used Oloroso Sherry casks. These casks originally matured fine Oloroso Sherry for 10-30 years.  The intense grist and malty notes have been awarded with multiple international Gold medals.


Hermitage Single Cru Cognacs

Hermitage Single Cru Cognacs

A single cru cognac, like those offered by Hermitage Cognac, elevates the art of cognac making. While many high-end cognacs boast of fancy presentations and limited editions, the focus often shifts away from the liquid within. Hermitage, on the other hand, offers cognacs sourced from single estates in single crus.  While most hail from Grande Champagne, exceptions from Petite Champagne and Borderies offer a diverse range of profiles.  Each has either an age statement describing how many years it has spent in the barrel or is a vintage.  These vintage cognacs are found in one or two barrels, distilled in a specific year, untouched and unblended. Each bottle has unique flavours, akin to the revered concept of ‘Single Cask’ in whisky circles.

Hermitage Cognac, epitomising excellence, carefully selects eaux de vie for their quality and flavour.  The distinction lies not only in the exquisite taste but also in the transparency of the production process. Unlike some competitors, Hermitage Cognac vintages provide details about the year of distillation, ensuring a genuine connection with the history of each bottle. For instance, the Hermitage 1944 Grande Champagne Cognac, priced at just £860, offers a taste of a century-old harvest.

In the realm of premium cognac, where rarity often comes at an astronomical cost, Hermitage Cognac’s focus on single cru cognacs shines as beacons of value.  As Jean Monnet aptly noted, making cognac requires waiting, and Hermitage Cognac exemplifies this virtue. For those seeking the finest and most individual premier cru cognacs, Hermitage stands as a distinguished choice, offering a blend of history, craftsmanship, and unparalleled taste.

New Mosgaard Whisky – Palo Cortado Cask

Palo CortadoWe have a new whisky on our shelves – Mosgaard Organic Single Malt Palo Cortado Cask Whisky has just been released.  It has been finished in casks built from American white oak, which had been medium toasted, and put into stock with Palo Cortado sherry for 1.5 years (Palo Cortado is a sherry with the nose of Amontillado and the body from Oloroso). Mosgaard Palo Cortado whisky is bottled at a strength of 53% which balances the spicy malt and green citrus notes – delicious.

Mosgaard distillery was established in 2015 by Gitte and Jes Mosgaard. The distillery is located at an old farm on the southeastern coastline of the Island of Funen – the “fruit orchard” of Denmark. All products from the distillery are organic – this ensures a clean and crisp taste. The production is with CO2-neutral energy sources and zero-waste where all the remains from the primary production are reused as animal food. The organic Danish Barley Malt gives a rich and dark malty taste.whilst being a cleaner and purer spirit. The Water below the distillery is pure, hard, and full of minerals and the old saying still applies: hard water makes soft whisky. The stills are handmade in Portugal by gifted craftsmen – one hammer stroke at a time and the casks are built from carefully selected oak. Primary production is in small 50 litre casks, so the whisky matures fast and keeps the rich, intense, fruity notes intact.

Remy Martin Louis XIII Rare Cask

The newly released Remy Martin Louis XIII Rare Cask is so named because it has an unusual strength of 42.6%.  This may be unusual for Remy Martin but many cognacs have an abv of over 40% as the distillation strength of cognac is between 67 – 72%.  Whilst some cognacs will benefit from a higher strength it is usually only those, such as the Hermitage 1975 or 1989, which are single estate and where a smaller still, which will provide less rectification, has been used.  The Rare Cask Louis XIII is a blend of 1200 different cognacs so it is highly doubtful that such a blend will benefit from being a higher strength. Only the cask the cognac is stored in is a hundred years old so it would be interesting to find out just how old the cognac is!

Delord 2001 Bas Armagnac

Delord supplies armagnac vintages from 1900 to the present day. As with all vintages they are single cask and produced on their estate in Lannepax.