The level of Duty imposed on alcohol purchases is always a hot topic. Before the recent UK budget, a group of WSTA SMEs wrote to the chancellor asking for a 2% cut in order to help small British companies, like Hermitage Cognacs, invest and grow. Currently the UK has some of the highest alcohol taxes in the world. As we now know, Rishi Sunak did not cut alcohol duty but neither did he increase it by the proposed 2.2%. Something to be thankful for especially since earlier in the year, some UK health organisations were lobbying the government to put Duty up by 2 % above inflation. They argued that alcohol places an undue burden on public services so the extra funds collected could be used to boost the number of nurses or policemen. One really hopes that following the Covid-19 crisis the public will be far more aware of the effect of unnecessarily burdening our public services.
There cannot be a soul who has not been affected by the current coronavirus pandemic but the On Trade has been hit particularly hard. With pubs and restaurants closed worldwide their future is uncertain. A bitter blow, especially as the ONS recently reported that the number of pubs and bars operating in the UK rose last year for the first time in a decade. Here in the UK staff have been furloughed and emergency legislation has given all commercial properties a 3 month rent reprieve. In other attempts to keep the industry afloat, the WTSA called for the collection of alcohol duty to be suspended for 6 months and denounced the timing of the Scottish government’s move to introduce a bottle deposit return scheme. UK duty did not get suspended, but the government did add off-licences to the list of businesses deemed “essential” during the lockdown. One trader in Maryland is trying to keep service going by using its pet boxer dog to deliver orders to the public in the carpark. This follows the WHO advice that pets cannot carry the virus. We have certainly seen some ingenious ways to keep businesses running recently. We are all grateful to the many spirits producers who have turned their skills and equipment to making alcoholic hand sanitisers. Who knows how long the demand for it will go on!?
The basic ingredient is, of course, alcohol. For hand sanitisers to work against viruses, such as the Coronavirus, the alcohol content must be at least 60%. Ethanol alcohol (also called ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol, drinking alcohol, or simply alcohol), mixed with aloe vera gel are the basic ingredients but some hand gels also contain scented oils to make them more pleasant to use. Commercially, iso propyl alcohol (IPA), which is almost identical to ethanol alcohol, is used since it can be purchased at much higher strengths.
Ethanol is produced by distillation. The legal alcohol range in the second distillation of cognac is between 67 – 72.4 degrees so at this stage it is suitable for making hand sanitisers. That said, the quantity of aloe vera which can be added is not as great as sanitisers made with IPA. Hermitage Cognacs often come at natural strength and many of them have an alcoholic strength considerably higher than the minimum (40%) used by many commercial cognac houses.
As is the case with all hand sanitisers at the moment, they should never be used as a replacement for washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
We are open for business as usual so you can send a special gift or birthday present to a loved one you cannot visit or treat yourself during this particularly difficult time at home. We have wonderful French cognac, armagnac and calvados for every year of birth from 1928 to 2002 and we are taking all the recommended hygiene precautions when handling bottles and packaging. If you have any questions please call the office number (01225 863988) as usual.
To make your life a little bit easier we are giving FREE DELIVERY on all UK orders over £100 including VAT, until restrictions are lifted. Please be aware that although we are able to process orders within 1 working day, Parcelforce are not able to guarantee their normal delivery times at present as they are prioritising delivery of essential medical and food items to the most vulnerable. Our deliveries to America may also be delayed, by up to 10 days, due to a shortage of flights.
Ferrand has released a new Grande Champagne cognac called Ferrand 10 Generations. It is a tribute to the 10 generations of the Ferrand family that have been present in Segonzac since the 15th century. Blended from a single grape variety, Ugni Blanc, there is little indication of age so do not be misled by the number 10 on the label. What does make this bottle different though, is the design of the label. It appears to be covered with the intricate pattern of vine roots underground. On closer inspection however, you will see the roots also contain the faces of the 10 family generations. So, if packaging is the most important factor when choosing your cognac, this could be for you!
The Wine Enthusiast Top 100 International Spirits 2019 has listed La Grande Josiane, Orange Armagnac Liqueur, as Number 1 in its Liqueur section. Awarded 95/100 points, this score is the highest ever attributed to a French liqueur. It was described as “Armagnac plus orange liqueur equals a delightful sipper. The rich aroma bursts with orange oil and comforting vanilla. On the palate, nuanced cocoa and coffee wind into a cinnamon-warmed finish, plus just enough alcohol to cut the sweetness.” La Grande Josiane is one of our best sellers from Chateau de Bordeneuve who reported an “abundant and impeccable” harvest last year. Despite the unstable and often extreme weather that characterised 2019, the harvest surpassed all expectations. “Even our youngest Baco varietal vines out-performed their tender years, liberating a rich and unctuous juice - characteristics that are particularly prized for distilling the very best, long-ageing armagnacs. The future 2019 vintage is looking very promising indeed.” said the Castledine, Commercial Director.
Several environmental initiatives, designed to address climate change, have been launched recently:
1. In Cognac, the BNIC has introduced a ban on the chemical weeding of vineyard plots stating that winegrowers must control vegetation ‘by mechanical means’ in order to ‘preserve the terroir’s environment and resources.’ In addition, chemical weeding of field boundaries has been banned. The new ruling must be implemented by August 2020.
2. Closure maker, Diam Bouchage, has announced that using cork “is a long-term contribution to climate change mitigation”. The company claims that its cork production now absorbs more carbon dioxide than it creates. Cork forests help to absorb CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere and the trees are only harvested every 10 years for their bark. Demand for more corks will therefore lead to the planting of more trees. Cork trees live for over 120 years so their effect on the atmosphere is long lived.
3. In an attempt to address the perennial problem of drink packaging, Carlsberg have produced a ‘paper bottle’. Made from sustainably sourced wood fibres, it has a bio-based “inner barrier” which enables the bottle to hold beer and be fully recyclable. Still under development it is hoped that controlled testing will begin in 2020.
Most people associated with cognac are aware that we make it principally with a single grape variety, the Ugni Blanc. Indeed, more than 80% of all cognacs are made only with this grape. However, few people are aware that this is probably the world’s most widely planted grape due largely to its big harvests and reliability against disease and adverse weather conditions. It produces fresh, fruity, very acidic and quite unremarkable wines often used as a base wine in blends. The Ugni Blanc is also known in France as the St Emellion du Charente but in the rest of Europe it is best known as the Trebbiano Toscano.
The Colombard is perhaps one of the more interesting grapes also used in cognac production. It was originally planted in South Africa and known as Colombar and is an offspring of the Chennin Blanc. Some of its many synonyms include Bardino Blanc, Bon Blanc, Chabrier Vert, Colombeau, Gros Blanc Roux, Red Tendre and Quene Vert.
The last remaining of the old varieties still used in cognac is the Folle Blanche. Today, it is only found in France in the regions of The Charente and Gascony but can also be found in Basque country under the name of Mune Mahatsa. It is, like the Ugni Blanc, acidic and quite unremarkable as a wine.
Although rarely seen these days, the other grape varieties that are permitted to be used in cognac production are Juranҫon, Blanc Ramé, Bouilleaux, Balzac Blanc and Chalosse.
Wondering what to buy for Mother's Day 2020? We have a unique selection of brandies and dessert wines to suit every Mum ….
Dupont Dream Calvados Cream with a deliciously clean apple flavour. If she likes cream liqueurs she will love this!
Grappa Torcolato is a beautiful looking addition to any drink’s cabinet. Perfect as an after dinner ‘digestive’ or add to expresso coffee to create a 'caffè corretto'.
Chateau de Beaulon 2000 Pineau des Charentes was created 20 years ago. Delicious and rich it’s perfect on its own or as a dessert wine.
La Grande Josiane, orange armagnac liqueur, serve as an aperitif over ice or mix with sparkling wine for an extra special treat.
William Grant & Son’s Spirit Trends 2020 Report has identified some key trends in the drinks sector. The report says that there is “an upward shift in spending on more meaningful experiences, driving premiumisation in the spirits industry”. Nearly 90% of consumers are likely to treat themselves in the forthcoming year, supporting the upward trend of luxury brand performances across the On and Off Trade sectors. Authenticity is also key with almost half of UK consumers wanting brands to have a point of view and to stand for something. A heightened access to information and awareness of all matters related to health, has resulted in the customer looking for more transparency and simplicity regarding diet and nutrition. From this report we can see it is becoming more and more important to state exactly what is in the bottle. We have always tried to do this by ensuring that all our Hermitage Cognacs carry age statements.