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  • The Bottle Story - Frapin 750 How Much?

    FrapinFrapin has just released a limited edition run of this unique presentation to celebrate 750 years since the family’s oldest member was born in Cognac in 1270.  We do applaud these small family firms who have passed on their skills from generation to generation and not taken the easy route of selling to the ‘big four’.  The Frapin 750 contains some very old Grande Champagne eau de vie, albeit blended, and is presented in a Baccarat crystal carafe decorated with Belle Epoch-like grapevine etchings.  Just 21 of these presentations have been produced - to represent the 21 generations of the Frapin family - now that really is history in a bottle.  It oozes quality and style but so does the price tag.  One of these will set you back an astounding £43,956.  That’s equivalent to 25 of our Hermitage Marie Louise Cognacs in crystal decanters!

    Hefty price tags like this are, however, quite common-place in the world of whisky.  Two recent releases demonstrate that, even without 750 years of family firm history, large sums of money can be charged.  Glengoyne and Glenfarcas have just released limited-edition whiskies, in engraved crystal decanters and luxury presentation boxes.  The Glengoyne 50 yo single malt costs £22,500 and the Glenfarcas 60 yo single cask, £19,500.  Compare these prices to equivalent cognacs (Hermitage 50 yo @ £400 and Hermitage 60 yo @ £530) and it is difficult to see where they come from.  Market forces must play their part but demand for old cognacs is on the rise so perhaps soon, their prices will too.

  • Cognac - the Tourist Destination

    Tourist DestinationThe Cognac region of The Charente and Charente Maritime has always been a popular tourist destination as it enjoys a warm, hospitable climate that borders the Atlantic Ocean.  Maybe not all visitors are aware of its long, fascinating history as the producer of the King of Brandies but that is, hopefully, about to change.  The Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC), Cognac’s regulatory body, has launched a project for local producers, restauranteurs, leisure professionals, coopers and hoteliers to make the appellation more accessible when travel and tourism open up again.  By offering a wider range of visitor experiences, it hopes to promote Cognac as a unique tourist destination.  The General Director of the BNIC said “Visiting the region is a great way to meet the women and men who daily work in the vineyards, distilleries or cellars to create this wonderful product. Their expertise is part of the French cultural heritage we are proud of.”  He is hoping that this focus on tourism will attract new drinkers to the spirit, cognac, and give the opportunity to show case the improvements that have been made across the industry to increase sustainability.  High quality products, with a story, are very much on trend right now so this could be the perfect timing to launch ‘Explore Cognac’.

  • 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.

  • Hermitage Paradis 1885 GC Cognac - A Masterpiece

    MasterpieceOur range of Hermitage Paradis Cognacs continues to expand with this stunning arrival from 1885.  Perhaps the best cognac we have ever tasted, this masterpiece will never be repeated.

    Distilled in the year that the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York, a gift from the French people, it has been aged for a staggering 110 years.  The much sought after ‘rancio’ in this cognac is incredibly intense and rich.  It was brought about by long barrel ageing, in two different barrels, which has created an unbelievable 'double rancio' effect.  The aroma is remarkable and the flavour, sensational. Many of the aromas are also found in the flavours. The molasses, cherry and roasted walnut are all there but also turmeric and black truffle, medlar, allspice, fig, cocoa and almond.

    Released with very limited supply, there are only a few bottles remaining already .....

  • Pandemic Hospitality Update Winter 2021

    hospitalityNearly 300,000 jobs in the UK hospitality sector were lost between February and November last year.  Over £53 billion was also lost in year-on-year revenue between April and September.  The lack of Christmas trading will be an additional huge loss.

    According to the IWSR, global sales of alcohol fell by 8% in 2020 whilst the UK Off trade alcohol sales grew by over 16%.

    The American Beverages Licensees group has warned that the US pandemic funding bill has failed to provide sufficient support to save their bars and restaurants.  Over 909,000 jobs in the sector have already been lost and 110,000 restaurants closed.

    An All Party Parliamentary Group has been formed to address the problems faced by the UK night-time economy which is facing collapse.  MPs have voted in favour of creating a Minister for Hospitality following the submission of a petition with over 200,000 signatures.  A £1,000 grant has been agreed for all drinks led venues that have been forced to close.

    UK based charity The Drinks Trust has provided £1.2m this year in support of industry workers.  They have also launched an online networking platform called the Drinks Community for members of the trade to connect and share information.

    The World Spirits Report expects the trade to recover by the end of 2022 and then we will see something akin to the ‘Roaring 20s’ when hedonistic revelling followed the end of the Spanish flu pandemic.  UK Freixenet Copestick has shown its confidence in the future of the industry by purchasing On Trade wine merchant Jascots.

    Our Autumn industry update can be read here.

  • The Charente Scene - Winter 2021

    Winter 2021Apart from the recent flooding of the Charente, there is very little news from the Cognac region this winter 2021 as France went into a second national lockdown from October to December 2020.  It had hoped to reopen cinemas, museums and theatres in January, followed by bars, restaurants, gyms and cafés later in the month but now, this will not be possible until mid-February at the earliest.  A partial closure of the border with the UK will remain in place until further notice with second-home owners, tourists and those visiting family all barred.  The country remains under an 8pm - 6am curfew but an earlier 6pm to 6am curfew - already in place in parts of Eastern France (see map) - is set to be extended to other areas.  Although France is doing better than some of its neighbours, the number of Covid patients remains high.
    Other news can be found elsewhere on our Blog.

  • Armagnac Crus

    armagnac crusArmagnac is produced in the south west of France in the departments of Gers and Landes in the region known as Gascony. The region has very little industry and the landscape is relatively flat, very green and the people are friendly, living an altogether quieter life than those in Cognac to the north. Indeed, most of the land is given over to agriculture and perhaps well described by Nick Faith, the famous writer on French Brandies, as the land of Fois Gras.  An ideal base for armagnac crus.

    The climate is perhaps a little warmer than in Cognac but still enjoys the temperate conditions so necessary for growing grapes. These are made into wine and then distilled into the oldest spirit in the world, armagnac. It was perhaps made famous by the French musketeer d’Artagnan and immortalised by Alexandre Dunas.

    There are three armagnac crus, the smallest is Bas Armagnac. However, whilst it is the smallest in land mass, it is the largest armagnac production region making around 57% of all the armagnac produced. The department is in the north west of the region, closest to the Atlantic where, millions of years ago, the sea washed in sandy and silty soil which now produces some of the finest armagnacs. These fine spirits are fruity, light and delicate and regarded as the best armagnacs in the region. The main town in the Bas department is Eauze, a small market town where the BNIA can be found.

    To the East of Bas is the second cru of armagnac known as Ténarèze. The department is slightly bigger than Bas and in the centre lies the town of Condom with its beautiful buildings and Armagnac museum. The cru comprises about 40% of all the armagnac vineyards and the armagnacs produced here tend to develop much slower than those in Bas. The clay and limestone soil produces rich and fruity spirits which are often used whilst relatively young to make generic blends.

    The largest cru is Haut Armagnac. It surrounds Ténarèze on three sides, north, east and south and the main town is Auch which is in the centre of the region. The cru is often referred to as white armagnac as the soil contains an abundance of limestone. The viticulture was developed here in the 19th century to meet the high market demand but has since dwindled away to only a few producers who make largely uninteresting armagnacs.

    Whilst armagnac is not so well known as its big brother cognac, it is a beautiful spirit.  It has many rich and fruity flavours, the most common being prune, which can often be identified in the Delord range.  They are one of the older producers in the region situated in the top cru, Bas Armagnac.

  • The Spirits Business - The Big Interview with David Baker

    David Baker

    David Baker, MD of Brandyclassics and driving force behind the Hermitage Cognac brand, was  featured in a long interview piece with The Spirit Business. Published in the October 2020 edition, it was a wide ranging discussion about Cognac, the birth of the Hermitage Cognac brand and the Cognac Industry.

    A shortened version of the interview can be found on the Spirit Business website, or you can download the entire interview as a PDF.

  • Tariffs

    TariffsWe waited with bated breath as the final details of the UK’s Brexit deal were agreed in December and were pleased to learn that there will be no tariffs due on the importation of French brandies to the UK from 1 January 2021.  Adjustments will need to be made by all, to embed the paperwork now required, but that’s to be expected with such an upheaval.  In the US however, the situation is not so rosy as although it is hoped that the tariff on scotch whisky will be lifted, an EU retaliatory 25% tariff has been placed on imports of cognac and brandy from 12 January 2021.

  • Happy New Year 2021

    2021It is not the New Year 2021 many of us had hoped for but let's hope there are improvements later in the year.  We would like to thank all of our customers for their business to date and hope they stay safe and well during the forthcoming months.

    Brexit brought many challenges at the end of last year.  We have found that there are now some shortages in supply which, along with a poor exchange rate, means that reluctantly, we will have to increase our prices from 1 February.

    So .... if you have gifts to buy, or just feel the need to treat yourself, don't hang about, the New Year is well and truly upon us!

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