The last few months of 2018 were, as always, very busy here at Brandyclassics as we worked hard to meet the ever-increasing demand for brandies at Christmas. Our Hermitage Cognacs took centre stage as we enjoyed some fantastic write-ups in the national press. Articles in the Guardian, the Financial Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Mail on Sunday all added to the excitement and we sold our last bottle of Hermitage 2008 Grande Champagne Cognac a few days before Christmas. Now back in stock, this latest addition to our range has been a much-featured success story. Although only 10 years old, it has a tremendous depth of flavour and all the characteristics of being much, much older. In total only 200 bottles are available so if you have not bought yours yet do hurry, it will not be around for long!
News from the Brandy Houses
1805 Cognac Massougnes fetches over £200,000 through London fine wine merchant Hedonism Wines
Hermitage Cognacs have provided one of the most expensive bottles of cognac ever sold in the UK, which has just been sold by London Fine Wine merchant, Hedonism Wines, for over £200,000. The imperial three-quarter gallon bottle of Cognac Massougnes was acquired by Hermitage Cognacs some 20 years ago from Marie-Antoinette des Allées, Comtesse de la Bourdelière, whose family owns the former Cognac producing estate.
Hermitage Managing Director David Baker takes up the story:
“In over 30 years of buying and selling cognac, this 1805 is one of the oldest and rarest I have ever come across. Massougnes produced historically famous cognacs pre-Phylloxera (the louse which devastated most of France’s vineyards in the 1860s), and we have dated their records back to at least 1730, making them the oldest known growers and sellers of brandies.
“At its peak the property covered 346 hectares, and Marie-Antoinette, who is the last remaining descendant of this famous family has written a charming note about the ‘life’ of this extraordinary cognac, which was created in the same year as the Battle of Trafalgar.”
Marie-Antoinette des Allées is a direct descendant of Louis VII and Eleanor of Aquitaine and their children, King Richard of England and King John.
Hermitage is focused on selling only the very best Grande Champagne cognac. Hermitage Cognacs have since 1987 established a peerless reputation as suppliers of the very finest cognacs from old family houses where traditions and skills date back over hundreds of years. It is thanks to Hermitage’s unique relationships, forged over decades, that they have access to the best examples, each one uniquely different, with examples such as this dating back to the end of the 19th Century and beyond.
This is the second such bottling from Massougnes which Hermitage have been able to source; another bottle sold for a similar sum in 2016. The identity of the purchaser has not been disclosed.
It would be difficult for me to write another Technical Topic without mentioning Nick Faith who very sadly passed away on 26 September 2018. Nick was a friend whom I have known for more than 25 years. But he was more than that, He was a giant in the cognac industry.
As a financial journalist Nick wrote regularly in the Financial Times and the Economist. He also wrote many books on drink. His first, called The Winemasters, was published in 1978 and won the André Simon Award. Another, and one of his finest was a rather grand full-sized book with many illustrations but actually, he was best known for his book simply called Cognac. It was first published in 2004 (the last edition was published in 2013) and is regarded by many as the Standard in the industry. Here at Hermitage, we still use it occasionally for reference. In 1996 he founded the International Spirits Challenge and in 2010 he was the first recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award given by the Bureau National Interprofessional de Cognac (BNIC), the ruling body of Cognac. As a fellow traveller to the Cognac region, Nick loved to visit us here at Hermitage Cognacs and talk about the industry, tasting our cognacs and finishing up with lunch and a beer before I took him back to Chippenham to return on the train, another of his loves.
Nick Faith will be sorely missed, not just as a great authority on cognacs but as an inspiration to the industry, he was one of the Cognac Greats.
Another fantastic result for the Hermitage stable as three of our newest additions are awarded prestigious medals at this year's International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC 2018). GOLD OUTSTANDING Medals were received by our latest vintages:
Hermitage 1948 Grande Champagne Cognac. Judges comments: "On the palate this cognac is extremely rich and concentrated. Perfectly balanced."
Hermitage 1944 Grande Champagne Cognac. Judges comments: "Absolutely superb! Do not wait to drink this."
All three of our winners are from the top cru as a GOLD Medal was also awarded to the Hermitage 30 Year Old Grande Champagne Cognac. Judges comments: "Powerful yet elegant on the palate. Very complex, very long finish."
We are really excited about the latest Hermitage 1944 Cognac to make it onto our shelves.
Distilled almost 75 years ago and aged for more than half a century, the Hermitage 1944 Grande Champagne Cognac is truly wonderful. It has a rich complexity of aromas and flavours which last for ages on the palate and they are all wrapped up in a rich rancio .... what more could you wish for?
This really is a little bit of cognac heaven.
Another company seeking to recreate a cognac from a past era (see The Bottle Story) is Larsen. A barrel of their 40 year old Cognac has been transported to a 20-metre-high sea fort, at the mouth of the River Charentes, where it will remain for several months. The aim is to replicate the ageing conditions that Cognac would have undergone hundreds of years ago and see how maritime weather affects the finished product. Larsen’s Cellar Master said: “Traditionally, in the 18th and 19th centuries, shallow boats were loaded with barrels of Cognac before crossing oceans to markets all over the world. The sea and sea travel had an unquestionable influence on the final ageing of the eaux-de-vie.” This barrel will form part of Larsen’s new ‘Hymne au Voyage’ range, which aptly translates as ‘tribute to travel’. Although this latest idea has been dubbed experimental, remember that ‘early landed’ cognacs, which mature in UK cellars, have also made a sea voyage to their final ageing destination.
Alexandre Bisquit established his famous cognac trading house in Jarnac in 1819. When his daughter married Adrien Dubouché in 1848, his son-in-law’s name was added to the firm. It remained in family hands until the mid-60s when it was sold to Paul Ricard. Latterly it was owned by Distell but earlier this year it was sold again, to the Campari group, for over 50 million Euros. In many ways the purchase of Bisquit Dubouché by M. Ricard was the start of the firm’s real growth. Not only did he buy the biggest chateau in the region, with more than 200 hectares of vines, he also built a massive distillery at Lignères which had 64 stills. Bisquit cognacs have quite a nutty and fruity style which is admired by many in the industry (compare with our Hermitage 20 yo GC Cognac). As with most of the medium to large-sized houses, their need for more cognacs grew over the years so they also buy in wine and ‘eau de vie’. What a shame that another cognac house has gone to one of the multi-faceted “sell it all” groups.
We are really looking forward to 2018 as two more Hermitage celebration vintages are added to our stores. An exceptional Borderies 1958 cognac was the first to arrive and it has just been joined by a rare, Grande Champagne gem from 1938. Wonderful, single estate, vintage cognacs but particularly special for those with a 60th or 80th celebration this year.
The full range of Hermitage celebration vintages comprises:
And if it’s armagnac you’re after, we have the following vintages in stock:
Chinese customs officials have recently uncovered more than US$29m of smuggled spirits and here is the story behind the news ….. More than twenty years ago, in our quest to find top quality Grande Champagne cognacs, we stumbled upon a cognac house called Menuet. You may have seen their cognacs on our web site, the 50 year old was a particular star. Sadly, the firm became embroiled in financial difficulties and because we understood both the firm and others around, we were able to assist by finding another organisation which could provide support. Menuet recovered its position and continued to sell in international markets. In due course however, the owner decided to sell the company to a Chinese named Mr Yang - he used the Menuet brand name to sell brandies in bulk to China, seemingly without paying duty or tax. Apparently, he mixed small quantities of cognac with huge volumes of cheap grape brandy. That is, until it was discovered recently by Chinese customs ….. What is really upsetting about this story is that a highly respected name, that once supplied some of the finest cognacs we have tasted, has been ruined by an unscrupulous Chinese operator prepared to supply cheap brandy in Cognac 1er cru bottles.
One of the most highly regarded names in the cognac industry, Max Cointreau, died on 19 October at his home in Gensac la Pallue, near Cognac aged 94. Max was joint managing director of Frapin, in the heart of Grande Champagne, having started his career in 1942 presiding over the Domaine Château de Fontpinot.
In the early days, his firm worked closely with Remy Martin supplying many of their wines and eaux de vie. However, in the 1950s he refused to marry the elder daughter of Andre Renaud, of Remy Martin, choosing instead to marry her younger sister. This created a major disagreement and Remy therefter refused to buy their brandies from Frapin. Max lost control of Remy and Cointreau but managed to retain the prestigious Château Fontpinot. He subsequently resurrected the family Frapin brand and in due course, the historic brand of Gosset Champagne too.
Max served as President of the National Union of Liquor Manufacturers, President of the Social Commission of the National Council of Wine and Spirit for eight years and was appointed a Foreign Trade Advisor of France. He was also the Mayor of Gensac la Palue from 1969 to 2001 and awarded with the Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur, the highest decoration in France.
Frapin has, in past years, produced some wonderful cognacs and memorable vintages; they are regarded highly in the industry with their fine Grande Champagne cognacs. Max Cointreau will be remembered as one of the patriarchs of the cognac industry.