Whenever I think of my early days of seriously exploring whisk(e)y and other spirits, few memories of Cognac would resurface. This was the case since Scotch and Cognac were seen as the most premium brown spirits in my youth, so there was an ingrained curiosity – and, I guess, a bias – towards them.
Tesseron was the first Cognac I encountered that wasn’t made by the big four (Remy, Hennessy, Martell, and Courvoisier). One of the early local speakeasy bars called ABV had a bottle of Tesseron Lot No 90, which was recommended by the bar owner. This also makes it the first one I tried that wasn’t just a VS, VSOP, or XO. He told me that he became aware of the brand through news of the wine critic Robert Parker, who gave the Tesseron Lot No 29 a score of 100 in 2005.
I didn’t get to try Lot No 29, as the bar didn’t have it. But I did have a taste of the Lot No 90; which I’ve completely forgotten by now. That may have been my first time hearing of an expert or a critic deviating from his or her known category. That single memory has made me curious about Tesseron ever since. It’s funny how booze is usually drunk to make people forget… yet for some it’s a tool for remembering.
With the understanding of Cognac being less extensive then, I was told that “Lots” in Cognac are somewhat of a stand-in for vintages. Which meant – to me, at that time – that Lot No 29 had Cognac from 1929. Which is astounding, as this is pre-World War II. I also assumed this was what Robert Parker was thinking. So, a part of me wondered then if his score should have been taken seriously since he was known to be a wine expert and not a Cognac expert. Because – expert or not – the idea that the Cognac had a distillate from 1929 in it would astound anybody.
Luckily, Cognac Expert came out with a blog post that shed more light regarding Cognac’s rules on age statements. Apparently, a Cognac producer can use the vintage of distillation as long as they are 100% certain of the traceability of the Cognac, and have all of the documentation to prove it. If they don’t have the documents but want to indicate the age and stay within the rules, they use the Lot number.
Using 1929 as an example: lots can be expressed as L29, L 29, L.29, Lot 29 or Lot No 29.But this leaves the customer to figure out what these mean. However, with a bit of asking and digging, it can be assumed that the number refers to the year of distillation.
With that, it’s time for us to see if Tesseron’s Lot 29 – which is said to be all Cognac from 1929 – only deserves or is close to the 100 points it was awarded to by Robert Parker. This 50ml sample bottle came from a Tesseron XO sample pack sold by Cognac Expert for €79.
Tesseron Lot No 29 XO Exception Cognac – Review
Color: coconut sugar syrup
On the nose: A symphony of floral, fruity, and tannic aromas. I get light to medium-intense, delicate, and full aromas of dried apricots, freshly baked brioche, mocha, chocolate milk, Thompson grapes, pears, figs, peaches, and plums.
In the mouth: Just an immediate slap of tannins followed by slightly less pronounced fruity and floral notes. I get light and delicate tastes of dried apricots, peaches, milk chocolate, mocha, cinnamon, a bunch of purple fruits like roasted grapes, beets, figs, purple dragon fruit and freshly baked brioche.
This is surprisingly not as tannic as I imagined it would be due to how old it is. I’m assuming the copious amounts of fruit are the distillate’s flavors mixed with the cask influence. They’re still shockingly delicate and expressive for how old they are, to the point I’d say the distillates in this are much more expressive than contemporary straight bourbon.
Which makes me wonder a few things, such as: what’s the exact age of these releases? Are they all bottled at the same age or do batches vary? Have they stopped aging these in oak barrels? How much of these are still being aged in oak and how much of the contents are being stored in demi-johns (glass jars for storing brandy)?
How much of these did they initially have and how much are left? How often do they bottle these? Based on the date Robert Parker scored this, it’s been around since 2005, so that’s at least 17 years of this expression being around.
I’m not saying I don’t believe that these are from 1929. That’s a long, long time to keep records. It’s even harder to keep documents from Cognac after the region went through Nazi occupation in World War II. There’s just not that much information on this online that finally tasting this has led me to ask more questions about it.
All-in-all a good Cognac regardless of price. This should be something the age-conscious drinkers should try, to not only get a better grasp of what loooooong aging can do but also, if they want to taste something ancient with regards to how saturated and pricey whisky has become.
(8 if the price isn’t considered)
(tasted again after 30 minutes of breathing)
Color: Coconut sugar syrup.
On the nose: The astringency of the tannins is more evident. The aromas’ sensations are also thinner. It’s like the oxygen has diluted how potent the notes are. I still get dried apricots, pears, cinnamon, mocha, and milk chocolate. But these are way lighter and thinner. They aren’t as lasting when compared with the freshly poured dram.
In the mouth: The tannins are more evident here too. I still get milk chocolate, dried apricots, mocha, cinnamon, roasted grapes and peaches. But, like on the nose, these have become lighter and thinner. Breathing hasn’t lessened how long the finish lasts though.
I let this breathe for 30 minutes because I assume it’s old. But I guess this is one of the few cases wherein the spirit could be too old that it has become fragile, kind of like an old man being toppled over by a strong gust of wind. I’m going to drink this sample quickly before it goes bad in the sample bottle.
(6 if price isn’t considered)