2021 marks the third annual release of our illustrious Cognac Calendar. To celebrate how far we have come we wanted to take a look back at the Cognac Expert Calendar journey. Join us as we take you from the initial concept in 2019, through the hiccups, hurdles and enhancements we have encountered since then, to finally arrive at the majestic calendar we have today.
Cognac Calendar 2019
Our Cognac Expert Calendar first came to life in 2019, in the form of both a classic and premium limited edition calendar. This was a completely new venture at this stage and something we decided to handle ourselves from start to finish in order to fully understand the production process. The Cognac Expert team handmade every aspect of the 2019 calendar, which contained 24 hand corked glass flasks of 30ml volume, secured using wire and labeled with small black or white stickers to indicate which Cognac was to be consumed when.
Due to everything being handmade, Cognac Expert decided to restrict the number of calendars available to 80 so that we could focus on delivering the best possible quality product. The demand in the first year exceeded expectations so it was a difficult call to stop at 80, but as a small team that prioritizes passion and perfection, it was the right choice. Each of the Cognacs had also been meticulously selected by our Cognac Expert connoisseurs to ensure our customers were receiving eaux-de-vie that we could personally speak to, and we even handled the photoshoot ourselves.
The Classic 2019 Calendar featured Cognacs of VSOP quality and above, and the premium offering was strictly XO and above, with all of the Cognacs sourced from a range of producers including both tiny artisans and the most renowned Cognac houses. Each day of the calendar would present our customers with a new, unique and exciting eaux-de-vie for them to sip and savor. Even from the very first Cognac Calendar, we knew that we wanted it to be more than just a tasting experience, we wanted each Cognac sample to also gift its consumer with a wealth of knowledge.
Each day the customers would receive a video created by Cognac Expert, solely for their viewing. The daily video provided a visual representation of the unique flavors and aromas of the Cognac and let viewers in on some secrets of production that the producers shared with us. The addition of the daily video gave an special touch to our calendar, as the calendar customers were given insights into the Cognac chateristics.
The 2019 calendar did not come without its struggles and required a number of last-minute adaptations. The first mini bottles that Cognac Expert planned to use were delivered to us broken, this hurdle so early on was a daunting one as we had been counting on the arrival of them in one piece. This setback resulted in a knock-on effect with regards to timings for the rest of the process and so the Cognac Expert team had to ramp up their working hours to compensate for the delay.
Once the new mini bottles arrived, they were of a slightly different shape but the decision was made to stick with this design as the team was already strapped for time and didn’t want to risk customers receiving their calendars late.
However, a new problem arose, as the new bottles appeared to have a different surface material that the chosen stickers refused to stick to, instead they would roll up and eventually drop off. Once again, we took this challenge in our stride and adapted by first considering alternative stickers, and then going with the originals which we secured with an elastic band over a number of days in order to successfully press them onto the bottles. This elastic band process meant we had to fix a total of 1920 stickers to bottles! Thankfully, everything came together and we were able to deliver all the calendars to our customers on time.
The final touch on the Cognac Calendar for 2019 was the complimentary snifter glass and the sleek gift box within which it was presented. We wanted to make sure that the calendar oozed luxury from start to finish, so the premium quality had to apply to every aspect, rather than just the Cognacs. The 2019 presentation boxes were in matte white or black, depending on the calendar, with the Cognac Expert logo embossed in gold on the front, giving it a sophisticated and glamorous appearance.
Cognac Calendar 2020
Despite the struggles, our 2019 calendar went down a treat with our customers, meaning it was a success and something we were absolutely set on bringing back for 2020. We had already learned some valuable lessons from our first venture and this only spurred us on to bring an even better product to the Cognac Expert customers. Our biggest amendment for 2020, was that we decided to solely produce a premium offering of XO and above quality, after all, the Cognac Expert customers deserve only the best.
Despite the fun we had handmaking each of the 2019 calendars, it was an admittedly overwhelming task and not one we were desperate to repeat for 100 calendars in 2020. So we decided to call in some professional help and luckily Cognac Expert has some excellent contacts who were able to assist us in the production of the box. Outsourcing the box also allowed us to step its design up a notch and our 2020 edition was when we introduced the stunning and unique illustration that is featured on the front. We also commissioned a professional photoshoot for our 2020 calendar in order to show this delectable work of art in its best light.
We of course still handled the selection of the Cognacs in-house, the eaux-de-vie is the fundamental feature of the calendar and not something we are prepared to hand over to anyone else. It is the scrupulous choosing of these Cognacs, based on Cognac Expert’s extensive tasting experience and relationships with little-known producers, that makes the Cognac Calendar so special. As was the case in the previous year, we endavored to surprise our customers each day with diverse and intriguing eaux-de-vie from a wide array of producers. The 2020 Calendar still featured glass bottles and the complimentary snifter glass for our customers to taste their eaux-de-vie in the traditional way from. It also had the added feature of a greeting card thanking the customer and inviting them to enjoy their exploration of the Cognac region over the next 24 days. Although the glass bottles still remained in 2020, they did have a slight upgrade, with screw tops rather than corks and a punched-out ‘bed’ to rest in rather than fastened with wire.
The daily provision of Cognac knowledge was something we were certain we needed to keep going, however we made the call to switch from a video format to podcasts to provide an extensive insight into each sample. The daily mini-podcast could exclusively be found on the Cognac Expert website and was available from the day when the related Cognac sample was supposed to be drunk. Later on it could also be found on platforms like Spotify. The podcast revealed the ins and outs of the Cognac making process and introduced listeners to cellar masters, families whose history with Cognac dates back centuries, and details about everything from distillation to serving, straight from the experts. Click the play button below to listen to the podcast.
The 2020 Calendar clearly made quite the impression, as one of our loyal Cognac Expert customers went above and beyond with his tasting process of the 24 samples. Joe Binney, a prolific poster on our popular Cognac Lover’s Facebook group and self-confessed tech/Cognac nerd, blew us away with his in-depth analysis. Joe enjoyed a single Cognac sample each evening and then proceeded to make detailed notes regarding the aroma and palate, before finally rating the Cognac from 1 to 5. Once all the data had been collected, Joe correlated it according to price vs. rating and age vs. rating, which allowed him to produce two easy-to-understand graphs. If you’re interested in finding out more about Joe’s analysis you can read all about it in our blog: 24 Cognacs Analyzed, Recorded, and Rated.
Cognac Calendar 2021
That brings us to this year’s Cognac Calendar, and without a doubt the best one yet. Following the previous years’ high demand, we have produced another strictly-limited edition of the calendar available for purchase. We also asked our Cognac Expert community to give us feedback on the 2020 calendar, and once again you proved that you all have a connoisseur’s palate. You spoke, and we listened, so this year’s calendar goes one step further again, and features Cognacs that are strictly above XO quality, with a multitude of different aromas and flavors from a variety of producers. Each day will gift you with a whole new experience on your palate.
For the 2021 calendar, we decided to remove the snifter glass to avoid any potential smashes and protect your precious eaux-de-vie as it made its journey around the world and to your doorstep. As was the case in 2020, the illustration from the front of the box was carried through to the bottles, with each label featuring a small and elegant design.
Again, we endeavored to not only satisfy your palates, but also your minds with a new mini-podcast each day to accompany the daily tasting experience, featuring reams of unknown information and secrets from the Cognac producers themselves. The box this year comes in black and bears the same ornate illustration from 2020 in white, the Cognac Expert logo stands in the top corner in gold, this is a color combination that speaks to the class of our 2021 calendar.
The previous two years’ experience with the Cognac Expert Calendar reinforced to us that although including superb Cognacs is absolutely essential, it is also about so much more than that. This calendar celebrates a particularly special time of year and so every aspect should also feel special, from the artwork to the packaging to the product experience, we have done our utmost to deliver something exceptional.
The preparation for the 2021 calendar began all the way back in June in order to ensure everything was done to perfection and in plenty of time so you are ready to begin tasting your Cognacs from the 1st of December. There are so many steps in the process that we have only realized with experience, with this year’s calendar going through the following process:
- Concept (Strictly above XO quality)
- Selecting and sourcing the Cognac
- Commission custom box for 24 mini bottles (It is essential the box is of high quality and is secure for worldwide shipping)
- Source 5640 bottles of 30ml volume
- Purchase 5640 screw caps
- Order 24 rolls of labels for mini bottles
- Buy enough wax for all the mini bottles
- Outsource to a bottling company
- Schedule, record and edit 24 mini podcasts
- Warehouse pick, packing, and shipping
All of these steps involved working with and coordinating between 6 different businesses and 19 different Cognac producers, which we’re sure you can imagine is no easy feat especially against the backdrop of the pandemic and with harvesting season due to begin imminently. However, all the hard work is more than worth it when we get to see our finished product, and even more so when we hear the feedback from our customers as they count down December accompanied by some delicious eaux-de-vie:
Jim Pearson about the 2020 cognac calendar in our Cognac Lovers Group: “My favorite was day 4, a Mauxion Fins Bois Lot 49, always to be beyond my price range it was a step ahead of everything else. Second on my list was day 9, Leyrat XO Hors D’Age… All the rest were interesting, enjoyable, and an experience worth repeating. Looking forward to next year!
Sebastien Cotte about the 2020 cognac calendar in our Cognac Lovers Group: Today was bottle number 1 from the Cognac Expert calendar and I am not sure what the next 23 will be like, but if it is anywhere close to this one, it will be fantastic.
So there you have it, the tale of 3 Cognac Calendars. From the start of our journey in 2019 up until today, it has been a bumpy yet pleasant road, one that has taught us many valuable lessons which have allowed us to provide you with the best possible tasting experience throughout December. If reading our in-depth dive into the Cognac Calendar journey has left you gagging to get your hands on your very own, you better be quick as they are flying off the shelf quickly and the Cognac Expert elves won’t be making any more for this year!