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Massougnes Bonbonne 150 -200 Years Old

Massougnes Bonbonne

We have had this fabulous 150 -200 year old bonbonne for decades; it was given to us by The Comtesse de Bordelaise.  She is a direct descendant of the last French Royalty, King Louis VII and Eleanor of Aquitaine and has direct links with the British Royal Family.  Although frail, she still lives on the remains of the Massougnes Estate near Aigre.

Once large and famous, the Massougnes estate has diminished considerably in size but over the years we have bought a few bottles of fabulous, historic and rare Massougnes cognacs from the Comtesse.  She shared some of their story with us in a handwritten note, translated and summarised thus:

The Massougnes estate is about 400 years old and descendents of the original owner still live there.  In 1800, it comprised 180 hectares with 40 – 50 members of staff.  All was well until a terrible disease ‘Phylloxera’ destroyed the vines during the 1870s decade and most were never replanted.  Instead, the estate took to raising wheat, barley oats, cows and horses.  The old bottles of cognac were, however, well looked after.  Every ten years the closures (cork & wax) were changed so the cognac remained at its strength of 41% abv.  Thanks to this care the bottles of Massougnes cognac, harvested over 200 years ago, have been preserved in accordance with the family motto ‘All heart. All honour’. 

Truly, history in a bottle, or in this case a Massougnes Bonbonne.

Hermitage Single Cru Cognacs

Hermitage Single Cru Cognacs

A single cru cognac, like those offered by Hermitage Cognac, elevates the art of cognac making. While many high-end cognacs boast of fancy presentations and limited editions, the focus often shifts away from the liquid within. Hermitage, on the other hand, offers cognacs sourced from single estates in single crus.  While most hail from Grande Champagne, exceptions from Petite Champagne and Borderies offer a diverse range of profiles.  Each has either an age statement describing how many years it has spent in the barrel or is a vintage.  These vintage cognacs are found in one or two barrels, distilled in a specific year, untouched and unblended. Each bottle has unique flavours, akin to the revered concept of ‘Single Cask’ in whisky circles.

Hermitage Cognac, epitomising excellence, carefully selects eaux de vie for their quality and flavour.  The distinction lies not only in the exquisite taste but also in the transparency of the production process. Unlike some competitors, Hermitage Cognac vintages provide details about the year of distillation, ensuring a genuine connection with the history of each bottle. For instance, the Hermitage 1944 Grande Champagne Cognac, priced at just £860, offers a taste of a century-old harvest.

In the realm of premium cognac, where rarity often comes at an astronomical cost, Hermitage Cognac’s focus on single cru cognacs shines as beacons of value.  As Jean Monnet aptly noted, making cognac requires waiting, and Hermitage Cognac exemplifies this virtue. For those seeking the finest and most individual premier cru cognacs, Hermitage stands as a distinguished choice, offering a blend of history, craftsmanship, and unparalleled taste.

The Drinks Business – Boutique Cognac Houses

Boutique Cognac HousesRichard Woodward writing in The Drinks Business last week, about Boutique Cognac Houses, names Hermitage Cognac as an independent bottler focused on the highest quality:

“Cognac has close to 80,000 hectares of vineyard … cultivated by some 4,000 growers …  . Twenty years ago, there were 8,000 vignerons in Cognac, illustrating a growing professionalism as small landowners exit the industry.

That picture of consolidation extends to brand owners, with Cognac’s “big four” – Hennessy, Martell, Rémy Martin and Courvoisier – accounting for more than 80% of global consumption. That leaves little space for smaller operations, but a number of boutique houses still carve out a niche for themselves, pitching their artisanal credentials against the might of that dominant quartet.

Most growers sell the vast majority of their production to big houses, but many still bottle their own Cognac as well. The best of these are the hidden gems of the region – growers such as Château Montifaud, Jean Fillioux and Michel Forgeron, or David Baker’s Hermitage Cognacs – an independent bottler focused on the highest quality.”

Read the complete article here.

Brandyclassics’ Massougnes 1802 Cognac Re-emerges At Auction

Massougnes 1802We were delighted to welcome Paddy Shave from Brightwells Auction House to our offices a few weeks ago.  He brought with him an imperial half gallon (2.27 litres) bottle of Massougnes 1802 Cognac which had passed through our hands almost thirty years ago.  We are fortunate to have acquired a number of these large bottles over the years from the owner of the Massougnes Estate, the Comtesse de la Bourdeliere, Marie-Antoinette Pintaurd des Allees – a direct descendant of Henry II and Eleanor of Acquitaine.  This particular bottle from 1802 in the Napoleonic era, was originally sold by us to the Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland, where is was on display for many years.  Still unopened, it was fascinating to see it turn up for sale once more and although the estimated price of £100,000+ was not reached, it still sold for an impressive £52,000.  We have sold one or two of these oversized bottles of Massougnes over the years (vintages range from 1800 to 1812) and still have two for sale on our website.  For those who may wish to try before they buy, one of our Massougnes vintages is still being sold by the measure at The Lanesbrough Hotel in London.


Announcing The Brandy Producer of the Year 2021 …..

Brandy Producer of the YearHermitage Cognacs

Thrilling to hear the International Wine & Spirits Competition announce their Brandy Producer of the Year 2021 this morning ….. “and the winner is Hermitage Cognacs”.  The ceremony can be watched here on  Instagram or on Facebook.

What an amazing accolade especially as we are the first ever British-based cognac house to receive the award.

Our cognacs had amazing success at the IWSC this year:

GOLD OUTSTANDING Medal and The Cognac Trophy was awarded to:

Hermitage 50 Year Old Grande Champagne Cognac

And GOLD Medals were awarded to:

Hermitage 1952 Grande Champagne Cognac

Hermitage 1955 Grande Champagne Cognac

Hermitage Paradis 1890 Grande Champagne Cognac

This haul of medals has culminated in Hermitage Cognacs now winning The Brandy Producer of the Year 2021 which of course recognises the whole Hermitage Cognac range.

Remy Martin Buys Brillet Cognac

Brillet CognacThe Rémy Cointreau Group has announced their acquisition of Maison de Cognac J.R. Brillet which is based at Graves Saint Amant in the Charente.  The Brillet Cognac sale includes 50 hectares of vineyards located in Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne, the Brillet cognacs and Belle de Brillet, a pear and cognac liqueur.   Good to see its ownership remain with a family owned French firm but the big houses often subsume new cognac stocks into huge generic blends where individual flavours are completely lost.  It has taken a year for this sale to be agreed and during that time the Remy Cointreau Group’s sales have been heavily affected by the COVID-19 crisis.  More specifically, the House of Rémy Martin experienced an organic 7.5% drop in sales during 2019/2020.  An interesting time to increase ones cognac production isn’t it?

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.

Rémy To Buy Cognac House, Maison J.R.Brillet

BrilletRémy Cointreau is in negotiations to buy Maison J.R.Brillet, a family-owned cognac business founded in the 17th century.  In addition to the company, the deal is thought to include the family’s vineyard estate and their stock of well-aged eaux de vie.  It is located in the village of Graves-Saint-Armant, on the border of Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne, the top cognac crus.  Announcing the planned takeover, Rémy Cointreau said that it will provide an ‘opportunity to integrate spirits with genuine development potential into its portfolio and to increase, over time, the value of an inventory of eaux-de-vie and vineyards of the highest quality’.  It is always a shame to see another of the small, high quality, independent, family-run cognac producers subsumed into one of the ‘Big 4’.  A piece of Cognac history will come to an abrupt end and the firm’s precious old nectars will probably be blended beyond all recognition.

The Charente Scene – Courvoisier – Summer 2019

Charente 2019, CourvoisierIt seems that we haven’t got enough variations on the theme of cognac as Courvoisier are extending their range of cask finished cognac drinks. Of course, any cognac which is produced outside the rules established over the last hundred or so years, cannot be called cognac.  However, consumers have come to recognise the big brand labels and happily buy what they believe to be cognac, when it has actually been finished in a cask that has held a different alcoholic beverage. Courvoisier, in their plight to obscure the taste of their cognac, have recently added a bourbon cask finish cognac drink to their sherry cask cognac drink. One wonders how long it will be before we see port finished cognac drinks, sauterne finished cognac drinks and perhaps even a Caribbean rum finish. Do they really need to hide the flavour of their cognac so badly?

Championing Small Cognac Producers

The 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?