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.
News from the Brandy Houses
We 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 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?
The results are out! We entered 4 of our ever-expanding range of Grande Champagne cognacs into The Spirits Business Cognac Masters this year and came away with 2 x GOLD medals and 2 x MASTER medals. These could be our best results yet.
GOLD medals were awarded to:
MASTER Medals were awarded to:
Hermitage 40 Year Old Grande Champagne Cognac - “Wonderfully complex” Judges comments and Hermitage Eleanor 60 + Year Old Grande Champagne Cognac “Stunning palate … long finish” Judges comments. Price and availability of Hermitage Eleanor in on application.
Not only have we had a record year with the introduction of new Hermitage Cognac vintages, the range has also been awarded an unprecedented number of GOLD Medals. The latest, received from the Luxury Spirits Masters 2019, are for:
Hermitage 1923 Grande Champagne Cognac. A particularly fine example of a 1920s cognac that has taken many decades to reach perfection.
"This has a gorgeous flavour, somewhere between a sultana and a sun-dried apricot with the spirit framing the layers with impeccable integration." Olly Smith, Wines & Spirits Expert
Hermitage 1995 Grande Champagne Cognac. This wonderful cognac comes from the same distillery as our award-winning 1999 vintage but has aged for a longer period, enabling a greater complexity of flavours. It is a rich and beautifully finished cognac, fit for a king.
This year we have had an amazing number of new Hermitage Vintage Cognacs added to the range. We have been thrilled to find so many exquisite and unique cognacs packed with wonderful aromas and flavours for you to enjoy. Many are now Gold medal winners as blind judging panels across the globe have also recognised their superior qualities.
We have not had the chance to tell you about these three yet:
Hermitage Paradis 1893 Grande Champagne Cognac. This was an extremely lucky find as it is regarded by many as one of the finest vintages to come from this important period.
Hermitage 1970 Fins Bois Cognac. It is rare to find cognacs from the Fins Bois in the Hermitage range but this one is special.
Hermitage 1991 Grande Champagne Cognac. Our last 1991 vintage ran out so we were delighted to find such a magnificent replacement with this one from Chez Richon.
Rémy 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 IWSC 2019 Awards have just been announced and we are delighted to report that Hermitage Cognacs are once again amongst the winners with three cognac gold medals.
Leading the way is the Hermitage 1950 Grande Champagne Cognac which was awarded a GOLD OUTSTANDING medal. ‘Classically good old cognac. Rancio to the fore, with a quite wonderful palate’ Judges' comments
GOLD Medals were also awarded to two other Grande Champagne Cognacs:
Hermitage 1940 Cognac ‘Wonderfully powerful aromas that absolutely typify good, old cognacs’ Judges' comments
Hermitage 1945 Cognac ‘The real personification of just how good and elegant old cognac can be’ Judges' comments
We are truly at the height of summer here in the UK. France has experienced extremes of weather again this year, but the growing season is going well. As ever DB has been searching out new cognacs for you to enjoy and recently, he added four new vintages to the Hermitage stable. From the top cru, Grande Champagne, comes Hermitage 1940 Cognac. A beautifully balanced amber nectar, with aromas of chestnuts and truffles, it was produced in the year Winston Churchill became British Prime Minister and ordered the Dunkirk Evacuation. Also from Grande Champagne comes Hermitage 1950 Cognac - a real joy to taste with flavours including plum crumble with a blood orange peel finish. Hermitage 1970 Fins Bois Cognac was harvested in the year Concorde made its first supersonic flight. It is rare to find cognacs from the Fins Bois in the Hermitage range but this one is really very special. And finally, our highly prized, much sought after Hermitage 1999 Grande Champagne Cognac has nearly run out but fortunately we have found an equally magnificent Hermitage 1995 Grande Champagne Cognac with which to replace it. Aged for a longer period, it has a greater complexity of flavours including butterscotch, cocoa, walnuts and baked apples. We are very excited by our latest find. It is rich and beautifully balanced, ..… you will not be disappointed.
We also continue to increase our range of vintage cognacs, armagnacs and calvados. Our stock now includes vintage brandies from every year from 1928 – 2002 & a few more besides. If you are looking for a specific year, just search on our website or give us a ring (01225 863988).
Across our website we have very special gift ideas and presents for all years of birth but these latest vintage cognacs to arrive in the Hermitage range will be perfect for those celebrating 50, 70 or 80 years in 2020.
From the top cru, Grande Champagne, comes Hermitage 1940 Cognac. A beautifully balanced amber nectar, with aromas of chestnuts and truffles, it was produced in the year Winston Churchill became British Prime Minister and ordered the Dunkirk Evacuation. Also from Grande Champagne comes Hermitage 1950 Cognac - a real joy to taste with flavours including plum crumble with a blood orange peel finish.
Hermitage 1970 Fins Bois Cognac was harvested in the year Concorde made its first supersonic flight. It is rare to find cognacs from the Fins Bois in the Hermitage range but this one is really very special.