I have Sku to blame for my sudden interest in cognac. He’s been going on about brandy in general for a good while now—you may remember that in 2013 he’d proclaimed the Golden Age of Brandy. I took that as a sign and a couple of months later promptly started this whisky blog (well, it used to be a whisky blog then). I ignored the whole brandy thing for a while till the bastard got me into first calvados and then armagnac. And then this past winter, when we met in Los Angeles, he passed me a bunch of samples, which included the Vallein Tercinier, Lot 70. As you may recall, I liked that one a lot. Enough to grab a couple of bottles. And enough in fact to look more fully into this cognac thing. One thing led to another and I purchased a few older cognacs and passed samples of the couple I’ve opened so far on to Sku. I was going to ask him what he thought of them but then I thought I’d ask him if he’d be willing to share his notes alongside mine on the blog. He readily agreed—clearly he misses writing reviews. Here then is the first of two cognac reviews that feature my tasting notes and then below them a terse capsule review of the kind we all enjoyed on Sku’s Recent Eats before he shut up shop. Try to control your emotions.
The first review is of another Vallein Tercinier, distilled a year after the Lot 70; at least, that’s what the label says—there isn’t a vintage statement proper on these Vallein Tercinier bottles, for reasons that are doubtless complicated. I think there have been more than one of these released. I’ve seen references to a 2017 bottling at 47%—this one, however, was bottled in 2018 at 46.8%. It may be the same run being bottled at different times—I don’t know. If you do please write in below.
Vallein Tercinier, Petite Champagne, Rue 71 (46.8%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Caramel, apricot jam, sandalwood, orange peel; behind all of that is some spicy oak. As it sits it gets a touch more acidic and there’s a hint of passionfruit. With time it gets stickier with the apricot jam ascendant along with a bit of brown butter. With a drop of water there are some darker notes (tobacco) and it’s more earthy too now (mushrooms).
Palate: Comes in brighter and a bit oakier and then the fruit starts expanding and keeps going. Nice texture at full strength. On the second sip the oak is more talkative but the fruit is right there behind it (some berries in there too now along with the passionfruit). Continues to get spicier as it sits but the fruit is still there. Water opens it up again and the brighter, fruitier notes rise up (berries).
Finish: Long. The fruit keeps going, gets sweeter and then more tropical (passionfruit, mango). The oak pops back again at the end, spicy and slightly mentholated but not tannic. As on the palate with air and water.
Comments: This is not quite as rich as the Lot 70 but it is very, very good indeed. For whisky people who like this mix of fruit and oak in older whiskies from the late 60s and 70s this seems like a no-brainer at the price being asked for it. Hmmm I might have to get another bottle.
Rating: 90 points.
Sku’s notes (from a sample from my bottle):
The nose is dry and spicy with some pear and then some floral notes. On the palate, it starts with a sweet, syrupy note, then turns spicy – more savory spices than baking spices – some dill, bay and even salt (like in a coastal malt). The spice lasts into the finish with a very slight bitterness. This is quite different from the lot 70 and perhaps a bit less glorious, but still really excellent. It has a nice progression from sweet to spicy to slightly bitter (and then sweet again on the next sip).
As you can see, he found far less fruit in this than I did; and while we both thought it was different than the Lot 70 he found it to be a lot more different than I did. And our notes are from the same bottle. You might attribute these discrepancies to the fact that I am sweet and Sku is bitter—and that’s probably true—but the truth as always is that taste is highly subjective.
Well, next week I’ll have another cognac review guest-starring Sku, and that one we disagree on even more!