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  • The Good & Great Cognac Houses - Louis Royer

    Louis Royer is probably better known now than it has ever been during its long life, as a result of its takeover by the giant Suntory organisation in Japan. The firm was started in 1853 by its founder Louis Royer. He was a chief blender at another cognac house and he decided to establish his own distillery. He was an avid beekeeper and a bee is enshrined in the firm’s coat of arms.

    Louis Royer is said to have chosen the bee as an emblem from the very beginning of his business and is said to represent the values that have always prevailed by the house, that of diligence and an efficient and lively organisation. It is also the regional symbol of craftsmen and their work.

    The family firm has been situated in Jarnac and they have occupied a splendid chateau near the town centre close to the Charente. This is also where the cellars and offices are still located. Five generations of Royer family have run the firm, but since it was taken over in the 1990’s the quality of the cognacs have not improved and their range is now entirely blended. The firm ships over two hundred thousand cases of cognac to many countries as well as more than two hundred and sixty thousand cases of brandy and a further one hundred and thirty thousand cases of vodka and liqueurs. With a turnover of more than 30 million euros and more than eighty employees, cognac has ceased to be a speciality and what was once a great cognac house has now moved into the realms of globalisation. Their young cognacs are mixed with caramel and sugar syrups.

  • Did You Know? Early Brandy History

    Very few of us are aware that French Brandies have a long history, indeed they are some of the oldest distilled spirits. Here are a few facts for your next bar quiz..

    • 1411 First brandy, as we now know it, distilled in Armagnac, mainly for farmers.
    • 1494 Francois 1 is born in Cognac and later allows traders to use the Charente river to ship salt to the ports.
    • 1549 First Brandy appears in Cognac, a merchant from La Rochelle produced four casks of “good cognac”.
    • 1643 Philippe Augier founds first cognac house, Augier Freres. 1678 Cogniack Brandy is mentioned in the London Gazette..
    • 1696 Louis XIV grants Frapin Family high aristocratic status. 1715 Jean Martell arrives in Cognac from Jersey.
    • 1724 Paul-Emilie Remy Martin and his father start Remy Martin. 1725 Isaac Ranson starts a trading house in Cognac.
    • 1762 James Delamain becomes a partner of Ranson Delamain.
    • 1765 James Hennessy from Ireland starts trading Cognac Hennessy
    • 1795 James Hennessy marries Marthe Martell. Otard Dupuy started.
    • 1797 Thomas Hine and Elisabeth Delamain marry
    • 1817 First use of classification VOP-very old pale and VSOP used

    More to follow next month!

  • The Brandy Bottle - Hermitage 43 y.o. Grande Champagne Cognac

    The 43 year old Grande Champagne Cognac by Hermitage is probably going to be of the finest in our history. It is produced from vineyards around Segonzac in the very centre of Grande Champagne. The distillers have four large stills with 123 hectares of vineyards around Segonzac and based in key areas where the very finest conditions exist. The grape variety is all Ugni Blanc. Their main cellars are quite large and are on two levels each containing probably several thousand 350 litre barrels. The walls of the cellars are thick and the lower floor is below ground level allowing good damp conditions for storage. This cognac is exceptional. It has a huge complexity of flavours including, melon, mangosteen, kumquats orange peel, spices and roasted nuts.

    We know of little better, this is a truly great cognac. Our score 9/1t0


     

  • Cognac Vineyard Prices unchanged

    Figures released today by La Fédération Nationale des Safer (SAFER), the national inventory of land transactions and prices which includes vineyards, is indicating that whilst there is little movement in vineyard prices from last year, there are many vineyard owners who would like to sell some or part of their land if it was possible.

    Land in the cognac region is relatively cheap when compared with the land in such regions as St Emillion, where figures as much as 200,000€  are around six times higher than those in Cognac at about 35,000€ a hectare. Perhaps more worrying is the number of vineyard owners seeking to sell their land at a time of cognac shortages across the industry.

    Current demand for cognac is far outstripping the supply and the major houses are supplying more and more younger stock to make up quantities. These mega firms have always in the past protected the producers by buying their cognacs and eau de vie, even when their demand is low - so what is happening? It appears that the big firms are deliberately buying younger cognacs in the main to keep margins acceptable. Many smaller producers do not have agreements with the big houses. With new cognacs becoming harder to obtain, shouldn’t  the big firms be looking to the longer term, supporting growers?

    Brandyclassics' range of Hermitage Single Estate Cognacs are sourced from smaller producers, who are able to supply cognacs of the exceptional quality, age and unique character our customers demand.


  • The Good & Great Cognac Houses - Ragnaud Sabourin

    Ragnaud Sabourin is the only known producer of cognac who still uses all eight permitted grape varieties. The main grape variety used in Cognac is the Ugni Blanc, which represents about 95% of all grapes used. Colombard and the old pre-phylloxera grape Folle Blanche are the second most used grapes, representing around 4.5% of the cognac mix - so the remaining five varieties are only very rarely known, let alone seen. They are Jurançon, Blanc Ramé, Bouilleaux, Chalosse and the oldest of all the Balzac blanc.

    Many cognac professionals will advise that the grape variety does not make a significant difference to the cognac. That may be true of the highly blended products used for producing VSOP, XO, etc but it is not the case with Ragnaud Sabourin who produce many single estate cognacs with some wonderful characteristics.

    The firm came to prominence around the middle of the last century and it is no coincidence that they share the same name as Raymond Ragnaud, just up the road in Ambleville (the connection ended around the middle of the last century with a considerable level of family acrimony). The firm was started by one Gaston Briand, who was president of the growers association and succeeded by his daughter and son in law, Denise and Marcel Ragnaud and their daughter Annie and son in law Paul Sabourin.

    The estate is more than 50 hectares deep in the heart of Grande Champagne and produces some of the loveliest cognacs - deep floral and fruity aromas with a classic and deep woody style. All the cognacs produced are aged for longer than the minimum periods. The firm claim that there is no blending of crus, just simply a single appellation of ageing that has provided its reputation for their cognacs fine quality. Whatever they say, their cognacs are exceptional in quality and are some of the most complex light cognacs we have tasted.

     

     

  • Brandyclassics enter the Asian Cognac market

    For more than a year we have been discussing the potential trade opportunities in Asia. We were unfortunate last year as we had planned to enter trade through the food and wine exhibition in Singapore. Despite having set up all the display work for the show, we were scuppered at the last moment by a giant ash cloud looming overhead from Iceland and we were able to reach the show until the last day.

    This year we were helped by UKTI who set up a number of key players in the field. Our aspirations were for a single distributor who was able to supply Hermitage Cognacs to Hong Kong and Macau and we were presented with four possible distributors who were already supplying that market with upmarket wines and other spirits.

    The Asian market for cognacs is currently very strong, but we were surprised and highly delighted that all four of the potential distributors have agreed to buy Hermitage Pure Vintage Cognacs and supply them to their customers in the region, with two of them even working over the border into mainland China. We are optimistic that the growth of Hermitage Cognacs into the luxury Chinese markets will further our range of top cognacs to our existing customers.

     

  • Chinese want Hermitage Cognacs now

    We have recently returned from Hong Kong where we have been working closely with UKTI in setting up distribution of Hermitage Pure Vintage Cognacs. Our visit included meetings with four specialist luxury drinks distributors who have now tasted and explored the possibilities of selling Hermitage cognacs to their customers. They are all involved with sales to the luxury sector of the Hong Kong hotels and restaurants markets and their clients are excited at being able to buy non generically labelled cognacs for the first time.

    Brandyclassics expect to be receiving their first orders from Hong Kong within weeks. Many of their clients are already considering the higher priced cognacs and our Hermitage 43 year old, 1975 Grande Champagne and 1900 are already firm favourites.

  • Hermitage Celebration 70 year old vintage cognac

    We are proud to announce a rare and very special limited edition cognac, a 70 year old Grande Champagne cognac, will be available to the cognac connoisseur very shortly!

    During a recent visit to the Charente when we were discussing old cognacs with a producer, we came across a very rare Grande Champagne cognac hiding in a cellar. By a quirk of coincidence not only is this cognac 70 years old (that is 70 years in a barrel),  there are also only 70 bottles available.

    This fine old nectar has a wonderful rich toffee, almond aroma, this is also in its wonderful flavour but with much rancio. We are packing it in a special very attractive bottle, will be called THREE SCORE YEARS & TEN and is available at £1495.00/70cl bottle. It is a piece of liquid history, so good that the boss has bagged a bottle for his retirement in years to come!

    To register your interest in buying one of these exceptional bottles of rare cognac, please call Brandyclassics on +44(0)1225 863988

    Brandyclassics' Hermitage range of outstandingly single producer cognacs are firmly aimed at the discerning cognac drinker. Bottles range from under £30 nearly £1500 and will satisfy every palette and pocket.

  • Did You Know? The Taste.

    One of the difficulties we always find when deciding upon the flavour of a particular cognac is the time of the day we did the tasting. The problem being that our taste buds have greater efficiency in the mornings than in the afternoon or evenings. Not only that but our perception of what we taste can also vary at different times of the day, so a cognac that tastes of roasted walnuts in the morning may taste of green walnuts in the afternoon or vice versa.

    The sensation of taste is closely related to that of smell and taste is detected by what are known as taste buds (circular bumps), on the tongue. They range from quite small on the front of the tongue to larger ones at the back, technically known as “papillae”. Each papilla has a gustatory hair that reaches the outside of the tongue through an opening called a taste pore. Once a stimulus activates the gustatory impulse, receptor cells pass an electrical impulse to the gustatory area of the cortex. The brain interprets the sensations of taste.

    A tongue map was developed in 1901 by a German scientist, D P Hanig, who discovered that taste preceptors have varying degrees of sensitivity and that some areas can detect taste better than others. Whilst the tongue detects the taste, other areas of the mouth can influence flavour. Pressure of the tongue on the roof of the mouth can prevent the gustatory hairs from sensing the flavours but the uneven shape of the roof tends to limit this effect. People with top dentures can often detect different flavours, since the denture has a smooth area that compresses that area of the mouth, making it easier for the gustatory hairs to be crushed and preventing the brain from detecting the flavour.

    Look on the Brandyclassics website for tasting notes - for nearly every bottle we sell you'll find a description of the flavours you can find in the brandy. Whether it's cognac, armagnac, calvados or eaux de vie,  you'll find a tremendous selection of artisan brandies for you to enjoy.

  • Cognac Tasting – The right and the Wrong!

    Many people often ask us to explain the right way to taste brandies so we thought we would make a new year’s resolution to encourage a wider understanding of cognac appreciation.

    1. Firstly the glass. Big brandy balloons allow too big a surface area of the brandy exposed to the air. The professional glass is a small tulip shaped glass, but a small brandy balloon will be fine.
    2. The cognac should be rolled around the sides of the glass to allow it to form tears down the side. Never swirl the spirit as this will release too much alcohol from the liquid, which will sit over the surface of the cognac and blind the aroma.
    3. Half of the enjoyment of the cognac is in its aroma, it is therefore important to have as much surface area to smell as possible. Allow the cognac to rest for a few seconds before gently bringing the glass to the nose, trying if possible to recognise some of the many aromas.
    4. Don’t rush it! Many of those wonderful smells will be recognisable in the taste, so take your time before the big event when you taste it.
    5. Don’t sip it! Take a reasonable quantity into the mouth and chew it - key taste areas are the front and back of the tongue and the roof of your mouth, so make sure they are immersed to discover the full complexity.
    6. Hold it in your mouth for a while. You will be surprised at what you find...

    In addition to our exclusive range of Hermitage cognacs, Brandyclassics have a superior range of cognacs, armagnacs and calvadoses from a wide selection of Houses. Every brandy has a unique flavour, and we encourage our customers to read the additional product information on our website. The Flavour section will provide hints as to the flavours you can detect as you drink from one of our bottles...

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