It’s clear that the spirits industry has come a long way. When I started getting into spirits nearly a decade ago, consumers were just getting to intimately know more about “the king” that is whisk(e)y. New products such as higher-than-40%-bottlings, non-chill filtered and single casks were starting to get popular.
At the same time, consumers were slowly and unconsciously being reminded of the idea that spirits are really agricultural products. The best example of this would be terroir being talked about more. Safe to say, the industrialization and commercialization of the spirits industry makes us forget these facts sometimes. I find that as more consumers learn that a lot of grain used for Scotch is imported, the more they get curious what using just local barley would be like. This is when local-centric bottlings such as Springbank’s Local Barley and Bruichladdich’s Islay Barley started being more popular.
However, with whisky having received most of the attention, it seems that the majority has forgotten or don’t realize that the French have been using these ideologies since the 1930s. Hopefully the AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) rings a bell. In case you’re not familiar with the AOC, it’s the extremely precise specifications or standards for each stage of its production and distribution. It guarantees and protects the quality and name of the product. Think Scotch or Bourbon, which both have Geographical Indicators (GI).
But, to my understanding, AOCs refer to specific regions within a country rather than just a country’s product. For example, a sparkling wine can only be made Champagne if it was made in and from certain types of grapes grown in the Champagne region. It’s the same for Cognac brandy. Only certain types of grapes grown in the Cognac region can be used to make Cognac. Although, not all producers work with vineyards just next to their vineyard and/or distillery. Brands like the big four source grapes, wine, and distillate from all over the region. Different subregions have their own terroir. This yields different results from grapes grown in other subregions. So, not all Cognac are super local but at least none of the base ingredients are imported.
Today’s producer is the Cognac house of Voyer. Over five generations of their family have been distilling and aging brandy since the 1870s. Their focus is Cognac from the Grand Champagne subregion of Cognac. They work with 28 hectares of their own land. But also work with other winegrowers in the area. Their dedication to maintaining a sustainable agriculture approach netted them a HEV (High Environmental Value) certification, one of the first 20 domains to have it.
The Cognac I’m tasting today is another sample from Cognac Expert. I feel like I’m cheating since my experience of anything from Francois Voyer is an exclusive release. There are only 100 bottles of this “Extra Limited Christmas Edition,” and it’s only available in Cognac Expert. This is made up of Ugni Blanc grapes that have spent 30 years in oak.
Francois Voyer Extra Cognac Limited Christmas Edition – Review
43% ABV. €175 on Cognac Expert.
On the nose: Fruity with a touch of earthiness. I can’t pinpoint it but I get a light and lasting baked note. Something like a pie with dark fruits. After that are more floral and fruits like apple juice, peach jam, apricot jam and plums. There’s a bit of spices like vanilla, cloves, gingerbread and cinnamon. At the end is a bitter zing that makes me think of lime peel.
Whenever I bring the glass away from my nose, I get a bit of a funky aroma. At a certain distance, the smell reminds me of cough syrup called Pei Pa Koa but less sweet.
In the mouth: More fruits! The pie note is still the first thing I sense. It’s a light but lasting mix of Sauternes, baked apples & pears, blood orange, Mandarin orange, and apricot jam. In-between the fruits are also lasting tastes of cinnamon, vanilla, cloves, and nutmeg. Subtle and brief tastes of leather, tobacco, ginger candy and ginseng appear at the end.
An enjoyable Cognac due to its being complex, delicate and balanced. I’m impressed with my first experience of this Cognac house. The expressiveness of flavors are just right at 43%.
I was surprised upon learning of the age, since I didn’t get strong notes of rancio. In my experience, old Cognac usually gives off a lot of rancio notes. Maybe the 30 years mentioned above is just the oldest Cognac used in the blend? It wouldn’t be considered cheating, since this bottling has no age statements. Still, it seems like the components of this are well-aged. They’re patient with taking their turns in presenting themselves.
Due to how lasting the flavors are, this is something I’d drink on a very chill evening with good people while smoking a cigar. It’ll be interesting to see how this Cognac will change as it oxidizes and how it pairs with a cigar.
Bottle image courtesy of Cognac Expert. Label image from @taylorcoffman88 (Instagram) of Cognac Expert