The Glenlivet 14, Cognac Cask Selection

Maker: The Glenlivet Distillery, Moray, Scotland, UK (Pernod Ricard).20191122_101623.jpg

Region: Speyside

Style: Cognac cask finished single malt.

Age: 14 y/o

ABV: 40%

Michigan state minimum: $55 (purchased at Costco)

Appearance: Light copper.

Nose: oak, malt, sweet paprika, dried fig, dried oregano, alcohol.

Palate: Medium-bodied and lightly sweet. Oak, grape soda, apricot, vanilla.

Finish: Classic Speyside. Oak, toffee, burn.

Parting words: I don’t find myself reaching for The Glenlivet malts much (I generally find them dull) but when I saw one of this age finished in a Cognac barrel my interest was piqued. As long-time readers know, I have been exploring the world of brandy lately and I don’t like sherry so this seemed right up my alley.

It is. The Cognac finish is used judiciously adding depth without overwhelming the malt. The price isn’t terrible either. At $55 it comes in under many other comparable single malts from big producers. The Glenlivet 14 y/o Cognac Cask Selection is recommended.

 

Camus VSOP Elegance

Maker: Camus, Cognac, Charente, France.20191107_175812.jpg

Region: Various

Age category: VSOP (at least 4 y/o)

ABV: 40%

Michigan state minimum: $48

Appearance: Cherry wood.

Nose: Grape soda, oak, alcohol, pink peppercorn.

Palate: Full-bodied and silky. Golden raisins, cola, vanilla.

Finish: Heat, cherry, French oak, brown sugar.

Parting words: Camus the Cognac has been produced by Camus the family since 1863. It’s a mid-sized house located in The Borderies with its own vineyards, although it does also source from other estates as well. Camus’ Elegence range consists of inexpensive (at least compared to the rest of the line) Cognac blends.

Camus VSOP Elegance is a pleasant step up from the VS which I reviewed here. I had fairly high expectations for the VSOP based on how good the VS was. Those expectations were met. It’s elegent and easy drinking, but relatively complex with lots of fruit and cola. The price of Camus VSOP Elegance is higher than most of the VSOP offerings from the big houses, but it’s also more interesting than most of those. That’s why Camus VSOP Elegence is recommended.

Head to head: Extra vs Borderies

Maker: Tessendier et fils, Cognac, Charentes, France20190430_093125.jpg

E= Extra

B= Borderies

Place of origin

E: Grande Champagne, Cognac, France

B: Borderies, Cognac, France

Age category

E:XO

B: NAS

ABV: 40%

Price

E: $100 (K & L)

B: $50 (Binny’s)

Appearance

E: Dark copper.

B: Medium copper.

Nose

E: Oak, leather, apricot, dates.

B: Oak, orange oil, cherry cola.

Palate

E: Sweet, rounded, French oak,  vanilla, black currant jam, alcohol, praline.

B: Lighter, brighter. Orange thyme, cedar, alcohol, roasted almonds.

Finish

E: Nutty. Oak, alcohol, brown sugar

B: Potpourri, alcohol.

20190228_221538.jpgParting words: This is the final installment of my three-part series on the Park Cognacs that came in the little boxed set of six 50 ml bottles I bought at Vine & Table in Carmel (CAR-muhl), Indiana a few months ago. These two are the best of the six.

The Extra is a good example of what a Grande Champagne XO should taste like. It’s complex, but none of the flavors or aromas are outside of the usual file-cabinet of Cognac descriptors. The Borderies was pretty different compared to French brandies I’ve tasted before, more perfume and citrus. That’s not to say that B was better than E, it was just different.

I enjoyed the Borderies as a change of pace, but I would probably not want to drink it all the time. The best comparison I can think of is between bourbon and rye. I enjoy rye as a dry change of pace, but the sweetness of bourbon is what keeps me coming back. Both Park Extra and Borderies are recommended.

Head to head: Cognac Park XO vs XO Cigar Blend

Maker: Tessendier et fils, Cognac, Charentes, France20190314_220844.jpg

XO= XO

XO Cigar Blend= XOC

Place of origin

XO: Cognac, France

XOC: Champagne, Cognac, France (“Fine Champagne”)

Age Category: XO (at least 6 y/o, for now)

ABV: 40%

Price (Binny’s)

XO: $90

OXC: $120

Appearance

XO: Burnt orange.

XOC: Lighter, medium copper.

Nose

XO: Dried fig, old oak, black currant jelly.

XOC: Toasted oak, Meyer lemon peel, leather.

Palate

XO: Grape, oak, anise, caramel.

XOC: Vanilla custard, pink peppercorns, salted caramel.

Finish

XO: Big old oak, cruished grapes.

XOC: Lemonheads, light oak, marmalade.

Parting words: This is part two of my three part series on Park Cognacs. Tonight we’re comparing two OX Cognacs, one that’s a standard XO blend and another Fine Champagne blend that was made with cigars in mind.

I don’t enjoy cigars. They smell like burning ass to me. Yes even the good ones. I tried to taste with the smell of fine cigars in mind but it didn’t really help. Compared to the regular XO, the cigar blend tastes thin and overly citric. The XO is pleasantly rich and more rounded. The Cigar Blend is $30 more too. The XO is recommended but the Cigar Blend is not.

 

Head to head: Cognac Park VS vs VSOP

Maker: Tessendier et fils, Cognac, Charentes, France20190228_221515.jpg

Age Categories: VS (at least 2 y/o), VSOP (at least 4 y/o)

ABV: 40%

Price

VS: $35 (Binny’s)

VSOP: $45 (Binny’s)

Appearance

VS: Pale gold

VSOP: Bright amber.

Nose

VS: Raisin, resin, alcohol.

VSOP: Dr. Pepper, leather, alcohol.

Palate

VS: Mild. Alcohol bite, watered down apple juice.

VSOP: Sweater, more rounded. Brown sugar, oak, plum.

Finish

VS: Light and sweet. Honey, then burn.

VSOP: Dry. New oak, alcohol.

20190228_221538.jpgParting words: This is part one of a three part series of reviews of the six Cognac Park expressions that came in this nifty little six pack I bought a while back. I decided to start with these two since they’re standard expressions.

When I review VS brandies, I like to make a few mixed drinks, since that’s what young brandy is mostly used for. It’s hard to do that with only 5 cl to work with. The VS seems like it would get lost in cocktails with a lot of strong elements, but might do well in ones without. Neat it’s pleasant but not memorable. $35 isn’t terrible but there are better values that are easier to find. Park VS is not recommended.

The VSOP is much more enjoyable neat. It’s heavy on the brown/sugar caramel notes and I wish it was a little more complex but it’s a balanced, enjoyable after-dinner Cognac. Park VSOP is recommended.

Cognac Campagnère VS

Maker: Tessendier & Fils, Cognac, Charente, France20190117_174418.jpg

Age category: VS (at least 2 y/o)

ABV: 40%

Michigan state minimum: $37

Appearance: Medium copper.

Nose: Raisins, toasted oak, cola, alcohol.

Palate: Mild and sweet. Sugared dates, grape soda, alcohol.

Finish: sweetened raisins, lavender, burn.

Mixed: Sucessful in every cocktail I tried it in: B & B, French 75, Phoebe Snow and a sidecar.

Parting words: Tessendier is a medium-sized Cognac house that also produces Park and Grand Breuil. It’s family-owned and they do own some of their own vineyards, but from what I can tell, they a lot buy from elsewhere too. Park is best known in the US, but Compagnère has a presenence as well, although it’s not offered in the same bewildering number of variations as its stablemate. Campagnère comes in VS, VSOP, XO and the NAS Prestige.

Most VS cognacs I’ve had have been innoffensive, a few have been rough. This one is fruity and pleasant. It’s not complex, but it’s a refreshing after dinner pour and is wonderful in cocktails. Price is good too. Campagnère VS is recommeded.

KELT VSOP

Maker: Kelt, Nogaro, Gers, France20181024_213226.jpg

Grape: Ugni Blanc

Region: Grande Champagne Cognac (not specified on the label of the 50 ml bottle I sampled from)

Age: At least 4 1/2 y/o (VSOP)

ABV: 40%

Michigan state minimum: $71.47

Appearance: Medium copper.

Nose: Oak, Saltwater taffy, golden raisins, Crème brûlée topped with mixed berries.

Palate: Full-bodied and sweet. Caramel apple, burn.

Finish: Complex and long-lasting. Menthol cough drops fellowed by oak, followed by raisins.

Parting words: KELT is what we would call an NDP (Non-distiller producer) product in the bourbon world, but what they call a négociant in Cognac. Monsieur Kelt buys spirit and ages it, in this case on a boat. Like Jefferson’s Ocean bourbon, it’s a silly gimmick, but the end result is pretty good.

This is a solid product all around but the finish is what was most striking. I don’t think I’ve ever had a spirit with a finish close to that. I like it, but I could see myself getting sick of it after a while. $71.47 is an odd price and it’s just about as much as I’d be willing to pay for a whole bottle. Luckily, smaller sizes are available in Michigan and elsewhere, so you can make an informed decision. KELT VSOP is recommended.

Delpech Fougerat VS

Maker: Vinet-Delpech, Brie-sous Archaiac, Jonzac, Charente-Maritime, France.20180129_101844.jpg

Age: At least 2 y/o

ABV: 40%

Michigan state minimum: $58

Appearance: Medium copper.

Nose: Grape soda, Sunny D, cola.

Palate: Light-bodied, Golden raisins, black currant jelly, oak.

Finish: Raisin-y with a little burn and chewy oak.

Parting words: There’s not a lot of information on this Cognac online or anywhere else for this matter. Vinet-Delpech is located in Brie-sous Archaic a tiny (<300 people) commune about 17 miles (27 km) south of Cognac. According to their family owns 100 hectares (247 acres) of vineyards in the Petite Champagne and Fins Bois regions of Cognac. They (presumably) produce Cognac from the family vineyards and also seem to do brisk business as a bottler and contract distiller (one wonders if they’re the source of Brenne).

Vinet-Delpech has two lines of Cognac, the Delpech Fougerat line with the standard VS, VSOP and XO expressions and the Vinet-Delpech line with those plus Hors d’âge with the names and faces of the family members that produced the expression on the label. They also produce a non-Cognac brandy called Hector Legrand Extra. As far as I can tell, none of them are widely distributed in the US. Why the Delpech line is available in Michigan is a mystery to me.

Delprect Fougerat VS is a fruity, refreshing, weeknight Cognac at a decent price. If you run across it, I recommend you buy it

Cognac D’Usse VSOP

Maker: Chateau de Cognac, Cognac, Charente, France. (Bacardi)20160929_162624.jpg

Region: Blend.

Age category: VSOP (at least 4 y/o).

ABV: 40%

Michigan state minimum: $51

Appearance: Brownish copper with long, elegant legs.

Nose: Alcohol, felt, old oak, prune juice.

Palate: Full bodied. Juicy and a little chewy with a bold burn throughout.

Finish: Raisins, oak, heat. Long.

Parting words: Cognac d’Ussé is best known for being developed (endorsed?) by Jay-Z. Don’t confuse it with other celebrity spirits like Conjure Cognac or Ciroc vodka. Those are garbage, this is not. D’Usse is a product of Chateau de Cognac, appropriately located   in a castle in central Cognac. Baron Otard is Chateau de Cognac’s primary product line with all the usual suspects. Unlike those, D’Usse (this and the $200+ XO) is made by blending brandies from all over CdC’s estates. It was intended to rope in a young, hip audience. How young and/or hip I am is up for debate, but I have been roped in.

There are no flavors or aromas here that are too far outside the norm for Cognacs, but they’re all amped up while remaining balanced. As a newcomer to good Cognac, I really enjoyed it. The price is in the same ballpark as other VSOPs from Cognac houses of comparable size. Not that it matters but the bottle is really cool looking too. D’Usse VSOP is recommended.

 

New and interesting on the Michigan State Liquor List: May 1, 2016

My home state of Michigan, like sixteen other states, is what is called a “control state”. This means that the state government is directly involved with the sale of liquor in some way. Many of those states operate state-owned liquor stores as a result. Others, like Michigan, merely act as the wholesaler for the state. As a wholesaler, the state of Michigan maintains a list of all the spirits available for purchase from itself. The price book is issued by the state a few times each year. Supplemental lists (now called new items lists) are issued periodically listing items to be added to or deleted from the price book. These lists contain a variety of information but the most important to consumers is the minimum price at which the spirit must be sold at retail.

This post is a look at the new items for May 1, 2016. The LARA website with links to lists in the recent past is here. Caps retained out of laziness but with full names given where the state has abbreviated them. Proof (Michigan lists everything in terms of US proof which= 2 x %ABV), bottle size in ml and retail price are given for each one. I have added notes at the end of each if I think it necessary. Some items are not actually new, but fell off the list for some reason and have been added back or are new bottle sizes for items already on the list. Sometimes an item will be added and removed at the same time. I think this is a way to make corrections, but it’s still puzzling. For the sake of brevity, I have excluded apparent corrections from this post. Some new items are also gift pack versions of existing items. These are always the same price as the bottle alone.

Apologies for the lateness of the post. My wife had a baby.

American Blended Whiskey

DAVENPORT’S AMERICAN BLENDED 80, 750, $18.99 Blended whiskey from Davenport, Iowa’s Artisan Grain Distillery. Unclear if this product is sourced or partially sourced.

Bourbon

Pingree_statue,_Grad_Circus_Park,_Detroit
Statue of Pingree in Grand Circus Park, Detroit

MAYOR PINGREE 90, 750, $89.99

MAYOR PINGREE-10 YR 110, 750, $89.99 New line of bourbon from Valentine in Ferndale, Michigan. It’s named for former Detroit mayor and Michigan governor Hazen Pingree (1840-1901), a progressive Republican who is widely considered to be one of Detroit’s greatest mayors.

When contacted on social media, Valentine’s Justin Aden wrote the following: “The two new listings are for two new age-stated straight bourbon sku’s we’ll be releasing this summer. One is for cask strength, [non chill-filtered] straight bourbon single barrels and the other is a limited edition age-stated ‘small-batch’ blend by yours truly.” When asked if the bourbon was sourced or their own distillate, Justin replied, “A bit of both, depending on the release. We’ve got several label variations of the Mayor Pingree line. We’ve been laying it down since 2007 but we also have some excellent sourced 10yr stock to share as well. We’ll keep you posted!”

WILD TURKEY 81 81, 200, $3.48 This is just about the maximum amount of WT 81 I would want to drink in the span of a lifetime.

RHETORIC-22 YR 90.4, 750, $99.99 How can we miss you if you won’t go away?

Rye Whiskey

YIPPEE KI YAY 92, 750, $64.99 Yippee ki yay, mother lovers, this new blend of straight rye whiskeys from High West was available just in time for mom’s special day. The proportions of the blend are kept secret (didn’t think this was allowed but whatever) but the two ryes in question are from MGPI of Lawrenceburg, Indiana and Barton-1792 of Bardstown, Kentucky.

Scotch

GLENMORANGIE ORIGINAL 86, 1750, $89.99 Newly available family size is great for VBS picnics.

Brandy

CAMPAGNERE COGNAC XO 80, 750, $169.98 The XO joins last month’s arrivals the VS and VSOP. It’s the oldest and by far the most expensive of the three.

Tequila

AZUNIA ANEJO 80.0 750 6 39.28 37.31 43.99

AZUNIA BLANCO 80.0 750 6 31.68 30.10 35.49

AZUNIA REPOSADO 80.0 750 6 35.70 33.92 39.99 Azunia Black was on this list last month.

azunia_billwalton_2sm
Walton relaxing after some Azunia.

The rest of the line arrives this month. As noted previously, the blanco and reposado are made from organically grown agave. Distilled at Agaveros Unidos de Amatitán, 50 miles or so northeast of Guadalajara. They are also partnering with basketball great Bill Walton for some reason.

 

UPDATES

I received a polite email a few days ago from Mychal Diaz of Southern Champion company, makers of Buzzballz premade cocktails, encouraging me to take a look at their new website and get some more accurate information into your hands, dear readers, regarding their products that were on the New Items list back in February.

Their company is a relatively new one, founded in 2010 by inventor Merrilee Kick of Carrolton, Texas. The company was founded around Kick’s concept for BuzzBallz was for an unbreakable, unspillable quality, full strength premade cocktail for camping, picnics, tailgating, etc. She invented the what the website claims is the first plastic beverage can for this purpose.

Andrew_Johns_Gin_Media_Deck-970x1024Recently they have expanded into spirits with XII Kings Vodka, Andrew Johns Gin (both domestically sourced, filtered, proprietarily processed then cut with Texas water), Pelican Bay Rums (a blend of rums from around the Caribbean) and Crooked Fox blended bourbon (sourced from Kentucky and Tennessee). They are NOT the same spirits used in BuzzBallz. There is also have a wine listed on the website, Closet Freak California Muscat. I asked about additives in their spirits as well but there was no response to that question. They will start rolling out nationwide this summer.

 

Image Credits

Pingree statue: I, Mikerussell [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Walton Photo: Press release here.

Andrew John’s Gin: Southern Champion spirits. Used by permission.