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  • National Cognac Day - 4th June

    National Cognac DayDid you know it was National Cognac Day last month?  A relatively new addition to the annual calendar and originating in the United States of America, it is celebrated on the 4th of June.  As with all popular, American activities it has become a worldwide event, so mark it in your diary ready for 2020! This year Jeanne O’Brien Coffey came up with 5 reasons to drink cognac and we pretty much agree with all of them:

    1. It takes a lot of time and money to produce fine cognac which is why it tastes so good.  2. There is a cognac for every palate.  3.  It’s cocktail-friendly (but we do not recommend using our vintages for this)! 4. It pairs with everything and can be drunk at any time of the day. 5. It has a unique flavour profile with a myriad of flavours in a single bottle.

  • Judging Cognac

    Judging CognacIn many ways, the concept of a fine cognac is down to the taster’s perception based on what he has tasted in the past and the flavours to which he has become accustomed in his daily life. But defining those flavours is secondary to understanding what is required of a cognac in order to describe the various properties that bring that flavour about. However, it is probably fair to say that we all like smooth and individual cognac flavours, uninterrupted by other, less desirable properties such as aggressiveness, bland flavours and overpowering sweetness caused by syrups.  When judging cognac professionally, the key skill is understanding of the desirable and not so desirable properties that can be found in it. Excluding the initial considerations of colour and aroma, my first consideration is the balance, followed by the complexity and concentration and depth of flavour. All of these are critical in defining what we seek to provide; award winning cognacs.

    A cognac that is unbalanced has many aggressive and fiery qualities that hide the style and flavour. In some cases, it may be very difficult to create balance as this is usually created by long ageing in the barrel where it gently mellows.  Young cognacs will not have developed flavour nor had time for the alcohol to reduce naturally, so will not be balanced. Where this happens, additives are used to hide the strength but, they also add sweetness to the brandy.

    The term “complexity” is often taken negatively.  In fact, it refers to a very varied mix of flavours which develop as a result of the reaction between the wood (tannins) and the alcohol in the cognac. Over time, more and more flavours will develop but it is not enough to just have a wide range of flavours, we also look for depth and concentration. It is the depth of the cognac that provides us with the most exciting tastes which are often referred to as “Rancio”. This is a richness but also an intense mustiness that one might associate with an old Madeira wine.

    Much of what we do here at Hermitage is to seek out cognacs with all these characteristics. We look to achieve Gold Medals with all we supply but it is not easy as the availability of cognacs which meet this high level of perfection is very limited. Our cognacs are at the very top of the luxury group, there are other groups with much lower standards, many being associated with generic blends and we judge them on a completely different level. There will be good cognacs at every level but there comes a point which is difficult to exceed.

  • 40 Years In The Making - Grande Champagne Cognac

    40 yearsWe have spent decades looking for a 40 year old cognac that is worthy of the Hermitage label and so we are very excited to announce that it is here at last, aged for 40 years.

    Aged with great care and expertise, this wonderful Grande Champagne cognac has been in an oak barrel for 40 years slowly maturing to its optimum condition. Flavours of plum and vanilla expand into lychee, pear, hay, plum and dried mandarin demonstrating complexity and individuality.

    A great cognac for any occasion but especially for those celebrating a 40th anniversary or 40th birthday.  Take advantage of its special price throughout July 2019.

  • The Bottle Story - Martell Blue Swift

    MartellDescribed as a ‘cognac-based spirit drink’ Martell Blue Swift is made of VSOP Cognac that has been matured in French oak casks and finished in Kentucky Bourbon casks. Far from ‘reinventing the cognac category’, it does not meet the regulations to be labelled ‘Cognac’.  Cognac must be aged in French oak casks and any finishing casks cannot have held anything other than wine or wine-based spirits.  Many cognac products with ‘a finish’ have been released over recent months so it is good to see the regulations being categorically defined.

  • Spanish Brandy Gaining Popularity

    Spanish brandy For many, Spanish brandy is something drunk on holiday, in its country of origin, but its quality can be just as good as any brandy in the world.  Made from a different grape variety (Jerez) and using the solera top up system, it is often aged in old sherry casks.  Spanish brandies can often provide better value for money than French brandies such as cognac and armagnac but they have a reputation for exclusivity which Spanish brandy has yet to earn.  Addressing this issue, Spain is beginning to focus on creating premium and ultra-premium brandies in the hope that they will be able to compete with the more famous varieties.   With consumer trends moving towards products that are legitimate, relevant, have a history and added value, Spanish Brandy could be the next big thing.

  • The Environmental Future of Wine Production

    Environmental FutureThe strength of carbon emissions created during the wine fermentation process is “five times more concentrated than planes and cars” according to UC Davis professor, Roger Boulton.  “We should be capturing carbon in wineries, so they become carbon neutral. A litre of juice produces 60 litres of carbon dioxide. As a winemaker, if you want to be a serious leader in sustainability then you have to do this – a good way is to turn it into chalk,” he said.  Consumer pressure to protect our environmental future by manufacturing in a more environmentally friendly way is becoming widespread.  Also speaking in New Zealand, Villa Maria Estate’s viticulturist, Jonathan Hamlet, derided the use of chemicals in the grape growing process.  “The way we grow grapes today will not be acceptable in the future. We need to respect the land, learn to adapt, and stop using pesticides and herbicides. We live in a world of conscious, value driven consumers who want products that reflect their values.” It will be interesting to see how long it takes for these  views to be echoed in the Northern Hemisphere.

    Read more about possible changes to the cognac production process here, where we discuss the future need to accommodate climate change.

  • Should All Wine Brandies Be Regulated?

    Wine BrandiesThe term “brandy” refers to a spirit distilled from a fruit.  This includes armagnac and cognac as well as a host of other wine brandies made from the indigenous fruits of the region from whence they come. The rigorous controls produced by the various regulatory bodies of each of the two main French wine brandies mean that their products will always be of a recognised quality.  Unfortunately, this is not the case with grape brandies which have no rules to follow.  Most are distilled on large commercial stills from unspecified grape varieties and sold after as little as one year’s ageing.  In addition, their distillation range is not controlled, any grapes can be used and, in some cases, only the residue of the skins, pips and leftover flesh is distilled.

    Many years ago, brandies were made in the wine producing regions, around Bordeaux and Saintonge, where wines were plentiful. The resulting wine brandies were of lower strengths, as the grape varieties used lacked acidity, and they failed to meet with the approval of the traders buying for their European customers. Only the wine brandies from the Charente, ie cognacs, were of an acceptable standard as rigorous quality controls were already in place.  Over the years these regulations have been continued to be refined to meet increasingly higher standards.

    It is right, therefore, that Lucien Bernard, in his discussion with Vinexpo News recently, seeks to create standards that enable us to compare the quality of all wine brandies. We see in the marketplace many cheap grape brandies poorly made with all manner of different grapes, methods of production and storage. We also see some brandies being passed off as cognacs.  This is particularly true in China where counterfeit brandy is shipped in volume, mixed with small quantities of cognac and falsely labelled with respectable cognac producer’s names.  Sadly, we will never be able to control these rogues and it is down to local governments to bring them under control.

    However, there are also some very fine brandies on the market. Some of the Spanish brandies, made under the Solera system, a method which allows for the topping up of barrels which may have contained their famous sherries, are superb. Other good brandies, such as those from Greece and America and the Italian Grappa, also have production controls. Controls on the production of wine brandies is therefore both necessary and desirable as it will improve the quality of the brandies produced and reduce the rogues who seek to cash in on the market that deserves so much better. I’m with you Lucien!

  • 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.

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