Described as a ‘cognac-based spirit drink’ Martell Blue Swift is made of VSOP Cognac that has been matured in French oak casks and finished in Kentucky Bourbon casks. Far from ‘reinventing the cognac category’, it does not meet the regulations to be labelled ‘Cognac’. Cognac must be aged in French oak casks and any finishing casks cannot have held anything other than wine or wine-based spirits. Many cognac products with ‘a finish’ have been released over recent months so it is good to see the regulations being categorically defined.
Previously we reported that Martell had introduced their first non-chill filtered cognac. Since then they have also released an ‘Intense Heat Cask Finish’. Adding a finish to cognac is new territory for the industry as the production process is heavily regulated by the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC). Martell, however, have produced their ‘finish’ within current rules. Their ‘Intense Heat Cask Finish’ refers to the intense burning of the oak barrels used for ageing. The result is a cognac with intensely woody tones. Toasting the oak barrels to varying degrees has always been an accepted part of cognac production so this ‘Intense Heat Cask Finish’ should be allowable. In the spirits industry, the phrase ‘Adding a Finish’ usually applies to the use of other used barrels e.g. ones previously containing sherry – we wait to hear the BNIC view on that!
Another first for Martell is the launch of their single estate cognac – something that we have always championed. It is from Domaine de Charbonnière in the Borderies cru and available only at Hong Kong International Airport. Sadly it is neither a vintage nor does it have an age statement so whilst it may be single domain, it remains a blend of unknown age.