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Vallein Tercinier XO Roots

In the underground geeky Cognac scene, Vallein Tercinier is a house and brand that’s highly regarded.

I first came across this brand through one of La Maison and Velier’s Through the Grapevine bottlings. It’s essentially their independent bottling brand for single cask strength Cognac, which was my first time encountering Cognac being bottled this way. Ever since, I’ve been a fan of and have been eager to try more Vallein Tercinier.

Vallein Tercinier (VT) is the result of the marriage of the Vallein family and the Tercinier family. It started when Robin Tercinier arrived in the Saintonge region of Cognac in 1480. Later on, Louis Vallein bought the Domaine des Forges estate, still their current estate, in 1791. His son Napoleon, who was known to be a wine grower, divided the property between his two descendants.

One of Napoleon’s sons is Georges Vallein, who was a distiller and wine and spirits shipper. His sister, Edith Vallein, married and had a son named Louis Tercinier. He continued the family tradition by working with his uncle after returning from World War I.

What drew me more to VT is that they’re one of the Cognac brands that seem to be caught up with the times. While a lot of Cognac brands are still bottling their products at 40% as VS or VSOP or XO, part VT’s core range are bottled at 44%. One of them is the XO Roots, which I’ll be reviewing today.

Aside from bottling at a higher ABV, they’re also doing something which whisk(e)y aficionados love: having products bottled as single casks at cask strength. But because Cognac is a spirits category that actually has terroir, they’re able to do something most Scotch single malt can’t: bottling aged products that entirely come from raw materials harvested, fermented and distilled from one place.

In this case, it’s from a Cognac sub region or one of its crus. So, we actually get to taste the terroir since the grapes all come from one type of soil and possibly one grower/producer. This is unlike Scotch, where most distilleries forfeit terroir by sourcing their grain from multiple parts of the world. To add to this, the differences in Scotch’s regional styles are starting to mean less, with the lines slowly being blurred. This 31 year old single cask brut de fut (cask strength) 1990 from the Bon Bois region is an example.

The Vallein Tercinier XO Roots is at least 10 years old. In case you don’t know, the AOC for Cognac was updated a few years ago. XO used to require a minimum aging of 6 years. It’s now 10. This expression is a blend of Cognac from Grand Champagne, Petit Champagne and Fin Bois.

Also, note the mention of “natural color and non chill-filtered” on the label. The majority of the Cognac we see in the supermarkets have added boise (pronounced bwa-sy) and are most likely chill-filtered. Boise is an additive Cognac and Armagnac users like to use to give it more color and make it seem older. It’s essentially boiled sugar and wood chips plus some low ABV brandy mixed in an inert vessel. I’ve heard that there are companies in Cognac (and maybe Armagnac) that sell to producers. This VT product most likely doesn’t have any boise added to it.

Vallein Tercinier XO Roots – Review

44% ABV. €75 from Cognac Expert. £57.25 from The Whisky Exchange.
Color: Cinnamon syrup.

On the nose: There’s immediately a hot, tannic and astringent sensation. Behind the heat are light to medium aromas of cinnamon, leather, cloves, the top of a creamy puffy cake with grapes, honey, vanilla, nuts with skin, leather, nutmeg, and brioche.

In the mouth: More astringent than on the nose. I get light to medium tastes of leather, brioche, earl grey tea, the top of a creamy puffy cake with grapes, pears, kiwi fruit, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, and nuts with skin.

Conclusions:

A Cognac with pleasant flavors and a good balanced body, but it lacks a good finish, like the way a good build up joke ends without a good punch line. I’m not calling this a joke though. I guess it would be better to say this is improperly ending a good meal without dessert.

Score: 6/10

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