Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2011 Results Are Out: Martell XO Big Winner

We just received the results of the Ultimate Spirits Challenge of 2011. The ‘Challenge’ tests lots of different spirits, but we’ll stick to Cognac here. The tasting panel is headed by internationally renowned beverage alcohol expert, F. Paul Pacult

Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2011

Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2011

Every bottle gets a certain rating, and points – here is the key:

95-100 Extraordinary, Ultimate Recommendation
90-94 Excellent, Highly Recommended
85-89 Very Good, Strong Recommendation
80-84 Good, Recommended

Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2011

Ultimate Spirits Challenge 2011

Let’s have a look at the results now.

First of all,  the Chairman’s Trophy with 96 points,

The Big Winner

Martell XO Cognac France, 40%, $150.00
Read more about this XO

The Finalists:

95 points

Delamain Pale & Dry XO Cognac Grande Champagne France, 40%, $99.00

95 points

Delamain Extra Cognac Grande Champagne France, 40%, $289.00

94 points

Cognac Grosperrin XO Cognac Fine Champagne France, 42.50%, $97.99

94 points

Frapin Chateau Fontpinot XO Cognac Grande Champagne France, 41%, $90.00

94 points

Landy VSOP Cognac France, 40%, $32.99

And The Others:

93 points

A de Fussigny Selection Cognac France, 40%, $40.00

93 points

Camus VS Elegance Cognac France, 40%, $28.00

93 points

Camus XO Elegance Cognac France, 40%, $125.00

93 points

Camus XO Cognac Borderies France, 40%, $150.00

93 points

Jean Fillioux Tres Vieux Cognac Grande Champagne France, 40%, $135.00

93 points

Martell Cordon Bleu Cognac France, 40%, $120.00

93 points

Maxime Trijol XO Cognac Grande Champagne France, 40%, €39.00

92 points

A de Fussigny XO Cognac Fine Champagne France, 40%, $110.00

92 points

Landy XO Cognac France, 40%, $99.99

92 points

Pierre Ferrand Selection des Anges Cognac Grande Champagne France, 40%, $145.00

91 points

Camus VSOP Elegance Cognac France, 40%, $43.00

91 points

Cognac Grosperrin VSOP Cognac Petite Champagne France, 41%, $74.99

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7 Responses

#1 Eric on Mar 17, 2011, says:

Delamain Pale & Dry XO in the house! To all you bargain hunters out there, I swear this is the best deal in XO, at least in terms of what’s generally commercially available in the USA (I can find it for $85-$90). It is exquisite. I can’t say I’ve ever had a bad XO, but I’ve had plenty that are “safe”. They stick to the traditional template and when you drink them, you say, “there’s a well-made, fine cognac.” But when you drink Delamain P&D XO, you say, “Ohhh my. That is… that is art!” You hear the word “ethereal” tossed around in high-end cognac reviews now and then, but this one truly gives meaning to the word. It evaporates off the tongue so cleanly that if the sip was small enough, you wonder if you actually got any. It’s a treasure while it’s on the tongue and then POOF, it’s gone like a ghost. It’s not that taste doesn’t linger, it does and it’s wonderful, but any trace of the substance is gone so cleanly afterwards. This is the kind of cognac that keeps me hunting for new and different cognacs, because I want ones that stray out of the traditional safe zone and do something bold or adventurous or creative or, like this one, extraordinary. This one lets me know what’s possible. It’s good enough that it actually makes me want to lay down several hundred for one of their top bottles like Reserve de la Familie, which I normally wouldn’t even consider. GET THIS COGNAC.

#2 Eric on Mar 17, 2011, says:

I notice that there are only about 20 cognacs in this competition and that’s with several houses submitting two or three apiece. So given all of the cognacs that exist, this is a pretty narrow competition.

Is there an annual cognac tasting competition in the actual region of Cognac where all or most or even many of the houses submit their bottles to be judged? That’s a competition I’d like to see. It’s so hard to find information on a lot of the smaller houses or to find them in the USA.

#3 Eric on Mar 17, 2011, says:

Does anyone else get a kind of pastry taste from Martell Cordon Bleu? I was actually kind of disappointed in that bottle because of that. It’s almost a marzipan pastry taste, which I find distracting from what is otherwise a rich and lovely cognac. I’ve tasted that same thing to a lesser extent in several other cognacs. Given the Borderies focus in Cordon Bleu, I was wondering if this is something characteristic of Borderies, particularly since I’ve tasted it in several others, at least some of which contained Borderies eaux de vie (not sure about the others).

#4 Peter Bowyer on Mar 17, 2011, says:

@ Eric – There are an ever increasing number of tasting compatitions going on around the world with new ones springing up all over the place. To enter the spirit’s producer has to pay the competition organisers a fee for each product entered – hence many of the smaller producers either ignore the competitions altogether or only enter a small selection, either each year or perhaps once every few years. For smaller producers the cost of the competition entries can be a large part of their turnover – so they don’t enter every one.

As far as finding the smaller producers’ products in the USA is concerned I think you have to put part of the blame on the US import procedures and requirements. These are far more complex and difficult to deal with than virtually every other country on the planet!

It is impossible for a 70cl/700ml spirit bottle to be sold in the US – they all have to be 75cl/750ml which is not a size which is used anywhere else – so the producers would have to double up with different bottles sizes, different labels, different cases etc etc just to comply with the import requirements for the US. Most take one look at the potential problems that they would face, see that most of the cognac consumption in the US if for younger cognacs and decide that it is not worth incurring the expense and risks involved.

It is very sad because there are a large number of people in the US who would appreciate the finer quality cogancs that the small producers make, but the problems of entering the US market are too large and too expensive to overcome for the small producer.

This is what happens when regulations are allowed to take control of everything – choice is restricted and the customer actually loses out – the big boys love it of course…!

#5 David on Mar 17, 2011, says:

Thank you for the money support to the houses Camus and to Pernod Ricard Group, owner of Martell cognac house…. You ve right Peter, in a way it s interesting but in an other way it has no sense at all…….

May we have the full list of tasted cognac and also the rating ?

#6 Eric on Mar 18, 2011, says:

David, you can see all of the results here: http://www.ultimate-beverage.com/wine_reviews/spirits-results/

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