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News

  • November Treats - Free Delivery & Black Friday Weekend

    Black FridayWe have lots of bargains running during November which will hopefully ease the pain of another Lock Down a little.  We are having our usual Black Friday Weekend Sale from 27 – 30 November inclusive.  Look out for some irresistible bargains to boost your drinks cabinet this Christmas.  Remember to check the website early as stocks will be limited.

    Free Delivery on all UK orders over £100, including VAT, is in place again until Lock Down is lifted.  Please be aware that although we are able to process orders within 1 working day, Parcelforce are not always able to meet their normal delivery times at present.  Our deliveries to America are also taking longer due to a shortage of flights.

    And don’t forget the usual monthly special offers, listed on the home page.

  • Brandyclassics News - Alex Johnson Joins Us

    Alex JohnsonIt is with great pleasure and excitement that we introduce to you Alex Johnson, our new National Accounts Manager.  Alex will be responsible for building our already successful Hermitage brand and forging close, supportive customer relationships with both the On and Off Trade.  He has worked in the spirits sector of the drinks industry for more than 10 years and brings with him a wealth of experience and knowledge associated with brown spirits and in particular cognacs.

    More online tastings have been taking place and we have enjoyed some wonderful feedback from the Press.  Joel Harrison writing on the IWSC website, Douglas Blyde on Twitter and David Longfield in The Decanter have all extoled the virtues of our single estate, vintage Hermitage Cognacs, especially some of the older ones, made more than a century ago, which are now taking pride of place in our range.

  • CV-19 Hospitality Update in Brief

    Hospitality► The number of licensed premises currently trading across Britain is 25,000 down on pre-Covid levels, according to the latest report from CGA & Alix Partners.

    ► The Cancel the Curfew campaign is being led by on-trade operators in England & Wales, who have written to the Prime Minister warning that the 10pm curfew will result in “the end of the hospitality industry as we know it”.  Pubs, bars and restaurants are reporting a 63% drop in revenue since the curfew was enforced.

    ► It is now a legal requirement that hospitality venues in England display QR codes, for users of the NHS Covid-19 app, as part of the Track and Trace system.

    ► On 15 September 2020, the UK High Court ruled that Hiscox & QBE must pay out on their disputed business interruption policies.  This could amount to more than £50m for unmet claims from the UK hospitality sector.

    ► According to the CGA, UK consumers in August 2020 favoured returning to pubs and restaurants over bars and late-night venues.

    ► The 2021 US Michelin Restaurant Guide has been put on hold whilst the ceremony announcing the UK & Ireland’s latest Michelin Guide has been put back to early 2021.  It will also be a digital-only publication for the first time in its history.

    ► Despite huge increases in the sale of alcohol at UK supermarkets, where shoppers have also traded up to more expensive wines, the overall UK consumption of alcohol halved during lockdown, according to Nielsen.

    ► Waitrose has reported that its online wine sales have grown 238% during lockdown and claims that the trend is unlikely to be reversed post-pandemic.

    ► Restaurants located in London’s commuter belt have recovered more quickly than those in the city centre, since being allowed to reopen in July.  More people working from home has been the key.

  • Cognac, An Investment in Time

    investmentA little more than fifty years ago, I tasted my first early vintage cognac. It was a landmark tasting since, for the first time, I was able to understand the complexity of flavours which develop over time and create some of the most sought after cognac properties, which only a few people will ever be able to appreciate.  Unlike any other spirit, the flavour of fine cognac is generated over a long period of time in a barrel. Many of the finest cognacs have been aged for 50 years or even more and in some rare cases have been slowly maturing for as long as 80 years in the same barrel. This is, of course, longer than many cellar masters live and reflects the dedication to creating perfection, investment and value for the future of their individual houses and families.

    Many people invest in whisky but unlike whisky, the barrel age of cognac is of much greater significance. Cognac starts its life with very little flavour whilst a new whisky already has the background flavour of the malt which is enhanced by the ageing process.  Cognac producers must wait for the flavours to develop so the investment in time is high for both the cognac itself and the cellar master who may never taste the final qualities of his spirit.

    Cognac is made once a year after the grape harvest in September/October.  More than 90% will be sold within the first 18 months to the big houses where it will be blended into commercial and generic blends.  The very finest of the year’s production, less than 1% of that produced, will be saved and placed in cherished cellars known as “Paradis” where it will be carefully aged and looked after by generations of cellar masters for the families’ future.

    The total cognac production is less than a tenth of that of whisky but many vintage cognacs will have aged in oak barrels for more than twice as long as any other spirit.  They will have been aged in different cellars by different cellar masters and in different conditions. The barrels may have been toasted differently, have held different cognacs in the past and perhaps been kept in different parts of the cellar.  Each different barrel condition may have a profound effect on the cognac it holds and in doing so will create qualities far beyond and uniquely different to any other spirit. Every bottle has a different story to tell, a romance between a unique liquid history and man. Cognac has a symphony of styles and flavours and a history of greatness and, after more than fifty years of tasting cognac, I am still learning and still finding something new. My investment in cognac has rewarded me hugely and is still doing so.  The story of cognac still goes on and its value continues to increase.

  • Hermitage 1960 Wins The Cognac Trophy At IWSC 2020

    Cognac TrophyHaving received news that Hermitage Single Estate Cognacs won three Gold Medals or better at IWSC 2020, we have just found out that Hermitage 1960 Grande Champagne Cognac won The Cognac Trophy.

    Scoring 98 points the judges commented:

    "Exceedingly complex and broad in its depth of aromas and flavours.  Prominent notes of refreshing and zingy sherbet are united with red berries and smooth hints of fine leather for a seamlessly crafted and decadently elegant enjoyable palate."

    In celebration of this fantastic news we are offering 10% Off this magnificent cognac throughout October.  Distilled 60 years ago, it is the perfect gift for anyone born in 1960.

  • Decanter Magazine Features Hermitage Cognacs 1885, 1920, 1923 & 1944

    DecanterDavid Longfield has written in Decanter magazine describing the excitement of  tasting some of our most precious nectars with MD, David Baker.  All produced over 75 years ago, these Grande Champagne vintages are some of the best we have ever stocked.  Here is a snippet of the article to whet your appetite.  The entire piece can be read here.

    "Hermitage Cognac works with top Cognac houses to hunt out small parcels of such old spirits still preserved among the five or six hundred independent producers around the region, looking primarily for those with verifiable vintage dates or age statements that define how long they’ve spent in barrel."

    Longfield goes onto write "The barrel ageing, and the conditions of the cellars in which it takes place, are the critical factors, Baker says: ‘It’s really what fine Cognacs are all about.’  He continues: ‘This ageing process develops [over many years] into what we call “rancio” – a kind of madeirisation, a richness and sweetness. I think this is highly sought-after: a natural richness, not a sugary sweetness.’"

     

  • Bhakta Innovates in the Armagnac Market

    Last time we reported that Whistle Pig founder, Raj Bhakta, had bought the armagnac house Maison Ryst Dupeyron.  One wonders if he intends to do for armagnac what he did for rye whiskey over the past decade? After just 12 years of trading, Whistle Pig has become the leading supplier of rye whiskey and sells over 1.2 million cases per year.  Bhakta’s interest in armagnac began in 2017 when Whistle Pig took its priciest rye whiskey and finished it in armagnac barrels. The result, the Black Prince, won best overall whiskey at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. No longer a shareholder in Whistle Pig, Bhakta is now embarking on a new project with his armagnac house purchase.  His first release, Bhakta 50, is a blend of 8 vintages with a minimum age of 50 years which has been finished in smoky, Islay Scotch casks followed by new armagnac casks.  Bhakta feels that this “freshens up” the old spirit, although as a result, it can no longer be called ‘armagnac’.  Keen to bridge the gap between whiskey and armagnac he wants to be creative and “deliver a product of great value and rarity”.  It will be interesting to see if such innovation boosts armagnac’s presence across the brown spirits marketplace.

  • Sustainability in the Drinks Industry

    sustainabilityWe have often reported how the drinks industry is changing its production methods to become more environmentally friendly but now the products themselves are under the spotlight.  A European group, the Circular Economy Platform for Glass Collection & Recycling, is aiming to have 90% of all EU glass packaging recycled by 2030; the figure currently stands at 76%.  A consumer survey found that 80% of Europeans still prefer buying wine and spirits in glass bottles and spending on products packaged in glass has risen 51% in the last 3 years.  The ‘Close the Glass Loop’ group, supported by Spirits Europe, also aims to improve the quality of the recycled glass as currently only 52% of it ends up back in the production loop. However, this has not stopped the production of alternative packaging.  Wine sold in cans has really taken off and Waitrose is pioneering a new sustainable packaging – wine in tubes.  Following their aim to become the leading sustainable retailer in the UK, the ‘bag in tube’ wines are 100% recyclable and contain the equivalent of 3 x 75cl bottles. Once opened, the wine will remain fresh for 10 days longer than when in a glass bottle.  Sustainable packaging has also inspired the Paper Bottle Company (Paboco) which is being supported by Pernod Ricard.  Remy Martin have gone one step further and announced that they will discontinue gift boxes on a number of their products, in certain markets, in order to reduce waste and improve sustainability.

  • The Double Rancio Effect

    Double RancioAround 40 years ago I was privileged to be given what today I would describe as, one of the 10 finest cognacs in the world. I was staying at one of the finest hotels in Monaco and the sommelier, whose name was Georges, poured me a glass of A E Dor Hors d’Age No 5, 1840 Grande Champagne. He was seeking my opinion and needless to say, I was completely taken with it.  One of the greatest achievements a cellar master can claim is the production of a balanced cognac with a perfect rancio and this cognac did not disappoint.  Rancio is an intense richness that affects every taste bud in your mouth, providing intense syrupy flavours, as experienced after tasting a 100 year old Malmsley, with the aromas of an old madeira cellar.

    Unbelievably, I have recently found a similarly wonderful cognac, but it has even more exquisite qualities.  Its slightly musty aromas of spices, dried fruit peel, pineapple and roasted nuts combined with dates, liquorice, cocoa and molasses are only an introduction to the intense complexity of aromas and flavours which provide another step of fulfilment in the tasting of fine cognac; one that only a few of us will experience in our lives.  It encompasses the joy of discovering that there is another level of perfection, a perfection that takes a cognac from being one of the ten best to being the very best.  It is the nectar poured from the golden chalice, the pinnacle of perfection and the cognac we can usually only dream about.

    So, what is it that makes this cognac so special? In this very exclusive world of fine cognac the term rancio does not occur often and usually, when it does, we are referring to very old cognacs from Grande Champagne. There is a reason for this. Cognacs from the Premier cru age much more slowly than those from the other crus.  This is due to the soil, or rather I should say chalk, which in the area south of the town of Cognac and north of the river Ne is particularly porous.  The vine roots here can penetrate up to 30 metres into the water margins and as a result, the grapes are fuller producing a more flavourful wine which takes longer to develop in the barrel.

    But it is not the cognac alone that creates a rancio effect. Not so far from the Charente, lie the forests of Limousin where, over hundreds of years, oak has been cut and re-planted to make the barrels in which cognacs are aged. The staves are split and left to age for 5 years before they are cut and formed into barrels. The barrels are toasted just enough to burn off the harmful tannins but leave the good tannins to help mature the new cognac. After some months this new cognac is moved to an older home, into previously used barrels where it will stay until it is decided that the cognac is ready to bottle. This can take up to 80 years when usually all the tannins, lignins and hemi-cellulose in the barrels have been used up and can no longer have an effect on the cognac.  The hemi-cellulose lasts the longest in the wood and it is this that imparts the desirable richness we call rancio.  It was the depth of rancio that made the AE Dor Hors d’Age No 5 so very special but at only 34% abv, the flavours, though easier to detect, may not preserve well.

    Now, imagine what would happen if you aged a Grande Champagne cognac, with all the qualities of AE Dor 1840, in a barrel for 100 years and then put it into another barrel where the hemi-cellulose was still available.  It would provide a ‘double rancio' and that is exactly what happened to one of our cognacs.  It was, after 100 years of ageing, placed back into wood for another 10 - 12 years and the result was the accomplishment of excellence.

    That cognac is our Hermitage 1885 Grande Champagne @46% abv.

  • IWSC 2020 Excellent Results for Hermitage Cognacs

    IWSC 2020The results are out and we are delighted to report the results for Hermitage Cognacs in the recent International Wines & Spirits Competition (IWSC 2020).

    A GOLD OUTSTANDING medal winner was described as "An outstanding spirit with a naturally exceptional balance, complexity and power. An example that immediately sets itself apart from others in the category."  This was awarded to:

    Hermitage 1920 Grande Champagne Cognac "Outstanding in complexity and structure with an enigmatic palate composed on an abundance of intricate layers of texture." Judges' comments.

    Hermitage 1960 Grande Champagne Cognac "Exceedingly complex and broad in its depth of aromas and flavours." Judges' comments.

    A GOLD Medal winner was described as "An excellent spirit with an exceptional balance and rare and complex flavours. An example that stand out against its peers." and awarded to:

    Hermitage 2008 Grande Champagne Cognac "Fresh and powerful with a wealth of flavours delivered through a very expressive and complex set of aromas on the palate." Judges' comments.

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