The last few months of 2018 were, as always, very busy here at Brandyclassics as we worked hard to meet the ever-increasing demand for brandies at Christmas. Our Hermitage Cognacs took centre stage as we enjoyed some fantastic write-ups in the national press. Articles in the Guardian, the Financial Times, the Daily Telegraph and the Mail on Sunday all added to the excitement and we sold our last bottle of Hermitage 2008 Grande Champagne Cognac a few days before Christmas. Now back in stock, this latest addition to our range has been a much-featured success story. Although only 10 years old, it has a tremendous depth of flavour and all the characteristics of being much, much older. In total only 200 bottles are available so if you have not bought yours yet do hurry, it will not be around for long!
We are delighted to announce that three of our Hermitage Cognacs range were awarded medals at the recent Spirits Business Cognac Masters Competition. Almost 40% of our Hermitage range now have a Masters or Gold Medal.
Our highly-prized Hermitage Cognac Marie Louise was presented with a Masters Medal in the Vintage - Single Estate category. The judges commented that “when a cognac is done well, it is exceptionally good at ageing”.
Gold Medals were also awarded to two other vintages. Our Hermitage 45 Year Old Grande Champagne Cognac clearly wowed the judges as well as ourselves, as did the Hermitage 1958 Borderies Cognac. The judges particularly enjoyed the “toffee, tobacco and toast” aromas which led to “bread, peach and butterscotch” on the palate.
There are many producers of cognac in the legal production area of France known as The Charentes and Charentes Maritime. Each one of them, quite naturally, believes that their cognacs are the best. The truth, however, is rather different. Producers don’t advertise their presence so most have probably only ever tasted different cognacs in bars and restaurants. Indeed, I have spoken to some producers who didn’t even know that they had a distillery next door. This lack of local industry awareness has, over the years, resulted in the development of our own cognac quality control.
There are of course standards to which all cognac houses must rigidly adhere. Variations in the product occur naturally with changes in the terroir, vines, distillation, cellars etc. These changes can dramatically change the quality of each cognac. As a rule, the higher the cru, the better the cognac, but one cannot rely on this as a guarantee of quality.
As negoçiants we try to limit the cognacs we buy to those produced in the top cru, Grande Champagne. Here, hundreds of cognacs are produced, and each has a different taste, age, style, colour, method of production, ageing process, strength and balance. On top of that, our customers have varying tastes and needs and we try to accommodate them all. Finding the right cognacs is objective since we have our own cognac quality control standards which we have developed over the years. These standards are not necessarily subjective however, since more than a third of all our cognacs have won gold medals or above in cognac competition.
Making sure that our customers really do get the best means that, after we have decided on a potential cognac, we still need to do several tests. The first is of course tasting. It is difficult to say how many cognacs we taste but on some days, it may be twenty or even thirty, others, maybe only one or two. One tends to gather considerable experience when tasting many different cognacs. Then we check the cognac for balance which means balancing the fieriness against flavour. Sometimes we need to reduce the cognac slightly which in some cases take quite a long time. We also check it for sediment as some distillers don’t filter their cognacs before we receive them at our bottling plant. The alcohol level is also tested as legally, this must be quoted on the label. This process also involves checking the level of obscuration (factors which mask the true alcohol content). There is always some natural obscuration which cannot be avoided but in modern blends, the addition of sugar and caramel increases the level considerably.
We really do try hard to provide our customers with the very best and we are proud of our collection of Hermitage Cognacs. Being a small, artisan producer is a huge benefit to everybody. If we were big, we would have to blend to supply cognacs with more commercial affordability. Each cognac would lose its individuality and we would probably have to rely on younger cognacs to produce the required quantity. We know Hermitage is always the best cognac available for our customers’ needs but it can be difficult to easily communicate that with every bottle we sell.
Brand new on the shelves this month is our latest Hermitage 60 Year Old Cognac. This remarkable cognac comes from the top cru, known as Grande Champagne, and has been aged in oak casks for more than 60 years. At a strength of 40.5%, it has autumnal aromas including tobacco, ginger and clove. Its flavours of truffle, clove, liquorice, burnt toffee and dried fig with a finish of dried mandarin are perfect for enjoying with a fine cigar or to celebrate any 60th Birthday or Anniversary occasion.
Working closely with our customers, we have established that there is a growing café bar culture for cognacs. At Hermitage we are the first cognac house to recognise this need and we have perfected the ideal cognac called Hermitage Cognac Café 20. This rich mocha and roasted walnut flavoured cognac is more than 20 years old and comes from the top cognac cru, Grande Champagne. During the second half of the 17th century the London “café society” people were experimenting with new drinks. Non-alcoholic drinks like coffee and tea were new but some liked more robust drinks like port, sherry and a spirit from a small town in Western France called Cognac. Today, Hermitage produce a whole range of cognacs with age statements that are aged naturally, with individual flavours, styles, strengths and ages. Cognacs, the likes of which you will never have tasted before.
We are very excited about this summer's vintage cognac release, the Hermitage Petite Champagne 1967. At 41% abv, this complex cognac has many charming and attractive qualities. It is mature yet youthful and light. There are flavours of wild cherry, mangosteen, toast, muscat, dried fig, allspice and even a hint of turmeric on the tail. One cognac in a range of nearly thirty, this is a little piece of Hermitage pure bliss.
Another great year at The Spirits Business Awards for Hermitage Cognacs as all four of our entrants were awarded GOLD medals. Hermitage Provenance Grande Champagne 6 Year Old, 20 Year Old and 30 Year Old produced specifically for the export market all proved their worth. In our ever growing premier collection, one of our latest vintage releases, Hermitage Chez Richon 2005 Grande Champagne was the fourth highly successful cognac. Following on from our COGNAC GRAND MASTER AWARD 2014, this news could hardly have been better. You can see the whole Hermitage range here.
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