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  • Increase in duty on all cognac, brandy and calvados

    The Chancellor announced yesterday an increase in duty on all spirits, taking the level up to £25 a litre of pure alcohol. This equates to £7 a bottle at 40% alc. This means for an average bottle of cognac costing £30, more than £16.50 goes on duty and tax. And don’t forget that Vat is also charged on the total of the spirits value and the duty combined - in effect double taxing the consumer.

    Under the new duty increase, Hermitage Cognacs will in future sadly have to cost more, adding nearly one pound to an average bottle of cognac. Brandyclassics still have some stocks of our Hermitage Cognacs available at the old level of duty, so please visit our online store add buy now before prices go up.

     

  • Did You Know? The Ugni Blanc

    The Ugni Blanc is the main grape variety planted in the Cognac region. More than 95% of all cognacs are made from this plain and rather tasteless variety, which was first planted after the Phylloxera around 1890.

    The variety triumphed and was a huge success, producing weak acidic wines in large volumes. The grape is probably better known to winemakers, especially in Italy as the Trebbiano Toscano from the hills of the Emilia Romagna near Piacenza. It is now so widespread that, according to Jancis Robinson, it probably produces more wine than any other variety. In France it is the most widely planted vine, helped by more than 100,000 hectares devoted to it in the Charente.

    Its popularity is in marked contrast to its qualities. These are summed up crisply and accurately by Jancis Robinson: Pale lemon, little nose, notably high acid, medium alcohol and body. It is a very characterless wine indeed. As a vine it’s twin virtues are the tenacity (it keeps its acid right up to late ripening) and of course it’s extraordinary high yields. These two qualities make it an ideal variety for providing a suitably neutral, suitably acid base wine for cognac. One last advantage is the grape bunch - its shape allows air to circulate thus minimising rot.

    Most cognacs and armagnacs for sale on the Brandyclassics website contain additional information including the Viticulture, Grape Variety and Flavour about the bottle. Some typical products are shown below.

     

  • Big Growth in 2010 for Cognac Sales

    It seems that the onward march of cognac is continuing. Despite the recession sales of cognac on a worldwide basis are only 5 million bottles short of the 2007 world record year. Indeed, volume sales were up 18% on the year to 153.1 million bottles, according to the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC).

    In value terms the increase was even more startling - with the value increasing 30% to €1.86 billion. It appears that the key driver was the Far East, where we have been seeing substantial increases over the last five years. Shipments to the region increased by 34% on 2009 to 50.9 million bottles. China lead the way with sales rising by 55% to 18.8 million bottles. Shipments to America increased by 7.5% to 49.2 million bottles, closing in on the 2007 record of in excess of 50 million bottles. European sales also increased in 2010, with an 11.7% increase to 46.7 million bottles. The UK is by far the biggest consumer of cognac in Europe with more than 23%.

    Interestingly, the higher qualities cognacs provided most of the growth. For the first time the luxury qualities exceeded the regular qualities with sales of 54.5% and growing faster than the VS markets at 6%.

    It seems that consumers are becoming more discerning in the cognac that they buy, which here at Brandyclassics we're very excited about. We don't sell generic supermarket VS, VSOP and XO brands, but concentrate on sourcing and supplying distinctive, unique marques for the cognac enthusiast.

  • The Good & Great Cognac Houses - Jean Fillioux

    Perhaps the name of Jean Fillioux is not quite in the same league as Delamain or Hine, but whatever one wants to believe they do have a history which can be associated with equally great esteem.

    They were founded in 1880 by Honoré Fillioux, who had in the past blended cognacs for Hennessy, a tradition which has continued and which is still the case today. The firm is not large; they own about 20 hectares at La Pouyade at Juillac-le-Coq in Grande Champagne and is run today by Pascal Fillioux. His style is said to prefer well rounded blended cognacs which may include some additives, perhaps through his connections with the Hennessy style. The firm also distils cognacs from two other estates.

    Pascal’s skills and experience however, strongly suggest that his families traditions have also been associated with those of ageing, and his knowledge and use of oak is one of the greatest accumulated by any cellar master. His knowledge of different oaks and their relationship on his cognacs is one that can only be created by generations of experience, gained from his family’s deep understanding of the ageing process, the effects of tannins and the formation of congeners in the barrels. Indeed, most of his cognacs are aged slightly longer in new oak than is average. But where dilution is required it is added at an early stage soon after distillation, which means that the effect of the cognac on the wood is less severe than those which are diluted at a later stage.

    Whilst most of the Fillioux cognacs are blended, there are two exceptional single estate offerings. The eight year old La Pouyade is a masterpiece of distillation excellence at 42% and more recently a 1990 vintage has found its way onto his list, both exhibit a rare taste of what can really be achieved.

  • Exclusive to Brandyclassics, Clos des Saveurs armagnac

    It is rare for us to get excited about a new armagnac but we feel rightly pleased with our new association with Eric Artiguelongue a notable cellar master in Arblade le Haut, Gers.

    Brandyclassics have taken the exclusive distribution for these wonderful Clos des Saveurs armagnacs in the United Kingdom where we will be demonstrating the fine qualities and range of vintages which come from a number of different distillers in the Bas region. Not only are we impressed with the qualities of each individual vintage, but we were also able to bottle them in the traditional basquaise bottle, sealed with red wax. Presentation boxes are also available and a new oval label will provide an attractive but traditional presentation.

    Perhaps the key feature of these delightful spirits is their competitive prices. In a world where vintages are increasing in price rapidly, they offer a level of stability over the next few years which other houses will find hard to compete with. This is the first new range of armagnac’s we have been able to offer for a number of years- they are  highly recommended and available now.

    Brandyclassics's range of Clos des Saveurs Bas Armagnacs include some very rare 1900 and 1893 vintage Armagnacs, in addition to more recent vintages.

     

  • Chateau de Beaulon open their new cellar

    Due to rapid expansion, Chateau de Beaulon opened a new cellar in August 2010.

    It is difficult to understate the success of Chateau de Beaulon in the last two or three decades. The firm are distillers and the credentials of it’s owner Christian Thomas can only be matched by the superb cognacs he produces, mainly from the Ugni Blanc but also the Folle Blanche and Colombard grape varieties. The Thomas family have reigned supreme around St Dizant du Gua in the most westerly part of the cru for centuries but have only owned the Chateau since 1965.

    Cognacs and Pineau have been made there for centuries, but it is only since the Thomas family have been the firms owners that real growth has taken place. Their well balanced cognacs have sold in many countries and a limited number of vintages have helped to swell the firms turnover, thus requiring greater warehousing and storage facilities.

    The new warehouse is a truly beautiful state of the art building which bolsters the firms green credentials using gravitational force for storage and bottling. Soft lighting in the main section creates a defining influence of the quality produced from this fourth cru estate.

    Brandyclassics sell a wide variety of Chateau de Beaulon cognacs and pineaus, a small selection of which are shown below.

     

     

  • The Good & Great Cognac Houses- A E Dor

    The house of A.E. Dor was created In 1858 by Amédée Edourard Dor, a collector of fine old cognacs mainly from the Grande Champagne area. The cognacs were bought in their casks and aged in Dors cellars until they were deemed ready for drinking and then stored in large bonbonnes, where their quality remained intact.

    The house is situated in Jarnac, about 13 km east of Cognac. They have recently moved into a new purpose built warehouse, but they still retain their old Paradis in the town where some of the finest of their cognacs are stored. The Paradis is probably one of the best know pictures in the Charente and its wrought iron gates protect many demi-johns of fine old cognacs. Probably their most venerable cognac is the 1805 (which they refuse to sell), but one of the nicest is the 1840 which still retains much richness and flavour even though it is only 37% by volume.

    There have been a number of names associated with the firm including the brother of the ex President of France, François Mitterand, a cognac lover and purveyor of the spirit. The house survives on it’s range of blended cognacs and is today owned by Jacques Riviere, a fervent believer of blending who took over the running of the firm from his wife, Odile.  She was sadly killed in a motor accident in the early 1990s and was regarded as one of the finest blenders in the industry. Unfortunately since then some of the blending has not been the same quality as those of the pre Odile days, but some of the older A.E. Dor cognacs, namely the Hors d’Age No 9 and the remaining pre-phylloxera vintages still remain in the original condition, as well as a remarkably good VSOP, an 8 year old cognac with remarkable freshness. Jacques Riviere is still the firms president but much is now done by his son.

    Brandyclassics have carefully selected a number of A.E. Dor's superior vintage cognacs for sale on our online store.

     

  • The Brandy Bottle - Ragnaud Sabourin, Paradis

    Perhaps it is because the cognac producing region is relatively small that it is also rather incestuous. Like many cognac producers, the history of Ragnaud Sabourin and its distant relatives who are only just around the corner is colourful.

    Family matters though have not prevented Ragnaud Sabourin identifying a quantity of cognacs hidden in a corner of their cellars from 1903. They have bottled it  (but it has to be said, in the cheapest bottles made) and put it into a presentation box. It is as well that we do not score the presentation!

    That aside what is in the bottle is nothing less than historic  with lots of complex floral aromas and a delightful orange marmalade citrus and fresh walnut rancio which is immediately apparent. This is one of our greats and a truly remarkable cognac.

    Our score 9.5/10

  • What does VSOP and XO Cognac mean?

    Perhaps the most confusing aspect facing shoppers seeking a decent bottle of cognac is the use of generic terms such as VS, VSOP and XO. The big cognac houses such as Hennessy, Martel, Courvoisier and others use these to describe their highly blended cognacs. These big negoçiants buy their cognacs from around 5000 small producers and blend them together. Often, these blends may contain as many as 2000 different cognacs from individual producers.

    The rules governing cognac are many, but essentially it must be double distilled and the final distillation must be between 67 to 72 degrees (alcohol by volume). It can take several decades for the strength to drop naturally to that which most of us drink cognac, 40 degrees. This natural process is by evaporation, the lost alcohol being known as ‘Part des Anges’, the ‘Angel’s Share’. To avoid waiting and to minimise cost, the negoçiants will dilute the young cognacs, often adding sugar syrup and caramel. These additives give colour and soften the fiery effects. In contrast cognacs that have aged naturally develop richer qualities and greater individuality of their flavours.

    To set standards of ageing in the wood, the big negoçiants created the terms that we see on the High Street shelves, VS (Very Special) Cognac, VSOP (Very Special Old Pale) Cognac and Napoleon Cognac. Cognacs must be aged in oak barrels and although distillation is not allowed after 31st March, it is usually finished by around Christmas. Official ageing starts immediately after the last official distillation day, i.e 1st April. VS cognacs must age in wood for a minimum of 2 years, VSOP cognacs for 3 years and Napoleon cognacs for 6 years. In practice most houses keep their cognacs in wood rather longer than the minimum period.

    Technically XO Cognac  does not have any legal additional age requirements to that of Napoleon Cognac. The term “XO” was created about half a century ago by Hennessy to describe their oldest cognacs. In those days it usually meant cognacs with an average (not minimum), age of around 25 years. Today regrettably, with the pressure on sales volumes most XO cognacs are rather less than 10 years old.

    VSOP  Cognacs from Brandyclassics:

    At Brandyclassics, we specialise in selling single producer Cognacs, and hence attach rather less importance to the generic terms such as VSOP and XO, and more on the "age statements" and the talents of the individual distillers. However that doesn't mean to say that you can't buy VSOP Cognacs from us. We've a range of exceptional VSOP Cognacs from the smaller, quality cognac producers - they're aren't necessarily more expensive than the big brands, but we're sure you'll find they have a much more distinct character and flavour. Here's a few suggestions for you...

    XO  Cognacs from Brandyclassics:

    We have a number of excellent XO Cognacs from smaller artisan cognac producers, not the faceless brands such as Remy Martin, Courvoisier, Hine and Martell and Hennessy. XO Cognacs are often bought as gifts by our customers, add we'd like to encourage you to buy a Cognac that's as unique as the person you're buying it for...

     

  • Did You Know? Brandy and St Bernard Alpine Rescue Dogs

    There are 135 official mountain rescue dogs in the Swiss canton of Valais. The St Bernard story began in the year 962 when Bernard of Menthon founded a monastery and hospice in the Swiss Alps. The monastery, situated at 8000 ft was on a route over the Alps from France to Italy and in a particularly treacherous spot, where the monks were able to provide shelter for lost or injured travellers.

    By the time Bernard was canonised in 1681, the monastery he founded had started to keep dogs, which the monks found helpful in carrying out their rescue missions. They bred a type of dog that was particularly suited to the harsh weather conditions. It was a huge, energetic, friendly and faultlessly loyal type of Mastiff, with thick fur and a keen sense of smell and hearing. From the 17th century, when the oldest records were identified, through to now, the animals have rescued more than 2500 people.

    The monks provided each dog with a barrel around its neck containing brandy, as it was critical to provide a warming drink as soon as possible. The dogs were first referred to informally as St Bernards in 1833 and the name became official in 1880. It has been reported recently that due to the harsh economic climate, the traditional brandy barrel around the dogs neck has been replaced with a Nespresso coffee machine which offers a choice of espresso or  black coffee. The makers also wanted to include a cappuccino option but they had problems with the wind - plus it looked as though the dogs were rabid.

    Whilst avalanche victims may have limited options, you might think twice before attracting a 100 kg animal foaming at the mouth! So if you are going on a winter skiing vacation this Christmas, do make sure you take your own bottle of Hermitage Cognac - strictly for emergencies of course!

     

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