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News

  • Welcome To 2020, Time To Try New Vintages

    2020After the festivities of Christmas and New Year’s Eve it is time to look to the year ahead, 2020.

    We are always on the lookout for interesting cognac vintages from the top crus and the latest additions are no exception.  We have many celebration, cognac vintages ending in a zero for those turning 30, 40, 50 years old etc. and we are very excited to announce we now have one for centenarians.  Hermitage 1920 Grande Champagne Cognac was distilled a hundred years ago before being aged for over 70 years in oak casks.  The result is spectacular.

    We also have new Hermitage 50 Year Old.  Originating in Petite Champagne it is presented at 41% abv to ensure optimum balance.  Big birthdays this year just got a whole lot easier!

  • Loud Music Suppresses Taste

    tasteA professor of experimental psychology at the University of Oxford, has said that “venues playing their music too loud are at risk of dulling diners’ taste buds”.  He also revealed that “loud music can make it harder to discern a drink’s alcohol content, which may drive diners to buy more booze”.  Perhaps certain restaurants are using music to alter diners’ moods – fast food restaurants are known for their high-octane soundtracks which encourage diners to eat quickly and leave.  Fergus Henderson of St. John on the other hand has a no music policy at his Farringdon restaurant, and Nigella Lawson believes a thumping soundtrack is “utterly draining and drowns out the taste of the food”.  Stephen Harris from The Sportsman probably has it right.  He believes the key to a successful restaurant playlist is to pick songs that blend into the background rather than demand to be heard.  That does sound like a much more enjoyable dining experience.  Interestingly, we have previously reported that wine and spirits are described in a similar way to music, as they have different ‘notes’.  Citrus flavours are seen as high notes, while wood and chocolate are low notes. Just wondering whether the choice of background music could influence the customer's choice of cognac ...

  • The Norlan Glass

    Norlan glassThe Norlan Glass is a transparent double walled vessel which creates a hollow body glass with a dramatically different inside shape to outside shape.  The idea is to have a tumbler form, with an improved nosing glass performance.  Certainly, the interior tulip shape is what we advocate for tasting as it allows the cognac to be rolled around the bowl releasing aromas which are then concentrated at the top of the glass.  More than 50% of the enjoyment of any brandy is in the aroma which subconsciously enhances the taste.  Norlan suggest that the double-walled construction also improves the intensity of colour and allows one to inhale and drink the spirit without tilting one’s head back too deeply, which can cut off eye contact.  It is a modern design and no doubt some prefer a bowl over a stemmed glass.  The Norlan glass has built up a large following, however, it is not revered by all. The thickness of the rim is not to everyone’s taste and it’s unusual to hold; presumably because what you see is not what you feel. Other complaints are that it is too lightweight and fragile. All things to consider before parting with £48 for a set of 2

  • Delamain is Growing Vines Again

    DelamainCharles Braastad, Managing Director of Delamain, has issued this statement: “After over a century, we are very pleased to once again be cultivating vines. We originally abandoned the practice in 1910 upon the sale of our ‘Bois Clair’ property in Saint-Brice.  At the time it allowed us to focus on selection, blending and ageing of Grande Champagne Cognacs.  From 2019 the house of Delamain is re-committing to the very first moments in the lives of our Cognacs, to their birth and growth in the vineyards.”  There is considerable investment in terms of time and money required to produce cognac so this decision cannot have been taken lightly.  Perhaps they are struggling to find enough high quality eau de vie for their cognacs?  As demand for cognac is ever increasing and such a large proportion of that produced is purchased by the big houses, this is a sure sign that small firms like Delamain are feeling the squeeze.

  • World And UK Spirits Alliance Formed

    UK Spirits AllianceAn international group has been formed to tackle issues experienced in the complex and changeable spirits industry.  Brexit, trade wars, counterfeiting and debilitating taxes are just a few of the problems that the World Spirits Alliance (WSA) is looking to address.  Comprising spirits companies and trade groups the WSA will represent the industry in front of international organisations such as the World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization and the United Nations.  Just last month the UK launched its own Spirits Alliance with the aim of “protecting and nurturing the growth of UK spirits”.  Its immediate campaign is to stop any further increase of duty on UK spirits.  Currently the government states that spirits duty will go up by the retail price index (RPI) in this year’s Budget.  This is extremely disappointing as 65% of the nation’s distillers have reported increased sales of spirits since chancellor Philip Hammond froze spirits duty in the 2018 Autumn Budget. Spirit duty rates in the UK have increased from £21.35 per litre of pure alcohol in 2008 to £28.74 in 2019, the fourth highest rate in Europe and one of the highest rates in the world. The price of a bottle of cognac sold at 40%abv, such as Hermitage 2005, therefore includes £8.05 duty.  A spokesperson for the UK Spirits Alliance said: “From Inverness to Penderyn, spirits producers across the country are joining up to back the campaign to fix duty”.

  • Choose The Right Christmas Cognac

    Christmas CognacThis Christmas the big cognac houses will tell you in very general terms why you should buy their Christmas Cognac either for yourself, or as a gift. The differences in taste and price between one and another will not be significant.   The attractive presentation of each cognac will, however, undoubtedly attract millions of customers, but the question I would ask is:

    “Do I want to buy an attractive looking presentation or, do I want to buy a cognac that is memorable for its taste and quality and provides great satisfaction when it is drunk?”

    To answer this let’s look at the facts behind the production and ageing of blended and single estate cognacs. In order to meet production and sales objectives the large cognac houses blend hundreds of different, young cognacs, made by hundreds or even thousands of different producers.  This produces generic blends referred to as VS, VSOP or XO where the highest quality is only required to have been in the barrel, ageing, for ten years.  The youthfulness of these blended cognacs means that sugar syrup and caramel will have to be added to hide their fiery qualities.

    Single estate cognacs, on the other hand, come from a single producer who ages his cognacs in his own cellar.  They will often carry an indication of barrel age, which is likely to be significantly older than ten years and as a result, most will not contain any sugar syrup or caramel.

    At Hermitage we take the selection of our cognacs further. We seek pure cognacs from the top cru, Grande Champagne, that have been aged for a minimum of ten years. Hermitage Cognacs are also carefully selected for their individual qualities, lack of fieriness (as this improves balance), and great taste. They don’t cost any more than the heavily blended VSOPs or XOs, but they are a little more difficult to find.  Each one must meet our very high standards and may only come as a single batch of a few hundred bottles.

    “So, will you buy your cognac this Christmas for the shape of the bottle or the bottle’s contents?”

  • Christmas Gift Set of Award-Winning Cognac

    Christmas Gift SetThe Hermitage 45 Year Old Grande Champagne Cognac is one of David's favourite cognacs of all time so this year, we are offering it in a Christmas Gift Set comprising a 20Cl bottle and one of our exclusive Hermitage Cognacs tulip-shaped tasting glasses. It is a wonderful opportunity to try one of our Gold medal winning cognacs at a fraction of the price. These sets are in very limited supply so don't hang about, order yours today.

    The Hermitage 45 Year Old is a cognac of great distinction which must not be hurried as the many aromas and flavours need to be discovered slowly. Presented at 44% abv, it is a fabulous Christmas present for the cognac connoisseur.

  • Artificial Tasting Tongue Created

    artificial tasting tongueScientists have produced an artificial tasting tongue.  It is made from sub-microscopic slices of gold and aluminium which create ‘tastebuds’ that are around 500 times smaller than the human equivalent.  Subtle differences in how the metals absorb light allow the ‘tongue’ to identify individual spirits with more than 99% accuracy.  Picking up differences in complex chemical mixtures, sometimes resulting from barrel type and length of maturation, it is hoped that the ‘tongue’ will be used to identify counterfeit products.  Artificial tongues have been produced before, but this is the first time that two different types of nanoscale metal ‘tastebuds’ have been used so the results are faster and more accurate.  So, is this a threat to our industry’s sommeliers?  Perhaps not.  It may well be more sensitive than the most highly tuned palates, but it cannot describe taste nor identify balance, skills which we specialise in here at Hermitage Cognacs.  Those skills are of course subjective but put together with experience and knowledge of the marketplace our sommeliers and competition judges are certainly not out of a job yet. However, those who choose to undermine the industry by flooding the market with fake goods should take note.

  • The Charente Scene - Autumn 2019

    Autumn 2019The Charentais have returned from their holidays confident in the knowledge that last years’ exports of cognac reached record highs.  They are now busy worrying about when they can start the cognac harvest. The weather has been good and the vines have ripened well, the sun is shining and there is every prospect of another good harvest in Autumn 2019. Harvesting machines are at the ready and the grapes have been tested for their pH and sugar content, so what’s stopping them?  Well, for one cognac producer, the discovery of 140 million year old dinosaur bones under the vines of his vineyard near Angeac has resulted in a group of scientists moving in.  It is believed that the bones are from one of the biggest dinosaurs ever found in France and are just a little older than the oldest Hermitage cognac currently available on the market!

  • 40th Birthday Gifts for this year and next

    40th Birthday GiftsWe have spent many years searching for a 40 Year Old Cognac that meets our standards and so it is very exciting to report that the Hermitage 40 Year Old Grande Champagne Cognac has arrived.  A great cognac for any occasion but especially for those celebrating a 40th Anniversary or 40th Birthday.  If you are looking for 40th Birthday Gifts for next year, two other new arrivals that you may wish to consider are the Baron de Saint-Fauste 1980 Bas Armagnac and the Chateau de Beaulon 1980 Fins Bois Cognac, both distilled 40 years ago.   Before you choose though, do check out all our brandies from 1980, we have vintage cognacs, armagnacs and calvados.

     

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