If there’s one thing you can rely on, it’s the dedication and passion of the cognac producers to ride market deviations and continue doing the one thing that cognacs all about: and that’s the continuing commitment to the art of producing quality cognacs for us to enjoy.
And there’s no better way of determining the standards of cognac than by one of the most respected competitions in the industry – the Cognac Masters.
This year’s entries were, as ever, of exceptionally high quality. Producers such as D’Usse, Francois Voyer, Camus, Courvoisier, Leyrat and Bache Gabrielsen were but a few of the houses that submitted entries.
The tasting was carried out in London, at One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, by Guillaume Mahut (group sommelier, ETM Group), Matt Armitage (owner of new bar Craft Cocktail Company), Tobias Gorn (The Whisky Shop) and Becky Paskin (The Spirits Business). There were sections for VS cognac, VSOP, XO, Vintage, Superior and Prestige qualities, with the largest proportion of cognacs entered being in the VSOP category.
Cognacs are awarded either a silver medal, gold medal or master level, according to the judges’ impression of eye, nose, palate and finish.
The results are as follows:
VS Cognac Category
The young cognac section of the competition saw the smallest amount of entries (from the VS, VSOP and XO categories). Judge Matt Armitage said of this section, “Overall the standard was particularly high, and much higher than I expected it to be”.
Three medals were awarded in this category:
Louis Royer VS Cognac – Gold
A floral, young cognac that is versatile enough to use in cocktails or to be sipped straight after a meal as a digestif.
Bisquit VS Cognac – Gold
A fins bois blend of cognac that’s been aged for 3-5 years before being bottled. Very floral, combining a core scent of pear and plum that mix well with deeper notes of rich spices and vanilla.
Camus VS Elegance Cognac – Silver
The youngest cognac provided by the house of Camus, and a great cognac to be either sipped on the rocks or as a cocktail ingredient. In fact, due to its popularity as a cognac staple, this cognac comes with a screw cap that’s also intended to double as a cocktail measure.
VSOP Cognac Category
There were a lot of entries in this category, with a good combination of cocktail mixing eaux-de-vies right through to a selection of quality drinking cognacs. Guillaume Mahut said, “This was a good mix with a selection of fantastic examples of the VSOP category. Compared to the VS I felt there was a lot more complexity, which mostly comes with the extra aging”.
Awards in this section were:
A fairly new product for Bisquit, being described by the cognac house as a “21st century expression of Bisquit’s luxurious origin. The perfect balance between tradition and modernity, smoothness and character.”
Courvoisier VSOP Cognac– Master
A great drinking cognac that is one of the staples of the Courvoisier stable. Combining a blend of eaux-de-vies from various crus in the Cognac regions, this will always be a VSOP that will be welcome after any dinner party.
Louis Royer VSOP Cognac – Gold
One of the staples of the Louis Royer range, this VSOP has retained its popular blend for many years. Presented in a classic cognac bottle, this is a great cognac to sip straight, on the rocks or to spice up a cocktail.
Camus VSOP Elegance Cognac – Gold
An elegant cognac that’s created using eaux-de-vies from various different growing regions. Great in a cocktail, but also of a high enough quality to enjoy straight or on the rocks. It’s a fresh, woody number with a very smooth finish.
Cognac Seguinot – Gold
One of the small range from the house of Seguinot, the VSOP is the youngest cognac they produce.
Courvoisier Extravagance Cognac – Gold
A blend of Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne eaux-de-vies, this is available exclusively in the travel retail industry. Presented in a Jarnacaise-style bottle that’s inspired by the architecture of the Grande Palais in Paris.
Bisquit VSOP Cognac – Silver
A good quality VSOP that has a wonderful and subtle intertwining of aromas and taste on the palate. Hints of apricot and honey mingle tantalizingly with cinnamon and clove to provide a smooth, mellow drinking experience with a long finish.
Pierre Lecat VSOP Experience Cognac – Silver
This award winning VSOP is definitely a cognac that hits the spot in more ways than one. A treat for the senses, it’s affordable enough to enjoy as a drinking cognac on a regular basis.
D’Usse VSOP Cognac – Silver
The first cognac brought out by new kid on the block, D’Usse, it was immediately a success. A great cognac that’s versatile enough to be drunk straight, on the rocks or used in a cocktail.
VSOP Single Cru Category
This is an interesting section, with the title explaining exactly what this category is all about. The judges said that the cognacs awarded medals in this section were both “very complex” and “really expressive.’ It just goes to show that you don’t necessarily need to move up to an XO to discover some interesting and high quality cognacs that are also affordable enough to drink on a regular basis.
Awards in this section were as follows:
J. Dupont Cognac VSOP Art Nouveau Cognac – Master
A cognac with a very floral aroma that leads to a fruity, complex palate. Hints of dried apricot mingle with sweet honey on the palate, and the finish lingers with a satisfying roundness and complexity.
Hermitage Provenance 10 Grande Champagne Cognac – Master
Aged for a minimum of 10 years, this Grande Champagne cognac is delightful in its uniqueness. A spicy, coffee flavoured cognac with a hint of pineapple that provides a satisfying combination that tantalizes the palate.
This category has received some criticism in the past, with judges deeming that the use of caramel is often overused in order to get to the flavour and colour necessary for a cognac of this age. And although there were still some mentions of this from the judging team, other cognacs definitely stepped up to the mark and achieved the necessary quality through the extra aging process.
Armitage in particular noted his dislike of the addition of caramel, although he said, “There were fewer examples than I expected”. He said that although “People expect to see rich, dark colour in an XO….. some [houses] have gone too far”.
However, there were plenty of excellent examples in this section, and the judges commented that those given medals, “Showed an amazing, diverse range of flavours, including biscuits, cinnamon and citrus, and proved that cognac is sometimes worth the price tag”.
There were 9 awards given in this section in total:
D’Usse XO Cognac – Master
Who’d have thought such a new cognac on the scene could have made such a huge impression so fast. But D’Usse has certainly done that. Front man, Jay Z should rightly be proud of this great quality XO that’s hit the world by storm.
Bache Gabrielsen XO Cognac – Master
A blend created from Grande and Petite Champagne eaux-de-vies, this is a floral cognac with vanilla and honey notes. As to be expected from an XO, it gives an elegant, long lasting finish with some hints of spice coming through as an additional surprise.
Francois Voyer XO Gold Grande Champagne Cognac – Master
Presented in a delightful decanter, this cognac delights with an aroma of fruit and nuts, followed by a bright complexity of sensations on the palate.
Frapin Chateau de Fontpiont XO Cognac – Gold
A golden coloured cognac with a floral aroma. The palate delights with hints of almonds, dried flowers and orange. The finish is long – rancio – with a complexity that delights with its uniqueness.
Courvoisier XO Cognac – Gold
A balanced, fruity cognac with a complex bouquet that tantalizes the senses. There are hints of spice on the palate, and as to be expected from a cognac of this quality, the finish is long and satisfying.
Camus Cognac XO Elegance – Silver
With the addition of eaux-de-vie from the Borderies region (a signature of all Camus cognacs), this extra old blend is a delight to the senses. Has a rich and nutty nose, with flavours that then develop on the palate, merging to a long and smooth finish.
Cognac XO Seguinot – Silver
This is the mid-range quality cognac from this Grande Champagne located cognac house. A great cognac from one of the smaller, family run houses that continues to thrive in the region.
Cognac Pierre Lecat XO Memoire – Silver
A blend of eaux-de-vies from the older range of this small cognac house’s stocks. Presented in a stylish decanter that was specifically designed by the Stolzle Glass Group, this is a cognac for those who take their drink seriously.
Cognac Leyrat XO Viellie Reserve – Silver
A delightful and complex XO, it first delights with aromas of caramel, nuts and pastries. On the palate a mature medley of fruits, candy and spices play a symphony that gradually tails off to a long finish.
Surprisingly, this section only ended up with one entry gaining an award, even with the prestige associated with a single vintage cognac. Frapin certainly hit the high spot here, with the top level of Master being awarded to their 1991 Grande Champagne Cognac. Comments from the judges on this cognac included that it had, “A rainbow of flavours”, including those of baked apples, tobacco and cedar wood.
Gorn said of this category that it’s, “Not necessarily that the older vintages are better. Like any category, cognac producers can over-age; they need to watch their cask selection”.
The award in this section goes to:
Frapin 1991 Grande Champagne Cognac – Master
As the name suggested, this cognac was distilled in 1991 and is a blend of Grande Champagne eaux-de-vies. A delight on the eye, nose and palate, this is a worthy winner of the Master award in this category.
Moving into the higher quality (and higher price tag) cognacs, both of these factors were taken into consideration by the judges when marking. Interestingly, they concluded that the eaux-de-vies commended in this section all deserved their high cost, with six medals being awarded in total (including two Master levels).
Mahaut said of this section that there was, “More complexity than in other rounds”, and Armitage extolled their virtues, saying “There were some unbelievable flavours in there that I’d never tasted before in spirits”.
The awards in this section were as follows:
Hermitage Provenance 30 Cognac – Master
A Petite Champagne delight with tones of bitter chocolate, molasses and ripe cherries on the nose and palate. Specifically aged in damp cellars to prevent the barrels becoming too dry, this 30 year old cognac is a delight for the serious cognac connoisseur.
Hermitage Provenance 25 Cognac – Master
This Grande Champagne Cognac has been aged, as its name suggests, for 25 years. A fruity number that also teases with hints of both spices and roasted walnuts.
Bache Gabrielsen Reserve Serenite Tres Vielle Grande Champagne Cognac – gold
A blend of Grande Champagne eaux-de-vies, this is an elegant cognac that delights on the nose and palate before moving to a long, round finish. A combination of 85% Ugni Blanc grapes and 15% Folle Blanche.
Pierre Ferrande Ancestrale Cognac – Gold
A high end cognac that the house only produce in a run of 300 bottles per year. Made from a blend of only Grande Champagne eaux-de-vies, this is a cognac that should be brought out on special occasions.
Louis Royer Extra Cognac – Silver
Louis Royer’s signature cognac, this is a blend of Grande Champagne eaux-de-vies that provide a strong and intense experience. Well balanced and powerful, it’s presented in an ‘after shave’ type bottle, and is definitely designed to appeal to those who prefer a more masculine cognac
Frapin Extra Grande Champagne Cognac – Silver
A Grande Champagne cognac that’s a blend of eaux-de-vies aged between 40-50 years. An aroma of vanilla merges into dry fruits and light flowers on the palate. A long finish provides a satisfying end to this high quality cognac.
And finally, there was only a single entrant in the Prestige category – albeit from the masters of cognac production, Courvoisier. At £1,500 a bottle, this cognac was going to have to impress if it was to gain an award – and it did just that.
Courvoisier L’Essence – Gold
A blend of over 100 ancient eaux-de-vies that have been closely guarded in the Courvoisier cellars over the years. A Borderies and Grande Champagne delight, presented in a teardrop shaped Baccarat decanter. Pure luxury…!
To learn more about the cognac producers mentioned above, and for a chance to purchase cognac directly from the heart of the production regions, wherever in the world you might live, visit our brand page or our online shop for more details.