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  • Did You Know? Rudolf and that Red Nose

    Legend has it that one cold night Santa, being known as a man of great generosity and feeling great remorse at the duties of his reindeer, plied a quantity of brandy over some rich cake and gave it to his lead reindeer to keep him warm, resulting in a red nose.

    The famous Christmas song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer started life as a poem created by an American advertising executive called Robert May. He was requested to produce a poem that could be given away to children by the Santa Claus employed by Department Stores at Christmas! Working as an Advertising Executive, Robert May had a natural flair with words and was able to compose the Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer poem. This marketing ploy was a massive success and approximately 2.5 million Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer poems were given away in the first year of its publication!

    In 1949 the singer Gene Autry recorded a musical version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer composed by Johnny Marks. In Athens officials say somebody added a little holiday spirit to the deer-crossing signs hereabout: red reflectors on the deer silhouette’s nose and, they assured, if you ever saw one, you would even say it glows. The culprits' identity is a Christmas season mystery that has piqued their curiosity.


  • 2011 - An award winning year to remember for Brandyclassics

    Cognac goes from strength to strength

    The last twelve months of the year have seen the most exciting period in the history of Cognac. The Cognac industry has seen unprecented growth in world markets at a time when it seems that the news is dominated with gloom and economic recession. Markets in China have grown by record levels and that is over last year which was also a record year. Indeed some distributors in China have even had to ration their supplies of cognac.

    At Brandyclassics we to have seen good trading, not just in exports but also in the UK, where Pre-phylloxera sales have done well and our internet sales has also seen good growth. However our core business, sales to hotels and restaurants, has been affected by the economic gloom.

    But  it's always good to finish the year on a high and this year we are pleased with our success at the Cognac Masters where we have won a total of five medals. These included three masters awards for our Hermitage 1988, 23 year old and 43 year old, as well as the Grand Masters award for outstanding contribution to cognac.

  • The Good & Great Cognac Houses - Hermitage

    At the end of our series on the Good and Great Cognac houses, we thought it appropriate to do a bit of chest beating for our very own Hermitage Cognacs. They are not the products of a single distiller, but from family distilleries and cellars with proven production and ageing procedures.

    The concept of Hermitage Pure Vintage Cognacs was formed about fifteen years ago, as we recognised the need to move away from blended cognacs which lacked individuality and failed to promote the age of the cognacs in the bottle. Our customers recognised that older brandies are better than young ones.

    The difficulty we recognised is that the distillation of cognac must be to between 67 and 72 degrees alcohol, after which all cognacs take many years to drop naturally to 40%, the commercial selling level of alcohol. The problem was that the commercial pressures to sell in volume was outstripping availability, which put huge pressure on the older stocks available in the thousands of cellars in the region. Those pressures have become far more acute now, with world sales of cognacs at nearly double those of the mid 1990s. which meant that the big houses were creaming off the best vintages for blending.

    Although there are many distilleries supplying us, we now have four or five who meet our stringent Hermitage requirements for quality and ageing and adapt their cognacs to meet our customer's needs.

    In those fifteen years of Hermitage, we have created some of the very finest cognacs and we have the gold medals for best vintages to prove it.

  • Hermitage Medal winning Cognacs

    The Ladies Drink Cognac too...

    In a recent disclosure, the drinks firm Beam have claimed that it has taken them 216 years of marketing to realise that ladies drink spirits as well as men. Beams marketing chief asked his team to establish what they were missing out on and introduced a range of spirit based drinks that they feel women will enjoy.

    Top of their bunch was a Jim Beam Bourbon infused with black cherry. Since then they have purchased Skinny Girl cocktails and Pucka Vodka. Now guess what? Courvoisier Cognac have introduced Rose Courvoisier, a red wine and cognac mixture.

    At Brandyclassics we are already selling the perfect Ladies Cognac. Hermitage 10 y.o. is recognised by bar managers and sommeliers as the perfect Ladies Cognac.



  • Record Price paid in Hong Kong for 1858 Cognac

    Croizet 1858 sells at Auction for US$156,000

    Last month, the highest known price for a bottle of Croizet Vintage 1858 Cognac was paid by a Chinese client. The Cognac is one of many the house has in its cellars and the firm is known for its collection of these old cognacs, many of which were bottled and kept in their cellars in St-Même-les-Carrières near Jarnac.

    The price paid for the bottle reflects the growing desire of the Chinese to own expensive cognacs, particularly those whose vintages contain a number eight. Although the price is high, the desire for expensive cognac has grown with the market and its association with good luck and status.

    Around eighteen years ago Brandyclassics sold twenty four of these bottles to a Swiss gentleman who flew in specially to collect them - he paid about £18,000 for 24 bottles.

    Prices have increased somewhat since then!

    In addition to our range of exceptional early 20th century cognacs and armagnacs, Brandyclassics have a number of rare 19th Century Pre-phylloxera cognacs available for the discerning Cognac aficionado.

  • The Brandy Bottle - Nusbaumer Supreme de Cassis

    As a bit of interesting deviation from the cognacs and armagnacs we normally feature here, we thought it might be worthwhile tasting the macerated fruit eau de vie often used with wine, champagne or in cooking when a strong blackcurrant flavour is desired.

    The Nusbaumer Supreme de Cassis is without doubt one of the very finest cassis we have tasted. The blackcurrant flavour is intense and has been describes as even stronger than blackcurrants themselves. It is truly delicious and poured over desserts such as ice crème is enchanting. Nusbaumer also have a number of other macerated fruit eaux de vie including the sour cherry Ratafia de Griottes and the unusual Red Pear, “Williams Rouge”, which has been aged for 20 years. They provide a reasonably priced liqueur which can be served in many ways. Our Score 7/10



  • Did You Know? Grappa

    Grappa was originally a peasant drink, designed to provide comfort and strength to the maker - usually a poor peasant in the mountains of northern Italy. Grappa was more than just a drink - it was a tradition, a disinfectant, a medicine, allegedly sovereign against complaints as diverse as depression in old age, toothache, constipation and even bronchitis!

    Grappa can be consumed in many ways. It used to be consumed as a standard breakfast drink, espresso corretto con grappa with just enough grappa in the espresso to get the blood circulating. A drop or two in the coffee also formed part of the grappa-lore, as did the use of grappa in cooking, splashed into potatoes in their jackets or as flavouring for coffee cakes and pan de figo – dried figs soaked in the stuff. It could also be tasted in many original ways, including by rubbing a little on the palm of the hand as though it was a perfume, or by letting a few drops fall into a cup of boiling water. It was so strong that even a few drops in a cup of coffee gave one new life!

    More recently many of them have become cult drinks. This is partly snobbery, parallel to the acceptance of former peasant foods such as gnocchi or tagliatelle reflecting the search for older traditions by self conscious urban intellectuals, and partly the preservation of the Arneis grape.



  • Did You Know? The Cognac Grapes

    Legally the Cognaçais may use a number of grape varieties, although the choice is largely theoretical. The Ugni Blanc or to give it it’s proper name, the St Emillion des Charentes, accounts for about 95% of the total area. The rest is almost totally Colombard and Folle Blanch. This concentration is largely attributable to phylloxera. Cognacs rise to fame was based on two varieties, the Balzac and the Folle (later known as the Folle Blanche) both much despised by locals only interested in fine wines. In the eighteenth century the Colombard which made the delicious sweet wine from the Borderies also rose to fame, it ripens quickly to a sort of butterscotch warmth and when mixed with Ugni Blanc can provide delicious peachy flavours but will usually finish quite short on the palate.

    Folle Blanche was the raw material for the brandies which were the glory of cognacs pre-phylloxera heyday. The wine it produced was so acid as to be virtually undrinkable although this was ideal for producing fine, aromatic cognac with a great depth of flavour. When grafted onto American rootstock it flourishes too vigorously and the grapes in the middle were liable to grey rot that could not be reached by anti rot sprays. 

  • The Brandy Bottle - Hermitage 1900 Grande Champagne

    Finding a good 1900 these days is becoming a real trial and we have tasted many that are way off the mark in both style and balance. So we were over the moon when we found one we liked from a cellar in Bouteville between Segonzac and Chateauneuf in Grande Champagne.

    Moreover we have discovered that there is more than two hundred litres available to us. The cognac has been kept in cellars and in Limousin cask for more than 50 years and has matured slowly providing a relatively complex cognac and stylish cognac. It was made on 25 hltr stills and judged good enough to take out of wood around the mid 1950’s. The cognac has a powerful attack of dry and fruity flavours with a complexity of spices and green walnuts. It is sold at 47.5% alc so it is quite strong but the flavour is good and lasting. It’s a winner! Our Score 9/10




  • A Few Good Armagnac Houses - No 1 Castarède

    The firm  Castarède is naturally proud of being the oldest business in Armagnac. They were founded in 1832 by Jules Nismes at the suggestion of a young subprefect, who later became famous as the Baron Haussmann who replanned Paris for the Emperor Napoleon III. The firm was sited at the furthest point  to which the River Baise is navigable and provides direct access to Bordeaux down the River Garonne.

    The firm is still owned by the Castarède family, who are also proprietors of the picturesque Château de Maniban at Mauléon d’Armagnac. The Maniban family were members of the legal aristocracy, the noblesse de la robe, who played such an important role in developing Bordeaux’s fine wine estates. They were the first to introduce armagnac to the court of Louis XV and have been associated in the past with many names of the rich and famous.

    The firm is not a distiller, it buys its armagnacs exclusively from the Bas Armagnac, most of which were distilled between 1900 and 2000. They keep them in wood until they have reduced naturally to 40%, before transferring them to glass bonbonnes without additives.

    Their cellars are at Pont-de-Bordes, Lavardac balancing on the side of a high ridge over the river and create a picturesque view. Florence Castarède is the charming and current family owner of the firm and she has created a range of vintages which is the mainstay of the business today. Most of her armagnacs have been distilled mid range and have flavours of crystallised fruit.

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