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Cognac, a high-quality brandy, known for its hard taste and easy smoothness, is developed in the Southwest region of France, in the town of the same name. Built on a river bank, the town of Cognac is known for its many, beautiful, heritage buildings. The River Charente is quiet and quaint, surrounded by Castle-like homes, carefully arranged, within a vast array, of the bright, bold colors of the naturalistic environment. The community where Cognac is made is Very Special – A photogenic setting.
The environment is symbolic of the full flavor of the liquor produced here, warm and welcoming with surprisingly striking details. The flavorful taste of Cognac is attributed to its white-wine base, with no sugar added, and the aging it undergoes whilst stored in characteristically grand, oak barrels; this is why the taste is so unique, and can’t be described as a specific, single ingredient. Also adding to its appeal is its pleasant presentation, served in tulip glasses, and sold in an artful array of bottles. Sales of such bottles reached a record high in 2016, with over 179 Million Bottles sold.
Those contributing to the production and sale of Cognac are among select, serious and skilled spirits, so experienced, that they even grade their bottles. Here is a list of the acronyms, used to determine, quality of spirit:
VS – Very Special | This grade refers to newer bottles, or the youngest bottles. Very Special bottles have been stored for a length of just two years or less.
VSOP – Very Superior Old Pale | Very Superior Old Pale (newer) bottles have been stored for a length of four years or less. However, all VSOP bottles are above two years.
XO – Extra Old/Napoleon | Extra Old (still newer) bottles have been stored for a length of six years or less. However, all Extra Old/Napoleon bottles are above four years.
Hors D’Age/XO – Beyond Age | This grade refers to the oldest bottles. Beyond Age bottles have been stored for over six years. Hors D’Age/XO are brand[i]ed the best bottles money can buy. Reserved for more experienced drinkers, these are considered the highest quality Cognacs.
Various brands of Cognac have developed a solid reputation that stands the test of time, and we have compiled a list of six – Take your pick!
The Age-less list: The highest priced bottles (oldest and boldest)
Courvoisier | High End Estimate – approximately $2,700 (Limited Edition)
Considered “The Toast of Paris,” this award-winning brand of Cognac, recognized in 2015 and 2016, at the San Francisco, World Spirits Competition is a top seller, and a favorite throughout the history of Cognac.
Taste: A delicious blend of Creme Brule flavor with hints of Vanilla, and subtle, Fruit Flavors, like Orange. The sip is very bold and silky smooth.
Trivia: What is the significance of this brand, in relation to the Eiffel Tower?
Answer: Guests toasted each other with a glass of Courvoisier Cognac at its opening. Courvoisier has been enjoyed among the most noble guests, including King Edward XII, who attended the Eiffel Tower, Grand Opening Ceremony.
Hennessy Cognac | High End Estimate – approximately $2,600 USD (Limited Edition)
This brand is a younger, fresher take on Cognac, and the presentation is adventurous and experimental, with the slogan: “Journey of the Senses.” Hennessy is becoming known for providing an “experiential” taste, sure to appeal to highly-developed senses.
Taste: Advertisements for Hennessy market bottles as a more, main-stream, drink of choice; however, Hennessy is a lot smoother and warmer than more common choices, like Vodka, Whiskey or Gin. The taste of Hennessy is sweet, with a Vanilla/White-Wine flavor blend, complemented by rich Candied accents, like Caramel and Mocha, with the traditional, slightly, Citrus taste.
Hine | Named after the founder, Thomas Hine, Hine Cognac was developed after Hine was handed down a Cognac house by his father in law, achieving new success after taking ownership. Located right along the banks of the aforementioned River Charente, Hine House of Cognac has been bringing spirits to life for over 250 years.
Taste: Hine is known for having a much stronger, Oak taste. Blended sweetness infuses intense flavors of Sugar, Honey and Almond, with more traditional hints of Orange Citrus. Warm Vanilla and Spice contribute to the very, light, creamy sip of this popular choice of Cognac.
Trivia: What is the most unique, quality about the ageing process of Hine’s Vintage Cognacs?
Answer: The liquors are sent to the UK to be aged over a 20-year duration because the climate and temperature are different in this location. This contributes to its unique, light flavor.
Louis Royer | High End Estimate – approximately $5000 USD (Limited Edition)
Louis Royer is a well-established name in Cognac culture and one of the leading brands in China. Royer develops luscious liquors that result from five, distinct, blends of cru, for example: Grande Champagne; Petite Champagne; Borderies; Fin Bois and Bon Bois. Since the 180os, Royer House has been perfecting its blending and ageing process, and is continuously developing its Cognacs to bottle the best.
Taste: Known for its exceptionally smooth taste, Royer has a stronger Oak flavor, from the aging process in the storage of the Cognac. Royer is known for having a more potent, Fruit flavor, giving it the sleek, effortless, drinking quality, that is easy to mix with. A more sophisticated blend of Cognac, these bottles tend to be much older in manufacture and richer on the palette.
Martell | High End Estimate – approximately $12 999 USD (Limited Edition)
With more than 300 years of history in the industry, Martell is the oldest creator of Cognac, and is updating traditional spirits. Where it was originally served to royalty, and then to older, more established men and women, we are now seeing this brand being marketed to and popularized among a much younger, lush crowd.
Taste: “The French Touch” – Each bottle has been well developed, over time. Martell is a perfect blend of Citrus; for example: Apricot, Orange and Grapefruit, thoughtfully blended into a velvet viscosity, for a sense-stimulating, warming flavor. The accent is the more anticipated Vanilla sweetness, for added savoring.
Trivia: What is the best way to serve Martell?
Answer: Neat or On The Rocks. It should never be warmed, and it is not recommended Straight Up (i.e. mixed with ice, poured without ice). It is best served cold.
Remy Martin | High End Estimate – approximately $19 000 USD (Limited Edition)
One of the oldest, and most highly priced brands of Cognac, Remy Martin has been involved in infusing quality blends for approximately three centuries. This is definitely one of the more mature tastes that we are used to hearing about, when it comes to Cognac, and collectors gravitate toward a brand this well-established.
Tastes: Remy Martin is unique and slightly sweet, with a Champagne-like quality in its smoothness, although still velvety soft in the sip. Fruit flavored accents in this brand can be described as an Orange and Plum blend, with the added spice of a bolder, cinnamon or nutty flavor.
Bringing us the most luxurious, limited edition bottles, like Remy Martin Louis XIIII, at just under 20 000 USD, for 3000 ml, we understand why this is such a popular choice among the Cognac drinking crowd of regulars.