Okay, here’s another brandy. This is not Armagnac, however; it’s Cognac, Armagnac’s more worldly cousin, the one who gets into all the clubs. I know little about Armagnac and I know even less about Cognac: only that the stuff that’s widely available is considered by aficionados to be inferior, usually artificially goosed-up brandy designed to appeal to people who just want something easy to like. God, I sound like an asshole. Anyway, small estate Cognac is said to be very different and this is an instance of small estate Cognac. The “Lot 70” in the name apparently signifies that this was distilled in 1970; as it was bottled just last year that means it is 47-48 years old. It was bottled for Flask, a store in California and it seems to still be available. The price is not low but if it’s good and if you’re looking for something very old then it is, again, affordable compared to single malt whisky of much lower age. And as I am Lot 70 myself, it might be hard for me to resist a bottle if I do in fact like this a lot. Let’s see how it goes.
As you can tell from the sample label, this too came to me from Sku.
Vallein Tercinier, Lot 70 (52%; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Ah, lovely: apricot jam, orange peel, leather, brandied raisins. As it sits there are tropical fruit notes (mango, dried pineapple). Gets richer and stickier as it sits. A couple of drops of water and the oak gets pushed back while a big wave of toffee and buttery pastry crust emerge.
Palate: Starts out oaky but then the fruit pops behind the wood as I swallow—it’s the tropical notes that are dominant here. The oak is present but only provides a frame. Wonderfully drinkable at full strength—almost no alcohol bite and nice viscosity. The fruit expands with every sip. Water actually pulls out a bit of oak on the palate at first but the fruit brightens up and expands behind it: papaya, peach and some berries too.
Finish: Medium. The fruit and oak fade out slowly; the oak has the last word, getting spicier as it goes: cinnamon at the very end. As on the palate with water. With more time the oak gets a bit sharper.
Comments: This is a whisky drinker’s Cognac. It nosed like an old Longmorn and after a brief oaky start on the palate reminded me of one there too. Just lovely! Is this really 48 years old? The oak is so restrained and the fruit so vibrant. And compared to the price of an old Longmorn or any other malt with a similar profile, this is very good value. Get one if you can; I’ve placed my order.
Rating: 91 points.
Thanks to Sku for the sample!
Great review. I’m glad to see this brand…I have their Lot 40 ( no, I’m not a Lot40 myself). It does make me wonder…why is it that cognac and Armagnac are more expensive then single malts or comparable age? It’s all just fermented grapes and barley, respectively. Sure, one has gone through single distillation, the other double…but that can’t add such a difference, Is it just market demand vs supply?
I assume you meant “are not more expensive”. In Armagnac’s case I think it’s mostly that it’s not a well-known category and most of the producers are small. Not sure about Cognac which certainly has very premium associations. Scotch whisky, however, has certainly been marketed very well for a long time.
I took ‘more expensive’ at face value, at least in cognac’s case. Over here you can get good 10-12 year-old whiskies for £30-50. Sure, it’s more expensive than it was five years ago, (and anything older than 18 years is now disproportionately expensive) but it’s still a lot cheaper than cognac of a similar age/quality.
Disclaimer: I’m talking about widely available cognac, I’m not an expert and I don’t know if lesser known producers have bottlings with age statements at a comparable price to whisky of the same age, but looking at the widely available VSOP and XO bottles it doesn’t look likely.
Hopefully Pranay will clarify what he meant. At any rate, in the US Armagnac is still wildly cheaper than whisk(ey) of similar age. The Encantada Bidets I recently reviewed is $150 for a 35 yo brandy. It is very hard to match that with single malt and not possible at all with bourbon. I don’t pay attention to Cognac so have no idea how representative this is but this 47-48 yo Vallein Tercinier is going for $270. Again just look at the price of 25-30 yo whisky for reference.
Again, without knowing much (if anything) about cognac, I just look at the popular cognacs available here: Remy Martin VSOP for around £35, Martell VSOP for around £45, Hennessy VS for £32. VSOP and VS bottles from less glitzy producers are, surprisingly, at similar prices. Given that VSOP means it’s aged for at least 4 years, and VS for even less, it doesn’t paint cognac in a favourable light compared to whisky. For the same price you can get some very good 10-12 year-old malts. Armagnac, sure, that seems to be a properly off the beaten track drink.
Fair enough. Perhaps the rough hypothesis might be that while entry-level (and close) Cognac is more expensive than its whisky counterpart, older Cognac—especially from smaller estates—is cheaper, especially relative to rising age.
Regrettably we don’t get many unadulterated cognac releases here in Canada, but we did recently get two Maltbarn VT single casks; Lot 89 and Lot 90, and they were both outstanding. I finally could see using Serge’s term “malterative” as a descriptor. Thanks for the review – hopefully we’ll see more soon.
Glad you dig it. The VT Lot 90 is solid, too (especially from a malt drinkers perspective).
Following the link to your blog, I see you guys had something to do with the selection of this cask. Can you say a little more about that process and if we can expect more in this vein? Thanks!
(And I’m looking forward to reading more of your reviews.)
Well the process was long (took over a year) but we worked through it and landed our feet with the Lot 70 and Lot 90. We are definitely working on getting more stuff like this to the US. VT recently obtained a US distributor – its TBD if they are going to import bottles similar to this, carry on with private picks, etc…but we are going to work with VT to try and bring over another selection or two. FWIW the Maltbarn VT lot 89 is completely different than the Lot 70 but an awesome bottling nonetheless and worth seeking out. Ryan and I are also working with a couple other distillers / producers and trying to get them stateside (strictly as passionate, unpaid spirits nerds)…everything is up in the air at this point but I’m optimistic that we’ll see some more amazing cognac at reasonable prices in the future. Sku’s FB group Serious Brandy is a great resource for what’s going on with Brandy stateside.
Also, if you liked the Lot 70, the LMdW Through the Grapevine series is now stateside – Ryan really liked the Fanny and is going to post his review soon.
It’s also worth mentioning there are a few French / brandy sites that actually deliver to the States, such as Vintage Liquors and Premier Grand Crus. Brands for whisky nerds to seek out (just to name a few) include VT, Pasquet, Grosperrin, Prunier, Lheraud, Brillett, Voyer, and Navarre (available in the USA)…
I used to be in the Serious Brandy group but the Delord/Heavenly Spirits shenanigans got too much for me.