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  • Brandy Bottle Valuation

    Brandy Bottle ValuationWe often have requests to do a Brandy Bottle Valuation and whilst sometimes a bottle can have a high value, most brandy valuations will disappoint most people.

    The term brandy is generic and covers any alcoholic drink reduced or distilled from a fruit. This includes Spanish brandies, grappa, marc and grape brandy (which can be used for semi-production purposes, for example fortifying port or sherry). This group of brandies will usually include the name brandy on the bottle but by law cannot include the names armagnac, calvados or cognac. If no identifying descriptions appear on the label we can assume it is a grape brandy which is not controlled by an authority and has minimal value.

    The main French brandies have tight controls on their production and storage.  For this reason, we know that if a bottle is labelled cognac, armagnac or calvados it will have been produced and aged in the approved manner.

    Cognac ageing to its optimum quality in oak casks can take many years.  In the case of cognacs from the top crus this can be up to 90 years.  Armagnacs and calvados take rather less time. The requirement for this long barrel ageing increases its cost of production and therefore value.  New oak casks cost around 700 euros each and storing the older casks, used for extensive ageing, requires sizeable, quality cellars.  On the other hand, grape brandies may only be aged for a year and heavily diluted with water.  Consequently, even quite good grape brandies only cost a couple of euros per litre to produce.

    1887 FavraudA highly valued cognac, armagnac or calvados will have one of these appellations named on the label together with an age statement or vintage.  The level of the brandy in the bottle, the quality of the seal, the shape, size and type of bottle, the colour and the clarity of the spirit are also important. Then of course there is the name of the producer or negoçiant and the region where the brandy was produced.  Much information about its value can be gained by knowing how it was distilled, the quality of the strata and sub-strata as well as the cellar in which it was aged.  If the bottle owner can provide a provenance for it, that also helps.

    If, on the other hand, your old bottle of brandy that has been stored for the last 50 years, does not mention cognac, armagnac or calvados on the label and does not provide an age statement of any sort, I am afraid that your bottle will be virtually worthless. It is also worth noting that retail values of old brandies are more than twice the trade or auction values since it can take many years to sell even a top quality bottle of fine cognac.

    If you have a bottle of brandy that you would like valued, please refer to our Valuation Service which can be found on the home page of our website.

  • Father's Day Gifts - So Many To Choose From ...

    Father's Day GiftsWe have a fantastic range of cognacs, armagnacs and calvados, any one of which would make the perfect present this Father’s Day.  Vintages from 1930 – 2000 let you select the one that’s most meaningful.  How about Dad’s year of birth?  Or what about your year of birth?

    Whichever you choose, vintage brandies are gifts that keep on giving.  Dad will be able to savour his delicious amber nectar on many occasions, keeping it for as long as he wishes.

    And if you’re running out of time to buy your Father’s Day Gift, don’t panic.  Your order will be delivered the following day (if placed before noon) or you can select Saturday delivery.

  • Cognac Masters Medals 2018 - Master and Gold

    Cognac Masters MedalsWe are delighted to announce that three of our Hermitage Cognacs range were awarded medals at the recent Spirits Business Cognac Masters Competition.  Almost 40% of our Hermitage range now have a Masters or Gold Medal.

    Our highly-prized Hermitage Cognac Marie Louise was presented with a Masters Medal in the Vintage - Single Estate category.  The judges commented that “when a cognac is done well, it is exceptionally good at ageing”.

    Gold Medals were also awarded to two other vintages.  Our Hermitage 45 Year Old Grande Champagne Cognac clearly wowed the judges as well as ourselves, as did the Hermitage 1958 Borderies Cognac.  The judges particularly enjoyed the “toffee, tobacco and toast” aromas which led to “bread, peach and butterscotch” on the palate.

  • Hermitage Cognac Quality Control

    There are approximately 5000 producers of cognac in the legal production area of France known as The Charentes and Charentes Maritime. Each one of them, quite naturally, believes that their cognacs are the best. The truth, however, is rather different.  Producers don’t advertise their presence so most have probably only ever tasted different cognacs in bars and restaurants. Indeed, I have spoken to some producers who didn’t even know that they had a distillery next door.  This lack of local industry awareness has, over the years, resulted in the development of our own cognac quality control.

    There are of course standards to which all cognac houses must rigidly adhere.  Variations in the product occur naturally with changes in the terroir, vines, distillation, cellars etc.  These changes can dramatically change the quality of each cognac.  As a rule, the higher the cru, the better the cognac, but one cannot rely on this as a guarantee of quality.

    As negoçiants we try to limit the cognacs we buy to those produced in the top cru, Grande Champagne. Here, hundreds of cognacs are produced, and each has a different taste, age, style, colour, method of production, ageing process, strength and balance. On top of that, our customers have varying tastes and needs and we try to accommodate them all. Finding the right cognacs is objective since we have our own cognac quality control standards which we have developed over the years.  These standards are not necessarily subjective however, since more than a third of all our cognacs have won gold medals or above in cognac competition.

    Cognac Quality ControlMaking sure that our customers really do get the best means that, after we have decided on a potential cognac, we still need to do several tests. The first is of course tasting. It is difficult to say how many cognacs we taste but on some days,  it may be twenty or even thirty, others, maybe only one or two.  One tends to gather considerable experience when tasting many different cognacs. Then we check the cognac for balance which means balancing the fieriness against flavour. Sometimes we need to reduce the cognac slightly which in some cases take quite a long time. We also check it for sediment as some distillers don’t filter their cognacs before we receive them at our bottling plant.  The alcohol level is also tested as legally, this must be quoted on the label.  This process also involves checking the level of obscuration (factors which mask the true alcohol content).  There is always some natural obscuration which cannot be avoided but in modern blends, the addition of sugar and caramel increases the level considerably.

    We really do try hard to provide our customers with the very best and we are proud of our collection of Hermitage Cognacs. Being a small, artisan producer is a huge benefit to everybody. If we were big, we would have to blend to supply cognacs with more commercial affordability.  Each cognac would lose its individuality and we would probably have to rely on younger cognacs to produce the required quantity.  We know Hermitage is always the best cognac available for our customers’ needs but it can be difficult to easily communicate that with every bottle we sell.

  • Why is the French 'Paradis' so special?

    Paradis gatesNot every cognac house has a Paradis – a designated area in the innermost recess of their cellar – but those that exist are steeped in history.  Back in the early eighties, having discovered a cognac which I really liked, I went to the Charente to try and discover its origin. I ended up in Cognac’s twin town, Jarnac, standing in front of an elegant wrought iron gate with an imposing key.  Behind it were about 100 very dusty bonbonnes, each with a chalk board describing what was in them.  What an eye opener - they contained cognacs which dated from as early as 1805. Each bonbonne (a sort of demijohn in a basket), contained about 30 litres of prized spirits and was sealed with wax to maintain its superior qualities.

    bonbonnes in a paradisMany cognac families select a few of their finest cognacs for storage in the Paradis.  The point when a cognac has gained all the benefit it can from the wood depends on many factors but ultimately, it is when the cellar master decides that it has reached its optimum quality.  At this stage the cognac is put into glass bonbonnes and sealed so that the generations of gentle maturation in the barrel are preserved. A cognac that has lasted in oak without deterioration for perhaps 60, 70, 80 or even 90 years is going to be good, very good and will have developed the much sought after rancio.

    There is little doubt that these cognacs will be superb masterpieces and truly exceptional amongst other cognacs, perhaps worthy only of paradise – the English translation of Paradis. I am sure that these fine old nectars should be preserved and locked away until their greatness can be recognised by true connoisseurs. The Angels have had their 'share', what’s left is worthy of far higher. If, when you next visit the Cognac region you visit an old cognac producer, ask if you can taste a cognac from their Paradis. If such a request is granted, savour it.  The cognacs in the Paradis will be the very finest that the house has ever made. If, on the other hand, your request is denied, try our Hermitage Marie Louise.  It’s a very fine example and has already won a number of very prestigious awards.

  • USA Shipping of Cognac, Armagnac and Calvados

    Due to the alcohol laws in America, the States that we can ship our brandies to have recently changed.USA Shipping

     

    USA Shipping is ALLOWABLE to the following States.  Delivery usually takes 5 working days.

    California              Connecticut            Delaware                                Florida    

    Idaho                      Louisiana                Maine                                       Maryland

    Massachusetts    Nebraska                New Jersey                              New Mexico

    New York              Oregon                    Rhode Island                           Texas (7 – 10 days)

    Vermont                Virginia                   Washington District of Columbia          Wyoming 

     

  • Innovative Cork Stoppers New to the Marketplace

    Cork stoppersSustainable and taint-free corks are the latest innovations to hit the ‘spirit stoppers’ market.  Distillery by-products such as grape marc from cognac, barley malt from whisky and juniper from gin make up 50% of the raw materials used to produce ‘Abor’ corks.  Manufacturers, the Tapi Group, are “seeking to create brand awareness in an eco-sustainable way” with their ‘green’ and sustainable new closures.  Cork Supply, by contrast, have just released a range of ‘taint-free’ corks with a money-back guarantee.  Their vision was to “produce quality closures that add value to the industry”; taint-free cork stoppers will surely have a place in the world of cognac.  Unlike wine, cognac should always be stored in an upright position to minimise any effect the cork might have on the spirit liquid and vapours - a problem that can occur, especially in older vintages.

  • The Charente Scene - Bisquit Sold

    BisquitAlexandre Bisquit established his famous cognac trading house in Jarnac in 1819.  When his daughter married Adrien Dubouché in 1848, his son-in-law’s name was added to the firm. It remained in family hands until the mid-60s when it was sold to Paul Ricard.  Latterly it was owned by Distell but earlier this year it was sold again, to the Campari group, for over 50 million Euros.  In many ways the purchase of Bisquit Dubouché by M. Ricard was the start of the firm’s real growth.  Not only did he buy the biggest chateau in the region, with more than 200 hectares of vines, he also built a massive distillery at Lignères which had 64 stills.  Bisquit cognacs have quite a nutty and fruity style which is admired by many in the industry (compare with our Hermitage 20 yo GC Cognac).  As with most of the medium to large-sized houses, their need for more cognacs grew over the years so they also buy in wine and ‘eau de vie’. What a shame that another cognac house has gone to one of the multi-faceted “sell it all” groups.

  • The Bottle Story - Renault Avec Cognac

    Coffee cognacWe were disappointed to read earlier this year that Cognac Renault has created ‘a new innovation - an expression specifically designed to pair with coffee’ - called Renault Avec.  Quite simply this is not the case. Hermitage Cognac launched its Café 20 Cognac in the Autumn of 2016 and it is already well established in the marketplace as a coffee accompaniment.   Provenance is not the only difference.  Renault have blended cognacs from 3 different crus aged between 3 and 8 years.  They are ‘not attempting to create a big, powerful cognac’ so have treated the barrels differently to affect the flavour.

    Hermitage Café 20 on the other hand, has flavours of mocha, coffee and roasted walnuts, comes from the top cru and has been aged for 20 years.

  • Cognac and Chocolate - Food Pairing

    chocolate and chocolateFood pairing is all the rage right now, including with cognac.  Hennessy have created a whole dining experience to enjoy their latest cognac blend with a 4-course meal.  We never recommend doing this with vintage cognac but as a digestif, it does bring a special enjoyment.  Some cognacs have complimentary flavours which go well with after dinner courses, such as coffee (see The Bottle Story).  Chocolate is another post-dinner treat and also has flavours found in cognac, as reported recently by ‘The Telegraph’.  Our Hermitage Provenance 30 would be an excellent accompaniment with its rich flavours of chocolate and natural toffee.  But choose your chocolate carefully too.  Recently produced in Ecuador, To’ak is a top quality, vintage, dark chocolate which has been aged for 2 years in cognac barrels.  It may be utterly delicious but we’ve never known chocolate to improve with age!

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