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Hermitage Provenance Cognacs Win Masters Medals

We are delighted to announce that three of our new Hermitage Provenance range of single estate cognacs, produced for the Asian market, have won medals at the 2014 Cognac Masters Awards.

The Hermitage Provenance Grand Champagne 10 year old, Grand Champagne 25 year old and Petite Champagne 30 year old were all awarded Masters Medals. This exciting array of awards proves that it is not just us that think our cognacs are the best, the judges were obviously bowled over too!

Yet another accolade for our exceptional Hermitage Cognac Range – single estate, luxury, vintage cognacs with age statements – surely the most decorated cognac house in existence today.

Suntory Acquires Beam – Japanese Drinks Company becomes the Third Largest

Suntory Holdings Limited, based in Osaka, and US based Beam Inc. have announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement whereby Suntory will acquire all shares of Beam in a deal worth $16bn.  The acquisition, which will bring together Beam’s Courvoisier Cognac with Suntory’s Louis Royer Cognac, amongst other famous brands, is expected to make it the third largest supplier of premium spirits in the world, with a stated aim of becoming the global leader in distilled spirits.  Wasting no time on its expansion plans, it is reported that Suntory have subsequently made a bid to buy Whyte & Mackay whisky which has been put up for sale by fellow drinks giant, Diageo.  Competition concerns by the UK Office of Fair Trading forced Diageo to make this sale following its takeover of United Spirits.  One therefore has to question the motive of Suntory in making this move as they may now be heading for a run in with the OFT themselves.  So many cognac houses have been bought up of late it is always a concern to see the control of one of the big four moving to the Far East.  Monopolies of this size cannot be good for the cognac industry however we are in no doubt that our own House, Hermitage, will survive.

Hermitage Export Success takes us to VINEXPO 2014

Hermitage Cognac is found in many countries including the Middle East and Russia but this year Thailand has taken its first full container shipment of our second brand, Siécle d’Or, 10 and 20 year old cognacs. The 6000 bottle shipment is available at all of the Thai Duty Free shops and outlets and we are expecting a further order from them later this year. Demand for our Hermitage and Siécle d’Or Cognacs, with age statements, continues to grow as customers seek greater levels of individuality so, for the first time in the company’s history, we will be exhibiting at VINEXPO 2014 in Hong Kong in May.  The exhibition is held in Bordeaux and Hong Kong on alternate years and is regarded by most industry professionals as the world’s biggest wines and spirits exhibition. We will be launching new products and presentations at the show and hope to be attracting buyers from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and South Korea as well as the key China market.

Trouble Afoot at Remy Martin?

There have been significant changes at Remy Martin over the past month.  First, it was announced that their Cellar Master, of 10 years, is to be replaced in the spring and then, last week, their newly appointed CEO resigned after only 3 months in post.  Although his resignation came as a surprise, it coincided with some poor company results.  Stock levels have dropped by 23% since he took over in October and operating profit is expected to be down by 20% at the end of the fiscal year.  These personality changes suggest that all is not well at Remy. It would seem that the Board is on a quest for a more profit driven approach, no doubt at the expense of quality.  We have seen similar changes at family rivals, Frapin, in recent times.  A drive to expand saw their extremely talented Cellar Master, Olivier Paultes, move on and the running of the company being passed down a generation.  Their cognac may never be quite the same again.

Chinese buy Roullet Fransac

Next time you go to Cognac pop into any producer and ask them who is next door and they won’t know, but ask them if they know George Roullet and the answer will either be a look, suggesting you should leave the premises quickly, or a fit of laughter. Roullet Fransac is situated on the quay next to Hennessy in Cognac.  It therefore offers clients visiting Hennessy a chance to browse around the dusty shelves of its premises for an alternative to the sticky, sugary, caramel offerings next door. George would buy his cognacs from local chais in Grande Champagne, including his old family firm in Cherminac. Admittedly, he had some good cognacs but whether George ever knew what was good and what was not so good is debatable but what he did know, even when enjoying his Paris apartment, was a good deal. As the CEO of one famous old house once said, “George is George”. No doubt George did a good deal with the Chinese, he had tried with many others! In all probability the house of Hine, who have just sold the firm to the Nicolas family for circa €50m, will have done a rather different deal; the Nicolas family know what is really good!

Small Cognac Grower opts for Single Vintage

The ‘big four’ houses account for 83% of total cognac sales so for smaller producers to be noticed they have to be different.  Attempting to address this is Olivier Blanc, co-founder of small organic producer Leopold Gourmel.  He has chosen to only produce single vintage Cognac using grapes from the chalky soils of the Grande Champagne cru.  These grapes impart minerality into the final spirit and rather than sticking to a rigid distillation process, he adapts his approach to account for the particular conditions of each vintage.  The resulting, individual cognacs will be of much greater quality than the mass produced versions and be in keeping with our policy here at Brandyclassics of only stocking pure, single estate cognac with age statements, such as Hermitage.

Hennessy & Remy Martin Expansion Plans

With a burgeoning desire for cognac, two of the largest players in the market are putting plans into place to ensure they can keep up with the ever increasing global demand.  Hennessy has acquired a plot on the outskirts of Cognac where it will build an additional bottling plant aiming to increase production from 60 to 120 million bottles by 2030.  Not to be outdone, Remy Martin are investing a further 30 million € into its production site at Merpins with the aim of increasing their manufacturing capacity by 30% over the next 5 years.  These expansions must send alarm bells ringing as the increase in capacity will diminish cognac stocks more rapidly, increasing price and forcing the big houses to blend younger and younger eaux de vie.    As a consequence, age-statemented, single estate cognacs, such as Hermitage, will become more sought after than ever.


Larsen Cognac Sold Again – Remy Martin sells its Norwegian brand

After less than a year, Larsen Cognac is changing hands again.  It has been purchased by Altia, the leading Finnish wine and spirits company in the Nordic and Baltic countries, an area where Larsen has historically positioned itself as a key cognac brand.  The interim owners, Remy Martin have brokered a deal which hands over all aspects of the brand, including the industrial and commercial assets and the necessary inventories to continue operating Larsen as a going concern.  This has to be good news for the industry as the big houses eradicate much individuality by blending hundreds of cognacs together.  It was thought that Remy originally bought Larsen for its stocks but since they only make cognac from Fine Champagne, only some of the eaux de vie was useful.  Now, everyone is happy it would seem.  Altia get a great cognac brand; one with a history reaching back to 1926 and a unique range of products. Remy, on the other hand, have acquired some interesting cognacs to bolster their own stocks.  Most importantly though, Larsen is no longer in the hands of a big house so may yet retain some character and independence.

Cognac Frapin acquires more Vineyards

Perhaps one of the last Grandees of the cognac industry, Frapin, is expanding its vineyards to keep up with the demand in China. Frapin, best known for its famous Chateau Fontpinot which is set in some of the best area of Grande Champagne, has increased its vineyards by 11% taking the total area to 240 hectares and sufficient to provide more than 2500 hectolitres of eau de vie.  Probably their best cognacs originate from their cellars in Segonzac where they hold many vintages but are best known for the wonderful cognac named after their famous chateau.  It is their prized possession, retained after the family feuds in the 1970s when they severed their connection with Remy Martin and ceased to supply them with their cognacs.

Hine Cognac Up for Sale

Yet another big cognac house is up for sale.  Hine Cognac, which was founded in Jarnac in 1763, celebrates its 250th Anniversary this year.  The name Hine originates from an Englishman who married into the family in the early 19th century and the House has remained in the hands of Hine descendants ever since.  Abiding by the founder’s motto ‘less is more’ they have continued to produce relatively small quantities of very high quality cognac.  The current owner, CL World Brands, has recently relinquished its stake in Jamaican Appleton Rum and the whisky producers Burn Stewart Distillers fuelling rumours that their parent company, CL Financial, are in financial turmoil.  Although there is no news yet of whom the buyer may be, it is a real shame that they are being forced to sell Hine under these circumstances.  So many of the smaller cognac houses have been snapped up by the ‘big four’ resulting in quality, single estate stock being lost to the blending process which is used to meet the ever growing demand from Asia.