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Hermitage Cognacs

  • Brandyclassics News - Alex Johnson Joins Us

    Alex JohnsonIt is with great pleasure and excitement that we introduce to you Alex Johnson, our new National Accounts Manager.  Alex will be responsible for building our already successful Hermitage brand and forging close, supportive customer relationships with both the On and Off Trade.  He has worked in the spirits sector of the drinks industry for more than 10 years and brings with him a wealth of experience and knowledge associated with brown spirits and in particular cognacs.

    More online tastings have been taking place and we have enjoyed some wonderful feedback from the Press.  Joel Harrison writing on the IWSC website, Douglas Blyde on Twitter and David Longfield in The Decanter have all extoled the virtues of our single estate, vintage Hermitage Cognacs, especially some of the older ones, made more than a century ago, which are now taking pride of place in our range.

  • Hermitage 1960 Wins The Cognac Trophy At IWSC 2020

    Cognac TrophyHaving received news that Hermitage Single Estate Cognacs won three Gold Medals or better at IWSC 2020, we have just found out that Hermitage 1960 Grande Champagne Cognac won The Cognac Trophy.

    Scoring 98 points the judges commented:

    "Exceedingly complex and broad in its depth of aromas and flavours.  Prominent notes of refreshing and zingy sherbet are united with red berries and smooth hints of fine leather for a seamlessly crafted and decadently elegant enjoyable palate."

    In celebration of this fantastic news we are offering 10% Off this magnificent cognac throughout October.  Distilled 60 years ago, it is the perfect gift for anyone born in 1960.

  • Decanter Magazine Features Hermitage Cognacs 1885, 1920, 1923 & 1944

    DecanterDavid Longfield has written in Decanter magazine describing the excitement of  tasting some of our most precious nectars with MD, David Baker.  All produced over 75 years ago, these Grande Champagne vintages are some of the best we have ever stocked.  Here is a snippet of the article to whet your appetite.  The entire piece can be read here.

    "Hermitage Cognac works with top Cognac houses to hunt out small parcels of such old spirits still preserved among the five or six hundred independent producers around the region, looking primarily for those with verifiable vintage dates or age statements that define how long they’ve spent in barrel."

    Longfield goes onto write "The barrel ageing, and the conditions of the cellars in which it takes place, are the critical factors, Baker says: ‘It’s really what fine Cognacs are all about.’  He continues: ‘This ageing process develops [over many years] into what we call “rancio” – a kind of madeirisation, a richness and sweetness. I think this is highly sought-after: a natural richness, not a sugary sweetness.’"

     

  • The Double Rancio Effect

    Double RancioAround 40 years ago I was privileged to be given what today I would describe as, one of the 10 finest cognacs in the world. I was staying at one of the finest hotels in Monaco and the sommelier, whose name was Georges, poured me a glass of A E Dor Hors d’Age No 5, 1840 Grande Champagne. He was seeking my opinion and needless to say, I was completely taken with it.  One of the greatest achievements a cellar master can claim is the production of a balanced cognac with a perfect rancio and this cognac did not disappoint.  Rancio is an intense richness that affects every taste bud in your mouth, providing intense syrupy flavours, as experienced after tasting a 100 year old Malmsley, with the aromas of an old madeira cellar.

    Unbelievably, I have recently found a similarly wonderful cognac, but it has even more exquisite qualities.  Its slightly musty aromas of spices, dried fruit peel, pineapple and roasted nuts combined with dates, liquorice, cocoa and molasses are only an introduction to the intense complexity of aromas and flavours which provide another step of fulfilment in the tasting of fine cognac; one that only a few of us will experience in our lives.  It encompasses the joy of discovering that there is another level of perfection, a perfection that takes a cognac from being one of the ten best to being the very best.  It is the nectar poured from the golden chalice, the pinnacle of perfection and the cognac we can usually only dream about.

    So, what is it that makes this cognac so special? In this very exclusive world of fine cognac the term rancio does not occur often and usually, when it does, we are referring to very old cognacs from Grande Champagne. There is a reason for this. Cognacs from the Premier cru age much more slowly than those from the other crus.  This is due to the soil, or rather I should say chalk, which in the area south of the town of Cognac and north of the river Ne is particularly porous.  The vine roots here can penetrate up to 30 metres into the water margins and as a result, the grapes are fuller producing a more flavourful wine which takes longer to develop in the barrel.

    But it is not the cognac alone that creates a rancio effect. Not so far from the Charente, lie the forests of Limousin where, over hundreds of years, oak has been cut and re-planted to make the barrels in which cognacs are aged. The staves are split and left to age for 5 years before they are cut and formed into barrels. The barrels are toasted just enough to burn off the harmful tannins but leave the good tannins to help mature the new cognac. After some months this new cognac is moved to an older home, into previously used barrels where it will stay until it is decided that the cognac is ready to bottle. This can take up to 80 years when usually all the tannins, lignins and hemi-cellulose in the barrels have been used up and can no longer have an effect on the cognac.  The hemi-cellulose lasts the longest in the wood and it is this that imparts the desirable richness we call rancio.  It was the depth of rancio that made the AE Dor Hors d’Age No 5 so very special but at only 34% abv, the flavours, though easier to detect, may not preserve well.

    Now, imagine what would happen if you aged a Grande Champagne cognac, with all the qualities of AE Dor 1840, in a barrel for 100 years and then put it into another barrel where the hemi-cellulose was still available.  It would provide a ‘double rancio' and that is exactly what happened to one of our cognacs.  It was, after 100 years of ageing, placed back into wood for another 10 - 12 years and the result was the accomplishment of excellence.

    That cognac is our Hermitage 1885 Grande Champagne @46% abv.

  • Complex Aromas in Aged Cognac

    AromasThe American Chemical Society has identified a few compounds, not previously known, which contribute to an aged cognac’s complex aromas. Using cognacs ranging from about 10 – 50 years old, a combination of gas chromatography/olfactometry and mass spectrometry separated, smelled and identified their various components. Of the many found, several terpenoids (which give wine its floral notes) were identified for the first time. A sensory panel then looked at how, when mixed, these cognac compounds contributed to ageing aromas eg they found that whisky lactone and β-damascenone enhanced the sensation of a mix of terpenes found in aged distillates but not in younger ones.  The report suggests that these findings could help producers develop cognacs with better flavours, although it only refers to blended cognacs.  So, our single cask Hermitage Cognacs will continue to receive their wonderful aromas and flavours from the oak. 

  • The Charente Scene - Spring 2020

    SpringOver the years we have built many relationships with suppliers and friends in the Charente and particularly in Grande Champagne. Although it is some months since we have been able to travel to France, we still talk frequently to them by phone and they, like ourselves, are having to cope with the difficulties that the coronavirus has created this Spring. Cognac producers and bottlers are having to prove that they are producing to get paid as the French authorities are worried about the cost to the country. Talking to one organisation, their concern is the receipt of orders as much of their business comes from the Far East. However, they are delighted to have received their first orders from Taiwan and Japan. Delivering orders is another challenge as European distribution organisations are finding that crossing borders takes longer than usual. All the big houses are continuing to bottle and ship cognac, except Hennessy. Their employees have gone on strike for safer working conditions. The industry has so far lost sales of over a million cases which of course has affected the side industries such as barrel producers and bottle suppliers.  And if these problems were not enough, many producers woke up at the beginning of March to a covering of snow!  The air force base in Cognac has also been helping during the crisis; 2000 extra staff have been taken on to ship food in and in some cases, cognac out. So, if things get desperate, we can always ask for direct supplies from Cognac to be parachuted in!!!

  • What is the Best Cognac?

    Best CognacAs most of you know, I spend a great deal of my time tasting cognacs because as a company we believe that every cognac must be perfect for its intended type of customer. But being perfect doesn’t necessarily mean it is the cognac which excels in taste above all others.  The simple truth is that a cognac which I may consider is the best cognac may not be the same one that you like because our palates have become accustomed, over time, to different taste characteristics which our brains have accepted as good.
    Perhaps the term ‘taste characteristics’ is one to associate with fine cognacs; they will differ from one cognac to another and in most producers’ opinions, their own will be better than any other available.  This is not surprising as producers spend their lifetime tasting their own cognacs, few ever venture onto another producer’s patch and few have any idea of how to compare their own production with that of their neighbours.
    So, how do you know what is good and what perhaps is not so good? Well, when you have tasted thousands of different brandies you get to know when you have a really good cognac in your glass. As a professional cognac taster, I am looking for a number of different qualities. I look at the colour and how the cognac hangs on the glass, but the first real test of quality comes with the complexity of its aroma and if those aromas can be translated into taste. Finally, and perhaps the most important criteria of all is its balance; the need to maximise flavour whilst minimising the fieriness of the cognac.
    The actual taste element of a cognac is personal as we all have different ideas about what we like. You might think I am lucky getting to taste so many expensive cognacs but don’t be fooled into thinking that if a cognac is expensive it is good. Even these can have sugar added as it softens a cognac but, it also gives a sort of false sweetness.  On the other hand, a cognac which has been in a barrel for 50 or 60 years develops its richness naturally, the effect is known as ‘Rancio’.  This is a very desirable but rare effect as most cognacs available today have been aged for less than 10 years old.
    So, I hear you say, what is the best cognac? Well, I’ll tell you my favourite. It is a cognac which I found 4 or 5 years ago, not a million miles from our office near Segonzac, in the heart of Grande Champagne. It has aged in oak for more than 60 years and has come from a family’s private cellar.  We have the privilege of selling it under the Hermitage label; it is expensive but not as expensive as other so-called luxury cognacs.  It is perfectly balanced, complex in aroma and flavour, has a rich ‘rancio’ and won the Cognac Masters Best Cognac 2018. We call it ‘Marie Louise’.

  • Cognac Masters 2020 - Gold & Master Medals

    master medalsThe results are out!  We entered 4 of our ever-expanding range of Grande Champagne cognacs into The Spirits Business Cognac Masters this year and came away with 2 x GOLD medals and 2 x MASTER medals.  These could be our best results yet.

    GOLD medals were awarded to:

    Hermitage 20 Year Old Grande Champagne Cognac  -  “Big and complex cognac”  Judges comments and Hermitage Café 20 Cognac  -  “Delicious … warm spice and a long finish”  Judges comments

    MASTER Medals were awarded to:

    Hermitage 40 Year Old Grande Champagne Cognac  -  “Wonderfully complex”  Judges comments and Hermitage Eleanor 60 + Year Old Grande Champagne Cognac  “Stunning palate … long finish”  Judges comments.  Price and availability of Hermitage Eleanor in on application.

  • Is This UK Alcohol Duty Rate Too High?

    dutyThe level of Duty imposed on alcohol purchases is always a hot topic.  Before the recent UK budget, a group of WSTA SMEs wrote to the chancellor asking for a 2% cut in order to help small British companies, like Hermitage Cognacs, invest and grow.  Currently the UK has some of the highest alcohol taxes in the world.  As we now know, Rishi Sunak did not cut alcohol duty but neither did he increase it by the proposed 2.2%.  Something to be thankful for especially since earlier in the year, some UK health organisations were lobbying the government to put Duty up by 2 % above inflation.  They argued that alcohol places an undue burden on public services so the extra funds collected could be used to boost the number of nurses or policemen.  One really hopes that following the Covid-19 crisis the public will be far more aware of the effect of unnecessarily burdening our public services.

  • Brandyclassics News - Winter 2019

    Winter 2019 Tasting◊◊ Not only was 2019 a record year with the number of new Hermitage Cognac vintages that we took into stock, the range was also awarded an unprecedented number of GOLD Medals.  The Winter 2019 medals were received from the Global Luxury Spirits Masters in November, for Hermitage Grande Champagne 1995 and 1923 Cognacs.

    ◊◊ We have started the new decade with yet more new arrivals which will be much sought after by those celebrating a 50th or 100th anniversary this year.  Hermitage 1920 Grande Champagne Cognac was distilled 100 years ago and our new Hermitage 50 Year Old Petite Champagne Cognac is presented at 41%abv.

    ◊◊ It has also been a good couple of months for Hermitage Cognacs in the press.  Articles in The Sunday Telegraph Luxury Supplement, The Mail on Sunday’s Event Magazine and the Evening Standard just before Christmas kept us busier than ever.  David was also featured heavily in The Drinks Business and Harpers talking about the surge in interest for pre-Phylloxera cognacs.  You can read more here.

    ◊◊ Our latest tasting session, at 67 Pall Mall, show cased some of the oldest cognacs in our catalogue.

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