Note: The images in this bottle review will suggest that the two Cognacs are from a range called Hommage. However, the range name has since been modified to Le Chai de Mon Père, which translates in English to My Father’s Cellar. The Cognacs I reviewed are identical to the Le Chai de Mon Père Cognacs for sale on Cognac Expert; in this review, they differ only in name on the label.
The bottles in front of me for this review come from Cognac Laurichesse, a young brand created in 2018 by Olivier and Lea Laurichesse. Despite the youth of the Laurichesse brand, the two products themselves are mature single cask – brut de fût in French – Cognacs, both distilled in the 1970’s and both of which come from the Grande Champagne. Let me please introduce you to the Cognac Laurichesse Le Chai de Mon Père Fût 301 and Fût 104. Recall that fût is French for barrel, or cask.
The conception of this currently micro-produced range of Cognacs is quite fascinating: Olivier Laurichesse’s father Guy was actively growing grapes and distilling in the 1970’s. Guy kept some of the more special eaux-de-vie aside in a private cellar on the property in Verrieres. Guy simply left the Cognac to rest in barrels in that special cellar. Only four years ago, Olivier discovered the secret chai, and the treasures lying inside of it.
The idea for Cognac Laurichesse was then born: the son would reveal Cognac today that his father distilled in the 1970s. There is a selflessness to such a story, and this is something that is commonly encountered in the Cognac region, amongst other French spirits regions. That is, a previous generation distills and produces Cognac that only a future generation will be able to accompany and guide until its optimal bottling date. The patience and humility required is nothing short of remarkable. And we the consumers are lucky to be able to put liquid like this in our glasses.
Before even getting to the tasting notes of these apparently unique and exclusive Cognacs, I can’t help but feel a sense of intrigue with the story and the product’s conception.
Both of these Laurichesse Cognacs, Le Chai de Mon Père Fût 104 and Fût 301 are single barrel Cognacs. The vines, all from the Grande Champagne cru, were harvested and then distilled in the 1970’s by Olivier’s father, Guy. After distillation in the property’s 12 hectoliter pot still, the eaux-de-vie were then left to rest in barrel until only recently. To preserve the unique characteristics of each single cask, the eaux-de-vie were bottled with no addition of coloring and no other additives whatsoever, and both bottled overproof – 45% forFût 301 and 47.4% forFût 104. Fût 301 yielded 388 bottles, and Fût 104 produced 392 bottles.
The aim here was to highlight the untouched treasures found deep in Guy’s private cellar. On the label there is a stamp which states, “Distilled by the father, revealed by the son”. This couldn’t be more true.
While there is not an abundance of production information, I have to believe that is because not all of the details are known to even Olivier and Lea Laurichesse. These single barrels were only found four years ago in a hidden private cellar on the property, so even Olivier and Lea themselves do not have all of the answers. This only adds to the intrigue of these bottlings and immediately makes me ponder, “What other treasures were found in that cellar?” This young brand will definitely be one to watch in the future.
My Father’s Cellar Bottle Presentation
Both Le Chai de Mon Père Fût 301 and Fût 104 come in a slightly wider version of the classic charentais bottle. There is a small rectangular adhesive strip that goes up and over the cork. Pulling back this strip reveals a natural cork color which has the Cognac Laurichesse brand etched into its surface. It’s a nice attention to detail.
Moving down to the label we find a relatively simple presentation. I appreciate that there is no bling, no flash, no pop. It’s a clean label with quiet confidence. You will find a mention of Appellation Cognac Grande Champagne, cask number, bottle number handwritten with what seems like a red sharpie pen, a concise tasting note. On the right side of the label, there is a stamp which affirms that the Cognac inside was distilled by the father and revealed by the son. Maybe I’m overly influenced by the story behind these Cognacs, but they exude a strong sense of family.
Please recall that the images will show the name Hommage, but the bottles have since been renamed to Le Chai de Mon Père. Consequently, if a bottle ends up on your drinks rack, it will show the latter name.
The back label gives a short description of the family’s involvement with producing Cognac from the Grande Champagne. A mention of the age of the Cognac is included, in addition to a reinforcement that the bottlings are cask strength – so untouched and unmanufactured, bottled from the barrel to give the taster a taste of that hidden private cellar.
I am becoming more and more of the opinion that single cask bottlings should contain as much production information as possible. There is no such thing as too much information for these inherently geeky bottlings. The clientele seeking these kinds of bottlings wants to know this information and so it should be provided to the largest extent possible. But in some cases, perhaps not all of the information is known. These barrels were discovered in 2018 after some forty plus years of rest deep in the cellar.
It would be unreasonable to know every single detail about their production. Therefore, I think this presentation is a success. The taster knows the core details of production, and he or she knows the liquid inside has been bottled untouched and left in a pure natural state. So far before even putting my lips on a glass, there is not a single item to take issue with.
The following bullet points give several details on how the tasting notes to follow were constructed:
- The Cognacs were tasted over a period of eight non-consecutive days. This really was a good amount of time to really get to know these two products.
- Glass: Lehmann Eau de Vie 15
- A “control” Cognac was included during the first four tastings, control Cognac at 40% ABV. Despite the bottles focused on in this review being overproof at 45% and 47% ABV, the control Cognac served an important purpose as it gave a point of reference with which to compare these two Laurichesse single cask bottles. The control Cognac is a bottle I know well and taste frequently – Tiffon XO for this review, to be exact.
- Tasting duration: 1-1.5 hours per tasting
- A personally-adjusted printed Cognac Aroma Wheel was by my side for each tasting to give me a visual reminder of all of the different notes I could possibly encounter with these Cognacs. So these are not tasting notes themselves, but rather a wheel which contains all of the different aromatic and flavor notes commonly found in young and mature Cognacs alike. I’ve added a few words of my own to this wheel.
Le Chai de Mon Père Fût 301
Nose: Holy spice-infused oranges! I’ve never tasted such an orange-forward Cognac before. The orange fruit is dominant; it is candied (not fresh); it is spicy, and it is full of character. It even smells as if some of the orange peel, with its zestiness and its bitterness, got in the mix. There is a jam that Bonne Maman makes called Orange Amere. I get notes of that jam with this glass. Underneath the exuberant oranges and spices, there is fresh vanilla, but it really is faint and in the shadow of the fruit and spice.
Lastly, just as I pull my nose out of the glass, I smell the fragrant fresh cut cedar wood plank. At the risk of over simplifying this nose, I pick up three main waves of smells: intense spiced candied orange, vanilla, and cedar. This is such an interesting nose, if unsettling as I’ve never encountered one like it before.
Palate: A spicy orange intensity hits the palate from the outset. I’m surprised at the richness of this Cognac. Some of the really mature eaux-de-vie I’ve tasted increase exponentially in elegance with age. But here, the richness of flavor and texture have ramped up, instead of scaling back, melting, and increasing in finesse. I’m not saying it lacks elegance; what I’m saying is that it is exceptionally rich and mouth-filling for its age.
Unsurprisingly, the flavors are of spice-coated oranges, orange peel with some of the white bitter pith mixed in, wood, and even fine dark chocolate with orange zest. The orange citrus notes add to the Cognac’s precision, giving the Cognac direction on the palate. Moreover, there is a graininess to the overall mouthfeel. If this were a wine, I’d say it has grainy tannins. The force of the long period of time spent in oak exerts itself but in a measured way. The grainy tannins are followed by a gentle bitterness, and both the tannins and the bitterness cause my cheeks to cling to my teeth. Let me be clear though, while charming, this is characterful, mouth-filling and singular Cognac. A bad boy in nice clothes one could say.
Finish: As hinted at above, the finish is comfortably astringent and bitter. Single cask Cognacs often have this profile. Think of it as the barrel’s signature on the eaux-de-vie, an imprint that marks the Cognac for the rest of its days. The flavors linger for a good while, but the length is not something I’d classify as everlasting. Really, this is fine by me though. As long as the flavors and sensations do not fall off of a cliff, I’m content. And here they stick around just enough for me to taste them, ponder them, and then get back to smelling and sipping.
An unexpected and very interesting Cognac! Read the more in-depth critique of this quality on the Cognac Expert review platform.
Le Chai de Mon Père Fût 104
Nose: A much different personality here. It smells more mature, better behaved, less extroverted yet still very sure of itself, confident. The oranges of Le Chai de Mon Père Fût 301 have departed and been replaced by sweet earthy tobacco, vanilla, and a general feeling of woodsy earthiness. It smells so handsome, and it oozes maturity.
For whatever reason, several Cognacs I’ve come across lately call into my mind certain men’s fragrances: Vallein Tercinier’s Fins Bois Lot 96 and Terre d’Hermes, Domaine Pasquet’s Le Cognac de Claude and Le Labo Tabac, and now Laurichesse’s Le Chai de Mon Père Fût 104 and Dior Eau Sauvage. It may sound hyperbolic to make such comparisons, but the nose of a fine Cognac is nothing short of perfumery, so I take no issue making such comparisons. Lastly, there is a chocolate note on the tail of each sniff. In short, an excellent uber-sophisticated nose!
Palate: Despite having a higher alcoholic strength than the Fût 301, Le Chai de Mon Père Fût 104 is more balanced and easier to get along with. The sweet earthy aromas transitioned into actual flavors, which really works with the 47% alcohol. Dare I say that the alcohol is actually creamy. There is an Italian dessert that immediately comes to my mind, affogato. Take a rich creamy vanilla ice cream and pour a shot of roasty dark espresso over it. The espresso adds a chocolatey earthy note, but then the melting vanilla ice cream tempers the boldness of the coffee leaving a lasting earthy toasty creamy richness. I get affogato with this Cognac, at first for me and I love it beyond words!
Maybe I’ve been tasting too much single cask Cognac recently, but I can’t find a single thing aggressive with this eau-de-vie. One gets the best of both worlds: the richness and balance of a masterfully crafted blend paired with the intensity and singularity of a single barrel. It may lack some of the precision of the Fût 301, but this Fût 104 is pure class.
Wow Laurichesse! This is a bijou!
Finish: The finish fades away and does so with good manners. The signature from the barrel is present; however, the graininess is absent. The charming rusticity of the previous Cognac is gone and replaced with a little bit of tannic grip followed by flavors and sensations that decrease in clarity over a minute or two. There is no denying that this also is a rich spirit. Even on the finish the heft and richness is felt. One knows what he or she just swallowed was layered, complex, and mouth filing.
A spectacular Cognac! Read the more in-depth critique of this quality on the Cognac Expert review platform.
It should be apparent from the two tasting notes above that my preference lies with the Le Chai de Mon Père Fût 104. Keep in mind that this preference says more about my own smell and taste preferences than it does about the underlying quality of the Cognac. Both bottles from this brand new Le Chai de Mon Père series are seriously well-made and intriguing Cognacs. While two very different products, there is a common thread of richness of flavor and richness of texture. Cognac is always rich in flavor, but its level of finesse can at times get so high, and its footprint can get so delicate, that it could leave the taster wanting for more. This is not the case with these Laurichesse bottlings. They are clearly favoring a richer, bolder, fuller style of Cognac. It’s executed very well!
One thing I always try to pay attention to is the level of overlap in a producer’s range. I want to feel that each product occupies its own place in the range and has its own reasons for existence. Here, Olivier and Lea Laurichesse could not have chosen two better eaux-de-vie to kick off their brand. While both products were distilled in the 1970’s, and came from vines in the Grande Champagne, and rested in the same cellar, they really are quite different in smell, flavor, and sensation. Lovers of fine Cognac will find something to love in either, or both, of these Cognacs.
If you like spiced oranges and desire a bold precise Cognac to coat your mouth and ruffle your cheeks, Le Chai de Mon Père Fût 301 is for you. If you like sweet creamy roasty earthy notes and a sophisticated mouthfeel from start to finish, Le Chai de Mon Père Fût 104 is for you.
Lastly, it must also be said that Armagnac fans can easily find their pleasure with either of these Cognacs. The richness is elevated, and the intensity of the flavors will not leave you wanting.
Olivier and Lea Laurichesse are seriously on to something with these two releases. I am giddy with excitement to follow this brand moving forward, and I can’t wait to hear what others have to say about these products. Thank you for bringing these two gems out from your father’s cellar and into the open for all to see and share. Bravo!