Here is the last of my reviews of Lheraud cognacs from the 1970s. The tally between the excellent and the merely very good currently sits at 2:2. I really liked the Fins Bois and the Bons Bois but was not as enthused by the Petite Champagne or the Borderies. Which way will this Grande Champagne take the score? On the one hand, Grande Champagne is said to be the top cru of cognac. On the other hand, even at 25-26 years of age I think this is the youngest of the five bottles and my understanding is that the fruity notes that I prize arise more predictably in cognac with even greater age. That said, the Bons Bois was younger than both the Petite Champagne and the Borderies. And speaking of qualities I prize, please don’t forget that all my brandy reviews are from the perspective of a single malt whisky drinker and particularly a single malt drinker who loves notes of tropical fruit. Other subtleties that may appeal to cognac aficionados may be either lost or wasted on me. With that caveat registered let’s get to it. Continue reading
On Monday I reviewed an American brandy (the Butchertown from Copper & Kings). Today I have a French brandy, to be specific a cognac. To be even more specific, this is a cognac made by the house of Lheraud in 1976 and bottled in 2004. I’ve previously reviewed a few other Lherauds from 1970s, a Fins Bois 1970, a Petite Champagne 1973 and a Borderies 1975. I thought the Fins Bois was dynamite but was not quite as impressed by the other two. I’m hoping this one from the Bons Bois region will move my Lheraud experience back in an upward trajectory. Let’s get right to it.
Lheraud Bons Bois 1976-2004 (46%; Cognac; from a bottle split)
Nose: A lovely fruity nose with mango, passionfruit and guava plus some polished oak forming a nice frame behind the fruit. On the second and third sniff the oak expands a bit but it’s all still in very nice balance. Water pushes the oak back a bit and makes the fruit richer/darker (think mango leather rather than mango). Continue reading
About four years ago, Sku sent me a sample of an American brandy named Butchertown by a new Kentucky-based craft outfit named Copper & Kings. The distillery was being hyped at the time by David Driscoll at the K&L blog (remember him? I wonder if he’s helped cure cancer yet) and that was good enough reason for many to be skeptical. Then Sku gave it a very strong review, which led me to open and taste my sample. I remember finding it interesting but nothing so very special but as I was not reviewing brandy at the time, I didn’t bother taking notes. I did, however, mention in the comments on Sku’s blog that I had found a strong anise note in the brandy and this led to the proprietor of Copper & Kings becoming very excited. Not very surprising behaviour perhaps from one who apparently plays loud rock music to his casks. Speaking of “his casks”, Butchertown is sourced brandy, not distilled by Copper & Kings. They only started distilling their own brandy in 2014—I assume some of it will come online soon. Continue reading
Back to brandy, back to cognac, back to Lheraud. I have to date reviewed two releases of 1970s vintages from the renowned cognac house. I really liked the 1970 Fins Bois and was a little less enthused by the 1973 Petite Champagne (though I did like it). Today’s Lheraud was distilled in 1975 and is made from grapes from the Borderies region. Where will it fall in comparison to the other two. Let’s see.
Lheraud Borderies 1975-2005 (47%; Cognac; Borderies; from a bottle split)
Nose: A mix of caramel, dried orange peel, apricot jam and honey. Gets brighter as it sits with sweeter notes coming to the top (berries of some kind); a bit of cola too. Water seems to mute all of the above though it doesn’t do too much damage. Continue reading
On Wednesday I reviewed a Lheraud distilled in 1970 and bottled in 2007. I really liked that one. Today I have another Lheraud from the 1970s but it’s a bit younger. However, while the 1970 was from the Fins Bois cru, this one is from Petite Champagne, which is, along with Grande Champagne, one of the premier crus of Cognac. Apparently, the brandy made from Petite Champagne grapes can be particularly fruity. All of this bodes well in theory. Let’s see how it works out in practice.
Lheraud Petite Champagne 1973-2003 (48%; Cognac; Petite Champagne; from a bottle split)
Nose: Richer than the Fins Bois 1970 with prunes, dark maple syrup, apricot jam, dried orange peel and tobacco. Thins out as it sits. Let’s see if water unlocks any more richness. Hmm there’s an herbal thing that happens and maybe there’s a bit of plum but nothing more of interest. Continue reading
Monday I had a review of an armagnac; today I have a review of a cognac. Lheraud is a family business with a long history. I don’t know very much about them and am not going to try to give you the impression that I do. I can tell you that it is a house with a very fine reputation and prices to match. Lherauds of similar older vintages as Vallein-Tercinier etc. are available but they cost quite a lot more. Meanwhile, a number of cognac aficionados rave about them. The gents at Plebyak have made the comparison to 1960s Bowmore both in terms of profile (heavily fruity) and quality. That is a heady comparison indeed. But on account of the aforementioned high prices of Lherauds it was not enough to convince me to take a flyer on a bottle. However, when a chance recently arose to participate in a bottle split of a quintet of Lherauds I leapt at it. As a bonus, the quintet covers five of the six crus of Cognac. First up, a Fins Bois which also happens to be the oldest vintage in the set. Continue reading
Let’s keep rolling with the themes and do a week of brandy reviews. First up, another Lous Pibous armagnac bottled by L’Encantada. I have previously reviewed casks 187 and 188, both distilled in 1996. Here now is cask 124, distilled in 1993 and three years older than the other two. You only need to take one glance at the label on the bottle alongside to know who my sample came from. Yes, it is he. Well, I liked those 1996 casks a fair bit, and I think this one is supposed to be even better. Let’s see if that’s how it works out for me.
Lous Pibous 23, 1993 (52.5%; L’Encantada; cask 124; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Rich, notes of dried orange peel, dark marmalade, apricots, leather. On the second sniff there’s some cinnamon and oak. As it sits the apricot comes to the fore. With a few drops of water there’s more of the orange peel. Continue reading
The cognac reviews continue. And for a change here’s one that isn’t a Vallein Tercinier. You may remember that I loved their Lot 70 (for Flask) and Rue 71 and thought their Lot 90 (also for Flask) was very good too. Today’s cognac, however, is from Francois Voyer. I know nothing about the world of cognac and so cannot tell you anything about the relative significances of these producers. Nor can I tell you exactly what “Extra” signifies here. Unlike in the Scotch whisky world there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of exactness about age with cognac. You have to believe that Lot 70 truly indicates that the brandy was distilled in 1970 and aged continuously in oak till it was bottled in 2018 or whenever. And a term like “Extra”, which would invite derision in the NAS-heavy world of single malt whisky is trusted to refer to cognac that may indeed be more than 30 years of age. I guess, despite their lack of exactness, cognac producers haven’t done as much as Scotch whisky companies to make consumers leery about their claims. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
Last month I reviewed the first of two casks of Lous Pibous 20, 1996 from the Armagnac bottlers, L’Encantada, who are all the rage in American brandy circles these days. That was cask 187 and I liked it quite a lot even though I didn’t find a whole lot of complexity in it. Here now is cask 188. Both samples came to me from Sku who was involved in the selection of these casks for the American market. I have no further introductory patter, so let’s get right to it.
Lous Pibous 20, 1996, Cask 188 (53.6%; L’Encantada; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Orange peel, cola, cinnamon, raisins, caramel. Not much change really with time. With water the stickier notes get a little more emphasis and the oak/cinnamon recedes a little. Continue reading
L’Encantada appear to be the major independent bottlers of Armagnac these days, or at least the ones who thrill the hearts of whisky geeks the most. They are a group of brandy enthusiasts themselves who some years ago began to purchase and bottle casks of Armagnac from small producers in Gascony. You can read a little more about them on the K&L blog. (That write-up is by Sku, who now writes occasionally for K&L and who is also the source of this sample.) These Pibous releases established the L’Encantada reputation in the US, coming at a time when many American bourbon mavens were, if not making a move to Armagnac, beginning to drink it in a bigger way. There were a few of these Pibous casks selected by and bottled for a private group of brandy geeks; a small number of bottles from each cask made it to retail at K&L, who’d facilitated the sale (given the laws in the US, private citizens cannot purchase spirits directly from importers or distributors). Sku was a part of this group, I believe. Since then a number of other L’Encantada casks have hit the American market (see, for example, this one). Anyway, I’ve been meaning to taste and review these Pibous casks ever since Sku passed these samples on to me; here now are my notes on cask 187, a 20 yo distilled in 1996 and bottled at cask strength. Continue reading
Yesterday I reviewed a 19 yo Golden Devil exclusive rum for K&L. That one was from Guadeloupe. For this review let’s leap over to Guyana and go up a few years in age. This is a 25 yo Enmore, referred to by some—and few less enthusiastically as the people selling it—as the Port Ellen of rum. I’m not really sure what that means. Enmore and Port Ellen are closed distilleries but so is Dallas Dhu; why is Enmore not the Dallas Dhu of rum? I demand answers! But seriously, you can’t expect me to get excited about something that’s not the Pappy of its category—Driscoll must have been slacking on the job that day.
The history of the Enmore distillery and of Guyanese rum in general is complicated. All the Guyanese distilleries were consolidated into one in the mid-1990s and even before that Enmore produced both column still and pot still rum. This particular release is a single cask of pot still rum and it was bottled at a whopping strength of 63%. I have, as it happens, had another 25 yo Enmore bottled for K&L—that one was from their less fancy Faultline label (is that still on the go?) but I liked it a fair bit. Will this be as good? Let’s see. Continue reading
From Cognac to rum. This is another K&L selection and another sample from Sku. I know only a little more about rum than I do about Cognac and so I can tell you that Bellevue is a distillery in Guadeloupe (a word that is very hard to spell late at night) but I cannot tell you very much more than that. This was also bottled by Hunter Laing in their Golden Devil series—I think that’s the name used for their Kill Devil line in the US (is that because there’s an American producer named Kill Devil?). Anyway, I know nothing about the characteristics of Guadeloupean rum and so am curious to see what this is like. Let’s find out.
Bellevue 19 (59.7%; Golden Devil; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: A little blank at first but then there’s a pretty standard if muted dark rum profile laced with aniseed and an herbal character (sage?). As it sits it begins to open up with more caramel. Let’s see what water does. Not very much really—no interesting change to report. Continue reading
Last week I had a review of a K&L exclusive Bowmore that I rather liked. May as well take that as a spur to do a week of reviews of K&L exclusives. And as that Bowmore was a bottle recommended by Sku, I might as well make it a week of K&L exclusives that I received samples of from Sku. First up is a Cognac. I know very little about Cognac—as I’ve said before—and so I cannot tell you anything about Duodognon (presumably the producer). I do know that the Napoleon designation means that the brandy is at least six years old. However, I cannot tell you why this is called Duodognon Napoleon II, though I’d guess the prosaic answer is that this is the second Duodognon Napoleon bottled by/for K&L. This was issued in 2016. Sku reviewed it then and seemed to like it: he said it was “nice” and he must have thought so: the review contains more than 10 words, a rarity for Sku. Anyway, I am looking forward to trying a younger Cognac, the two others I’ve reviewed so far having been a lot older. Continue reading