Sunday, April 21, 2019

1988 Château de Léberon, 44.9% (selection by Beast Masters/PM Spirits)

This is a selection by a spirit enthusiast group called the Beast Masters Club and PM Spirits.  It is a 1988 vintage armagnac from Château de Léberon. Bottled at 44.9%, 30 years old and dark as night. Another one of those cool producers that ages their brand in oak harvested from the trees on their property. A combination of Ugni Blanc and Colombard grapes used in their production.

Nose: The nose promises a lot. Dark sticky molasses, walnut liqueur, lacquer, stewed fruits - plums, strawberries, light hints of tobacco.  I'm not a glass fanatic, but it's a nose that really opens up nicely in a larger glass like a canadian glencairn.

Taste: It starts off sweet and actually a bit juicy. Spiced chocolate pudding.  Thick sugars of stewed raisins, plums, figs, cherries, citrus.  Chewy mouthfeel. Lots of herbal bitters. Angostura. Actually a bit manhattan-esque. 

Finish: Tobacco leaves. No surprise we have some more lacquer and spicy oak notes that follow through in the finish.   Those dark fruits still linger underneath the oak. 
The profile doesn't change too much with the addition of water, but perhaps softens the dryness and offers a touch more sugars.

Overall: Overall this is both thickly sweet and drying at the same time.  With how dark this armagnac is I picked up a bottle of it thinking it would be way heavy on the oak for my tastes.  If you've read any of my reviews it's no secret that I love oak only in modest balanced doses. Well, I'm glad I grabbed a bottle as it's balanced nicely and a great brandy.  Just excellent.  It's full of complexity and the finish sticks around forever.  A really nice selection.   Well done.


Tuesday, April 16, 2019


Thanks to a unwelcomed mid-April winter storm (let’s call it a midwesternr’), my social media feeds have been blown up with Game of Thrones themed posts. “Winter is coming...winter is NEVER leaving...I think I just saw the Night King having a pint at Revolution Brewery.” So I figured what better time than now to try this heater of a cognac - the LMDW TTGV 1977 Comandon - which weighs in at 59.7%.

The Comandon is from the Borderies cru, the smallest (acreage wise) of the regions. The history with Comandon is pretty interesting. They are an old house that used to produce cognac but currently they operate as an independent bottler. I imagine that since the label on this LMDW TTGV says “Comandon” that Comadon produced this cognac...but I also wonder if there is a chance it was merely purchased from Comandon by TTGV and produced by another house. Unlikely, but maybe? I guess I’ll have to look for some timelines and google a little more extensively (GoT is on in 15 minutes so I’m a bit limited time-wise right now). The Comandon website has a lot of info on the house and the link is provided below.

On to the review...

N: chocolate covered raspberries, canned peaches, apricot...a little cinnamon and coriander hiding in there, too.

P: Initially a sweet and creamy palate...apricots, peaches and cream...then baking spices and some herbal qualities like green tea...There is a little heat strikes it off-balance a little - not awful but definitely noticeable. The palate reminds me of a Frapin 89 I had, but with more oomph (since its cask strength). Aside from helping the baking spices pop more, a little water just muted the other flavors rather than teasing them out.

F: has a very nice length with a little burn...a little pleasure and pain commingled that booze masochists wont mind.

Thoughts: This is not a bad cognac by any measure. Serge gave this a lowly 79 points, which in my mind is a death-kiss score (at least by his measure). I have to respectfully disagree and say this is definitely a decent bottling. If it was still around at retail I would snag a bottle for myself (this was part of a bottle split with amigos).

Grade: B Plus

Friday, March 8, 2019

Jean Fillioux XO Cognac Premium Barrel # 96 100% Ugni Blanc 45%

Here’s a quick review of a new(sh) Jean Fillioux single barrel released in the USA. It was selected by “Heavenly Spirits” and I think it’s seeing distro in a couple of states, limited to 240 bottles. The elevated proof and barrel number are definitely shiny objects that will draw the eyes of whisky drinkers. I do not know if there are any additives in this particular bottling, but per the Norwegian website, other Jean Fillioux bottles do have elevated sugar levels (I linked the Norwegian page below). However, in the grand scheme of things, they don’t appear to be the worst offenders when it comes to adding sugar. Lets see if this bottle gives me a toothache...   

N: very “cognacy,” like when non-cognac drinkers refer to cognac...this really walks the middle of the road with one foot on the sweet side and the other stomping on flowers...apricots, roses, prunes and peaches...vanilla, bamboo stalk, and these weird old timey candies I got at an old timey general store in an old timey town when I was a kid (don’t ask for more details - it’s one of those olfactory memories that have stuck with me for 30+ years)

P: the apricots really translate from the nose, along with melons, custard, flower stems, marshmallows, and some other stuff...nothing really jumps out ahead, just a nice balance of flavors that are neither showy nor offensive. 

F: decent medium length, doesn’t last forever but doesn’t flee right away, either.

Comments: This bottle is fine. If we were playing dodgeball and picking teams, this bottle would probably get picked in the very middle of the selection - it’s not going to change the outcome of the game but it’s also not going to tank your team. For what it is I’d say it’s overpriced ($125 retail) by about $50, but its not like there are many more similar cognac options stateside right now. 

Changing gears a little, I want to say that the Fillioux estate looks beautiful and I love that their cognac is a family affair. Check out the Heavenly Spirits link below for some fantastic pictures and more details on Fillioux offerings.

Grade: B


US Distro:

Saturday, February 16, 2019

1994 Gilles Sarraute Bas Armagnac, 43.5%

1994 Gilles Sarraute

The name on the label is Gilles Sarraute, but according to Astor Wines, the producer is Domaine Camille Sarraute. Either way, not a whole lot comes up when I do a search on this producer. Anybody have any info? Please share in the comments!

One interesting detail: according to Darroze, Gilles Sarraute has been overseeing grape production at Domaine de Salié for the past decade.  There's another familiar name that is related to this domaine that some armagnac and more specific L'encantada fans may recognize: Le Frêche.

So, now that we've got that fairly exhaustive overview of this producer out of the way, let's move on to the tasting.

Nose: Fairly straightforward nose that doesn't give too much away. Some fresh fruit. Berries. Orange liqueur. There's also almonds, leather, some bitter chocolate.

Taste: Oranges, lemons, caramelized sugars.  Very juicy upfront.  It transitions to some heavier notes of burnt caramel, milk chocolate. More fruit. Strawberries and cream. Towards the finish there's a sweet nuttiness - like candied roasted nuts. Some more typical oak notes of light tannins, wood polish.  The fruits and tannins all come together really nicely.

Overall: This is a juicy armagnac with enough sweet complexity to keep it interesting.  There is a balance from the oak that comes through in the finish, but we aren't even close into "oaky" territory.  I find this style very enjoyable.  It's fresh which is always a plus for me.  This is available from Astor Wine for $115. Worth grabbing one, especially if there's a 15% off sale.


Friday, February 8, 2019

1994 Fanny Fougerat (Through the Grapevine), 52.8%

Quick thanks to Justin for keeping things going while I battled an epic head cold that just didn’t want to go away.

This is a review of a 1994 vintage cognac coming from Fanny Fougerat.  It was bottled by the La Maison Du Whisky label - Through the Grapevine - which highlights single cask, cask strength, vintage cognac from small producers.  We’ve reviewed some of these TtG releases in the past. There have been some true gems in there (Lot 87 Remi Landier (A-), ‘71 Francois Voyer (A) ). After Master of Malt discontinued shipping to the US, these bottles became even more difficult to obtain.  Recently, a handful of TtG bottles were brought into the US market, thanks to the work of Kate Perry, who is the North American Market Manager for LMDW & Velier.

So, who is Fanny Fougerat? Like so many of the small houses, they only sold their cognac to the big labels for many years. It was only in 2013 that they first began releasing cognac under the Fanny Fougerat label.  Their production is split between two regions - Fins Bois and Borderies with 30 hectares of Ugni Blanc vines.  All of their cognac is distilled on site. From what I’ve gathered they bottle their cognac without additives, and their official bottlings range in proof from the traditional 40% up to a more respectable 44%.

This particular cognac is from their Borderies grapes (some really wonderful fresh fruit-forward cognac has been produced in this region - I’m thinking of the 1974 Giboin (A-) ).

The details:

Producer: Fanny Fougerat
Distilled: 1994
Region: Borderies
ABV: 52.8%

The tasting notes:

Nose: Honey, floral, heavy on walnuts, some caramel, sawdust 

Taste: There’s an initial hit of juicy sweetness. Loads of citrus and green apple. Also bittersweet cocoa, caramel. Brown sugar. The mouthfeel is thick and even slightly sticky. More tart fruit. tangerines, grapefruit, and sticky candied apples.   Lots of thick sugars in this cognac. 

Finish: A slightly medicinal twist on the finish with wood polish, propolis, echinacea. I like this. It starts off very traditional and ends with a more challenging set of flavors.  There is enough lingering sweetness with the layered complexity that continues to invite you to take another sip.

Thoughts:  This is a cognac I keep coming back around to and continues to reveal more layers with each visit. I’m a fan and hope there is more to taste from Fanny Fougerat. Are some of these small houses a one stop show never to be seen again? I hope note. No regrets on this purchase. It was around $150 at K&L.

B+/A-, but let's say a strong B+

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Bourgoin Cognac Brut de Frut 22 Year 55.3%

Here’s a quick review of a brandy from Bourgoin Cognac, a small grower/producer located in the Fins Bois region (at least from what I can tell looking at the AOC map). BC definitely caters to the whisky crowd by producing untainted, un-boised, un-sugared brandy. Their website even says “save whisky, drink Bourgoin Cognac.” At least they have a target market in mind. This review is of one of their cask strength offerings and can be found in some spots in the USA (mostly the left and right coasts).

On to the review (from a sample from a friend)...

N: a little new make’ish, like cedar, and also pears, dried mango, lychee, and no. 2 pencil.

P: the pears really pop, some light tropical fruits, almond slices (like the ones on a summer salad)...a little heat but its not too hot.

F: the pears and mango ride a wave of gentle heat until it’s gone.

Notes: this is a bright, fruity cognac...a summer brandy if you will. And I like that Bourgoin isn’t messing around with what goes into the bottle outside of the actual distillate. With that said, this one was dumped a little too soon despite 22 years in oak - it tasted young. And the pricing is pretty high (over 100 for a 375ml in some places). Overall, this teetered on the B / B+ line, but I can’t ignore the subtle heat (and pricing here in the States).

Grade: B

Monday, January 28, 2019

“Mars” Domaine de Pouchegu for K&L Wines 49.6%

I’ve heard a few people say we are in a “golden age” for brandy. I don’t disagree. There are amazing bottles of cognac and armagnac that you can purchase right now without breaking the bank. It takes a little leg work, research, and an open mind with an equally open palate to figure out what brands to explore. But if you are making the effort today, I think you’ll be able to reflect on your exploration and purchases with a smile.

Yet, while we may be in a golden age, I don’t think we are in a brandy “renaissance.” Small houses - the places that have produced the best brandy I’ve consumed over the last year - are thinning. I fear that the the slowly changing landscape will chip away at the elements which currently make brandy the best pound-for-pound spirit on the market (rum and mezcal are not far behind). The increase in contract distilling due to big-house demand...the consolidation of vineyards...the cellar clearing and blending of liquid antiquities by big-houses...the end of legacy's all part of a death by a thousand tiny cuts. I wonder if parallels can be drawn to other spirits? Hmmm...

Anyways, this review is of a bottle that potentially screams “golden age brandy” at you, the “Mars” Domaine de Pouchegu for K&L Wines. Domaine de Pouchegu is a small house armagnac producer. The details of this bottle are provided on the K&L site, which is linked below; David OG has a very nice and informative write-up. Unfortunately, the distiller, Pierre Laporte, passed away in 2013. One thing to note about this bottle is that the spirit, which is a distinguished 38 years old, was aged entirely in new oak.

Onto the review...

Nose: graham cracker, Hershey chocolate, rose petals, a hint of gourmet black licorice, and oak...a lot of oak.

Palate: dark, rich, and dense...this is a flavorful spirit. Oaky flavors and tannins jump right out, and behind the woody veil are a bunch of other tasty notes like blood orange, rum raisin, vanilla, coffee creamer, and a ton of other nuanced things I’m probably missing.

Finish: it has a real nice length and depth - it doesn’t last forever but it doesn’t leave after the first act, either...I'll say its medium-long???

Thoughts: I want to reiterate this is dark, rich, and dense (that could be a title to an Ohio Players song, I dunno). A word of caution here: you better be a woodchuck if you plan on snagging a bottle of this. The oak is very in-your-face. With that said, if you like chewing on toothpicks (I do), you might really like this bottle. I’m not oak-sensitive if that helps with interpreting this review. I primed the palate with the Lincoln Road L’Encantada “Le Freche” (A minus grade), and side-by-side, I slightly prefer the Mars - it’s richer, a tad more concentrated, and feels more mature. With that said, I don’t think the Mars deserves a better grade than the Le Freche. Instead, I’m giving the Mars the same grade. I guess all “A minuses” are not the same, which incidentally is something I learned while working as a teaching assistant in college. 

1988 Château de Léberon, 44.9% (selection by Beast Masters/PM Spirits)

This is a selection by a spirit enthusiast group called the Beast Masters Club and PM Spirits.  It is a 1988 vintage armagnac from Château ...