Continuing with review of things that are not whisky, here is a review of a brandy, more specifically of an Armagnac. And if you want to be even more specific, a review of an Armagnac from the Ténarèze region. I note this latter because the vast majority of Armagnacs I’ve had are from the dominant Bas-Armaganc region. Exceptions include a Pellehaut that I liked a lot and a couple of Grangeries that I had a more variable experience with (here and here). All those were brought in by K&L as is this one. It’s no secret that I find the K&L marketing style exhausting and often ridiculous but it must be said they have done more than any other store in the US in expanding brandy horizons here. Pouchegu is, or rather was, a micro-producer even by the rustic standards of Armagnac. In fact, as per the K&L notes, they never produced on a commercial scale or with a commercial market in mind. And with the passing of the proprietor, Pierre Laporte, there may not be any more Pouchegu being made. There is something melancholy about drinking a spirit with such a backstory but it’s also an opportunity to celebrate the skills of its maker. Well, if it’s good, I suppose; but as per the source of my sample—the outsider artist, Sku—it is very good. He does note “huge oak notes” though—Laporte believed in using new Limousin oak casks, apparenrly—and that’s rarely my speed. Let’s see. Continue reading
And now a break from bourbon cask whisky and indeed from all whisky. This is a rum—though as I think about it, it’s quite likely it too was matured in a bourbon cask. The distillery in question is Caroni, a very big name in the rum renaissance of the last decade. Caroni has been referred to by whisky geeks as the “Port Ellen of rum”, not least because it too has closed (in 2002). Now you might think that calling something “the Port Ellen of x” would mean that it was being sold at a king’s ransom but that was not true of this cask when it was bottled by A.D. Rattray in 2012. I believe it went for about $50. I’m sure it would be a very different story these days.
Caroni was located in Trinidad. I know nothing about the usual profile of Trinidadian rums—I don’t even know if there is a usual profile in Trinidadian rum—and so I will not be able to tell you if this cask of Caroni is representative or not of Trinidad rum. And as it may well be the first Caroni I’ve had I can’t even tell you how representative it is of Caroni’s own rum. Now that you know just how uninformative this review will be, let’s get to it! Continue reading
I reviewed a pretty old Armagnac last month, a 40+ yo Le Sablé a Lagrange 1974. That was from a very small producer and bottled by the respected indie outfit L’Encantada. Today’s armagnac is a bit younger, though not very much so at 33 years of age, and was also distilled in the 1970s. It is from an altogether larger producer, Delord, who have a fairly established presence in the US. I’ve previously reviewed their 25 yo, which I found to be just okay. Like that one this 33 yo is also bottled at 40%. As to whether that’s because they diluted a parcel of casks down to stretch the bottling or because they vatted some lower strength casks up past 40%, I have no idea. I do hope at any rate that this won’t taste too washed out. There is no reason, of course, that it should. I’ve had some older malts at similar strengths that were underpowered but I’ve also had others that were quite pleasurable anyway. Where will this fall? Only one way to tell. Continue reading
Copper & Kings is the Kentucky-based upstart American brandy producer. They started out releasing brandy sourced from other producers that they had matured further in bourbon barrels at their own location—where I think loud rock and blues music is played to the casks or some such. I believe their own distillate is now online and presumably being used in their current releases. As I haven’t really been keeping up with spirits news for the last three or four years or so, I haven’t really been following what Copper & Kings has been up to. If you’d asked me before I got this sample (from Sku) what kind of brandy they make/release, I would have said grape (I’ve reviewed one of those: the Butchertown). I had no idea they also did pear brandy. That said, I don’t know if they still do pear brandy (or whether they distilled or sourced the pear brandy they released). The products list on their website makes no mention of pear brandy, though a couple of apple brandies are listed. This one was apparently a single cask released for Kenwood Liquors in Illinois. Was it a one-off? I’d assume it was also aged in a bourbon barrel with loud rock music played to it. Hopefully a more reliable source will chime in, and I won’t be surprised if it’s Joe Heron, the lively and enthusiastic proprietor of Copper & Kings. I was not a huge fan of the Butchertown; but I am very interested to see what this is like as I am very partial to the pear-heavy calvados produced in the Domfrontais region. Continue reading
It’s been a while since my last armagnac review. That was a 23 yo Lous Pibous. This one is almost twice that age: it was distilled in 1974 and bottled a few years ago. Like the previous this was also bottled by L’Encantada, the French independent bottler who’re more responsible probably than anyone else for raising the profile of armagnac among whisky drinkers, at least in the US. This particular armagnac is from a small producer that is no longer around. As per the L’Encantada website, there were only three distillations, in 1973, 1974 and 1976 and all the brandy was aged for 40 years or more. Presumably this was never meant for commercial release. My understanding is that the L’Encantada team wanders the countryside on the weekends in their jalopies, raiding the cellars of old country houses. Did they find a good one here? I was not super impressed by the last similarly aged armagnac I reviewed (a 50 yo Chateau de la Grangerie) but perhaps this one will be better. Let’s see. Continue reading
A cognac to start the month. This is also a K&L exclusive but is not, I think, a very recent release. Based on when I got the sample—from Florin, the Man with 10,000 Faces—I would guess it was released in 2016 or 2017. Perhaps this means that if I don’t like it very much K&L staff will not take it very personally. As you know, if you’ve followed my brandy reviews, I know even less about cognac production than I do about whisky. As such, I have no idea about the reputation of this producer. I do know that the Borderies is the smallest of the Cognac regions and I’ve read that cognac made here is reputed to be at its best at younger ages than those made in Grande and Petit Champagne. And this one is not a super old cognac. Some producers use the “Lot” nomenclature to signal year of distillation—for example, Vallein Tercinier’s Lot 70 or Lot 90. I assume in this case “Lot 18” refers to the age of the cognac. I guess the French don’t care very much about the looseness of the use of these kinds of designations. Continue reading
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