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  • Father's Day Gift Ideas - Sunday 16th June 2019

    Father's DayLooking for inspiration for Father's Day gifts?  Look no further - we have a vast range of French and Spanish brandies to suit every taste.

    Cognac, armagnac, calvados, pineau, liqueur and eau de vie fill our shelves with lots of individual, exciting flavours to satisfy every palate.  If you are not sure which one to buy, just give us a ring and a member of the small, Brandyclassics team will be delighted to help – 01225 863988.

    We have vintages from every year of birth from 1928 to 2002 and a few more besides.  There is no better way to say “thank you “ than with a Father’s Day present from Brandyclassics.

  • Championing Small Cognac Producers

    Small Cognac ProducersThe whole cognac industry began with the little guy, tending his vines and creating outstanding eau-de-vie. Today these small cognac producers, often family run houses, struggle to remain in business, such is the competition they face from the ‘Big 4’.  These 4 companies are now so large that each has a brand ambassador, presumably to reflect their core values.  Interestingly, Hennessy, Courvoisier and Remy Martin have all chosen a trendy rap star, clearly trying to appeal to the younger market.  Martell, on the other hand, has gone for a more stylish, feminine image by choosing Diane Kruger.  But what about the smaller cognac producers who use their generations of knowledge to produce the very best, single estate, vintage cognacs – who should they choose?  Surely it must be royalty – rare, elegantly presented and steeped in history.  Or do you have a better idea?

  • The Australian Connection with Prunier

    Prunier posterDuring the years after the gold rush in the 1850s, brandy became the most popular spirit in Australia. French companies were quick to seize the opportunity and in 1870 Prunier opened a branch there.   A loyal following for the brand was built by their salesman, Émigré Ambroise Lamande.  He lived in Melbourne with his pet kangaroo and it is this marsupial that is thought to have been the inspiration behind Maresté's poster and 1929 advertising film.  Reputed to be the first cinema advertisement for cognac ever made, it featured a cartoon kangaroo discovering cases of cognac washed up on a beach and gleefully stuffing her pouch with the bottles! However, the global economic depression of the time and rising tensions in Europe led to a dramatic decline in demand for cognac in Australia. In 1938 Prunier closed its Melbourne branch and within a decade or so the brand had all but disappeared.  That is, until very recently, when a customer walked into a new wine & spirits shop and enquired about Prunier cognacs. The owner had never heard of them, so he did some research.  Impressed by the brandies and the historical connection he decided to start stocking the range.  The reaction has been overwhelming, and he now sells more of Prunier's rare and very expensive vintage cognacs than any other outlet in the world.   Another good example of how superior quality and historical knowledge increases the value and pleasure derived from your cognac.

  • Sediment in Cognac

    The cognac industry is quite touchy about the appearance of a bottle of cognac.  In the world of high value spirits, sediment is not desirable as it can either lie on the bottom of the bottle or cause cloudiness of the spirit. But is it really a problem?

    sediment in cognacWell, we all understand that cognac is aged in oak casks.  Initially it is put into new ones and then, after about 6 – 12 months, it is transferred into old ones.  When the casks are new, they are toasted to destroy the harmful tannins in the wood.  At this stage, only the good tannins are available in the wood allowing the cognacs to develop their colour and flavour. Many cognac producers will ask for a specific grade of barrel toasting to suit the desired quality of the finished cognac. Repeated use of the new barrels means that over time, they will become old barrels and so used for long term cognac storage.  However, as the tannins in the wood are used up, the inside surface of the barrel will gradually degrade leaving a cloudiness in the cognac.

    The level of cloudiness will depend on the age and size of the barrel, the type of oak used and the level of toasting initially agreed between the cooper and distiller. The strength and cru of the cognac are also factors.  Cognacs produced from the Champagnes mature more slowly than those from other crus.  The spirit remains stronger in the barrel for longer, producing a cloudy effect and in some cases, containing minute particles from inside the barrel.  As a result, older cognacs, which may have been in their barrels for 40, 50, 60 or more years, may have levels of sediment in them and must be filtered. In most cases, sediment appears at the tail end of the barrel and because it can be very fine, can be missed when bottling. No producer wants to see sediment of any level in his cognac although it is harmless and will gradually settle in the bottle over time.

    When filtering is used to remove the sediment it can be costly as it is slow and some of the cognac is lost during the process. All cognacs do have a minute solids content which is not visible but is part of the cognac.  But remember, the longer it has been in the barrel the finer the cognac will be!

  • For those turning 50, 70 or 80 years of age in 2020

    50, 70 & 80 years old in 2020Across our website we have very special gifts and present ideas for all years of birth but these latest vintage cognacs to arrive in the Hermitage range will be perfect for those celebrating 50, 70 or 80 years in 2020.

    From the top cru, Grande Champagne, comes Hermitage 1940 Cognac.  A beautifully balanced amber nectar, with aromas of chestnuts and truffles, it was produced in the year Winston Churchill became British Prime Minister and ordered the Dunkirk Evacuation.  Also from Grande Champagne comes Hermitage 1950 Cognac - a real joy to taste with flavours including plum crumble with a blood orange peel finish.

    Hermitage 1970 Fins Bois Cognac was harvested in the year Concorde made its first supersonic flight.  It is rare to find cognacs from the Fins Bois in the Hermitage range but this one is really very special.

  • Spirits Ingredients and Nutritional Information

    Spirits IngredientsThe trade association Spirits Europe has launched a new website giving consumers access to nutrition and spirits ingredients information on all spirit drinks legally sold in the EU.  The new site provides information on all of the EU’s 47 spirit drinks categories including cognac, armagnac and calvados  and can be found at www.responsibledrinking.eu .  Calorie information per 100ml and per serving size for each spirit is listed.  The ingredients, a full nutrition declaration (including allergens) and additional information on the production process are also included.  The website comes as part of the spirits industry’s endeavours to increase availability of nutrition and ingredients information and so deliver on the commitment submitted to the European Commission in 2018. This commitment to update Spirit Drinks Regulations aims to bring the industry in line with the 2009 Lisbon Treaty and with the developments in managing geographic indicators (GIs) for food products.  It also includes a pledge by the sector to make consumer information directly available from bottles via smartphone QR codes by 2022.  These European directives are far more progressive than those in the US where the Alcohol & Tobacco Trade & Tax Bureau is being heavily criticised for not making the display of nutritional information, including alcohol content, mandatory in its recent modernisation of alcohol labels.

  • The Charente Scene - Spring 2019

    Charente 2019Whilst in France recently, I found an air of wellbeing amongst the cognac producers of the Charente.  Last year’s super harvest, coupled with the current demand for cognac, means that their pockets are rather fuller than is usual for the season. That said, this year the harvest could already be in trouble as the region is experiencing some very hot weather. The grapes may have to be harvested early and their sugar content may also become too high.  In the town of Cognac I also found a new 5-star hotel with 2 restaurants and all the perks that go with 5-star luxury. The Chais Monnet Hotel is named after the ex-mayor of Cognac and founder of Monnet Cognac.  It will no doubt be popular with many visitors, but I will continue to stay at the Chateau L’Yeuse.   It is less than half the price of Chais Monnet and I enjoy the warmth and personality of its more intimate and peaceful surroundings.

  • Brandyclassics News - Spring 2019

    Brandyclassics NewsThe first quarter of 2019 has continued the way 2018 finished with press coverage in both The Spectator and The Sunday Times magazine, heralding the quality of the Hermitage Cognacs range.  Henry Jeffreys of the former, particularly enjoyed the Hermitage 45 Year Old and Will Lyons of the latter, was advocating our very special Hermitage 1893.  Both are superb examples from the top cru, Grande Champagne.  Exciting times reporting Brandyclassics News.

    We are constantly striving to improve our range of single estate Hermitage Cognacs and the service which we offer. If you feel that we are fulfilling our aim, we would love to hear from you. Please leave us a Review on the Google Business page (Brandyclassics), Facebook page (Brandyclassics or Hermitage Cognacs) or tag a photo on Instagram.  We are also looking to post links on our website for suppliers and customers who would like to benefit from a two-way promotional initiative.  Please get in touch for more information.

  • How Did Double Distillation Become Part Of The Cognac Process?

    double distillationThere are all manner of theories, assumptions and legends relating to the actual birth of cognac. Many relate to Chevalier de la Croix Maron, an aristocratic wine taster and Lord of Segonzac. Legend has it that on returning home from the Crusades, he found his wife in bed with his neighbour. He shot them both. But afterwards Maron could not sleep as he was plagued by dreams of Satan coming from the dark and roasting him not once but twice over a fire. One night after waking from another roasting he sat on the edge of the bed, his fingers wound round a glass of his favourite drink, burnt wine. He wondered if this recurring nightmare might be a message from above.  Looking into his drink he asked his servants to distil the wine again and so provided it with a magical smoothness.  Another story tells of the Chevalier finding a hidden barrel of peasant brandy in the corner of his cellar. It was too crude for his aristocratic palate, so he ordered it to be distilled again.  The pure fruitiness of the double distilled brandy delighted him, and the practice of double distillation had begun.

    It is probable that the second story is nearer to the truth. The art of distillation was founded by the Moors as they travelled from the South through France. Originally, they distilled perfumes in pot stills, but they taught the peasants in Gascony how to distil their wines.  Using pots heated by wood fires they extracted the vapours and then allowed them to condense back into strong and fruity spirits.

    The Cognaçais also learnt the skills of distillation in order to prevent their wines from becoming rancid during the long journey along the Charente river to the port of La Rochelle.  On reaching their destination they were bartered for leather, timber and copper (which was used to make their burnt wines). Wines were also distilled to reduce their volume prior to shipping to foreign ports.  It was found that distilling them a second time not only reduced them further but also gave them a higher quality and finer taste.

    It is also said that Chevalier de la Croix Maron took some barrels of the double reduced wine, or brandy as we know it today, to the local monastery. The monks tried some but disliked its fiery taste. Years later they opened another barrel and found that the brandy had turned golden and the flavour had changed to be rich and fruity.  The benefits of barrel ageing had accidentally been discovered.  It seems that the Chevalier de la Croix Maron has much to answer for in the origins of cognac!

  • New Hermitage Cognac Vintages

    Hermitage Cognac VintagesWe are always looking for more fantastic, single estate cognacs with age-statements to add to our Hermitage Cognac Vintages range and these latest three are really amazing:

    Hermitage 1923 was produced in a year when Warner Brothers was established, Insulin was first used to treat Diabetes and the refrigerator became available to buy in Sweden.  This wonderful cognac is from Grande Champagne and has a fine and intense rancio, the result of more than 60 years in an oak barrel.

    Hermitage 1945 was harvested the year that marked the end of the second World War.  It is beautifully balanced with flavours of lychee, passion fruit, rosemary, cocoa and a long grapefruit tail.

    And finally we also have a new vintage from Petite Champagne; Hermitage 1969 is an unusually fine, balanced and well-aged cognac from the heart of this amazing, but lesser known cru.

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