On my table and in my glasses are the final two releases from Domaine Pasquet for 2021. Here we have the last release of Pasquet’s successful and undeniably intriguing L’Esprit de Famille series: Le Cognac de Noel, and the first release of the Trésors de Famille series: Le Cognac de Claude. Both of these Cognacs are single cask gems from the Petite Champagne and the Grande Champagne, respectively.
I have a confession: I’ve actually never tasted a Cognac from Domaine Pasquet. I am generally very well aware of all the products they release, but for reasons I cannot explain, I’ve not tasted one yet. I understand pretty much everything they make is highly regarded not only in the Cognac community but also the spirits community. So before embarking on this tasting, I have to gently pinch myself to not just like the Cognacs because I’m supposed to like them. I will make a conscious effort to keep focused on what’s in front of me, while pushing aside any preconceived notions.
Of course, the producers that garner the highest praise get such acclaim because they are doing things right in the vineyard and in the cellar. So it is safe for me to assume that these latest Pasquet offerings are well made and singular Cognacs.
Both Le Cognac de Noel and the Le Cognac de Claude were bottled by Domaine Pasquet, but the eaux-de-vie that ended up in the bottles were not distilled by Pasquet. Instead, these Cognacs come from barrels that Pasquet had acquired over time from neighboring vignerons and distillers.
Le Cognac de Noel comes from the Petite Champagne cru, more specifically the village of Sainte-Lheurine. It is a single barrel of Cognac from the 1994 vintage. Consequently, distillation took place either at the end of 1994 or the beginning months of 1995, since the distillation season runs from October through March. The barrel produced 876 bottles, all 500ml in volume which is the standard bottle size for Pasquet bottlings from the Famille series. The ABV is 46.4%. The Cognac was bottled on August 2, 2021, so that makes this particular Cognac either 26 or 27 years old, depending on when the distillation occurred.
Furthermore, the little booklet accompanying the bottle mentions that the pot still used for distillation was 20hl and was a wood and coal fired still. Finally, and perhaps sadly, this single barrel is the ninth and last barrel that will make up the L’Esprit de Famille series.
Le Cognac de Claude comes from the Grande Champagne cru, more specifically the village of Angeac-Champagne. It is a single barrel of Cognac from the 1984 vintage. Once again, this must mean that the distillation occurred at the end of 1984 or the early portion of 1985. The barrel produced 731 bottles in the 500ml format. The ABV is 49.8%. The bottling date is not listed, but I would safely assume it took place during the late summer months of 2021.
Therefore, depending on distillation year, this Cognac is either 36 or 37 years old. Thankfully, this is the first barrel of the new Trésors de Famille series. It will be exciting to see what’s to come in the future.
Lastly, it goes without saying that Domaine Pasquet does not add coloring to their Cognac, nor any other additives of the sort. The information found on the labels, or the little booklet, just about contains that main production information a buyer could ask for, so bravo Pasquet for taking the effort to include that precise information.
Thus far, everything about these Cognacs is looking very promising.
The presentation of both of these Pasquet bottlings is what I’d classify as fresh. The colors used and the mix of interesting fonts leads to labels that are well-thought out, not too busy, and agreeable for spirits lovers regardless of where they are in the world. I especially appreciate the bottom halves of the labels where the taster can see which bottle number he or she owns, the village from which the eau-de-vie was sourced, lot number (which is really an unofficial vintage statement), ABV level, and the Cognac cru. I like to think of the JLP stamp (standing for Jean-Luc Pasquet) which traverses both the top and bottom labels, as Pasquet’s final stamp of approval on the product.
One element on the back label can easily go unnoticed but deserves to be pointed out due its brilliance. Pasquet has included their phone number and email address on the label. How refreshing! What a tremendous reminder that there are people behind these bottles and that they openly welcome the exchange with the folks purchasing their bottles. I even see it as a sign of quiet confidence in the products they are putting out on the market. No other bottle of Cognac, whisky, or rum/rhum in my cellar has a phone number and email on the label. Excellent!
Both bottles come housed in a box that follows a similar design thread as the bottle labels and gives a general description of the particular bottling series (L’Esprit de Famille and Trésors de Famille). Moreover, the L’Esprit de Famille Le Cognac de Noel bottle comes with a small booklet that gives all of the information with regards to the Cognac’s production, and the person that produced the eau-de-vie, Noel.
Lastly, please let me comment on the wax. Pasquet has clearly done their homework. Numerous Cognac producers wax the necks of their bottles, but I do not get the feeling that any ever really try opening those bottles. Consequently, the customer will face moments of frustration when he or she tries to navigate a rock hard brittle waxed top. Not for these bottles, however.
One revolution with a paring knife, or some other small knife, is all that is required to cut through to the stopper and easily pull out the cork. No mess. No wax chips falling into the bottle. No destroyed knife. No frustration. And the finished look preserves the aesthetic that was originally aimed for with the wax. The main argument for the wax is visual. I agree, it looks great. But the look of the bottle is immediately diminished once the waxed top is inevitably chipped at and hacked at to reach the stopper underneath. Producers should contact Pasquet to get their wax source. See the image for the proof; the picture does not lie.
Anyways, sometimes I get held up on seemingly minor issues. Let’s see what these two bottles have to offer in the glass. That’s really all that matters, right?
L’Esprit de Famille, Le Cognac de Noel
Nose: The nose is tight initially. A little time in the glass is needed for things to wake up. Wow, with each passing minute it seems as if the aromas gain more clarity and come into sharper and sharper focus. The smells are certainly spice-loaded but not abrasive. Think of an assorted autumn spice mix.
Additionally, there is an underlying smell of sweet speculoos cream and honeyed pain d’epices. I also smell a faint trace of fragrant sawdust, not a note I smell often but I assure you it’s quite pleasant.
Underneath the upfront spices and dessert smells, there’s a bright streak lurking. I cannot determine if it’s blood orange, mandarin orange, yellow plum, or some other acidic fruit, but it’s there and adds freshness and vivacity to the whole aromatic package.
To be sure, this is a lovely nose that picks up steam with some time in the glass. Please, do not rush this glass.
Palate: Yes, I’m loving the tension on the palate. There is an impression of roundness and richness, and the Cognac is both of those, but there is an underlying verve driving everything forward. The Cognac is fresh, dry, and mouth watering. I received a similar sensation when recently tasting the Vallein Tercinier Fins Bois Lot 96. My mouth is literally watering after tasting this Cognac de Noel. The tingly warm baking spices are there for sure, but I confirm they are completely unobtrusive. There is a taste of moist honeyed pain d’epices. And the fruit underneath it all contributing freshness is blood orange or vine peach.
The flavors are so agreeable, so easy to get along with. The tug of war between the flavor richness and the “vif” (a French word for lively) mouthfeel is fantastic.
Finish: There is good length to the finish, but the flavors are not eternal – nor should they be. As soon as the sweet spice flavors faded away, I was more than ready to smell it and taste it again. For my palate at least, there was not an ounce of bitterness, no astringence, and no rusticity. Of course, give this Cognac some time in the glass, but once it’s up to speed, don’t be surprised if your glass diminishes at an alarming rate.
For a more in-depth critique of this quality head over to the Cognac Expert review platform. There you can find a precise tasting matrix as well as specific tasting notes and a total ranking.
Trésors de Famille, Le Cognac de Claude
Nose: This nose is open for business right away – more than the Cognac de Noel. I imagine it will gain additional clarity with air, but it’s dazzling on first pour. I first smell sparkling clean miel de fleurs, a medium strength floral honey found all over the place here in France. Then I get a sweet tobacco note. I’ve smelled this sweet tobacco note in some men’s fragrances (Le Labo’s Tabac parfum is one such ultra clear tobacco-woody smell that I pick up in more mature Cognacs). Maybe I’m dreaming but I pick up a faint grassiness. And after those initial waves of smells comes a layer of fruit: mirabelle plums, greengages, and fruit cocktail cups in syrup.
I can’t explain this, but at various moments I thought I was smelling a rum from Savanna, a quality rum producer from Reunion island. I digress, this is a great nose!
Palate: Even at 49.8% ABV, it amazes me just how well this Cognac de Claude wears its alcohol. Curiously, the finest spirits always give off a strong sense of composure and poise regardless of the alcoholic strength. Pasquet deserves a major tip of the cap for finding this Cognac’s sweet spot in terms in ABV. Bravo!
After getting over the balance of the Cognac, I’m met with layers of fruit: mirabelle plums, sultanas in syrup, and fruit cocktail cups – peaches, mandarins, and some white grapes (from my childhood days). The previously mentioned miel de fleurs is present too, and pate de coing shows up as well. Interesting, the sweet earthy tobacco note only showed up on the nose for me, not in the mouth.
The texture is full but not palate staining. It manages to coat the mouth while still maintaining a sense of elegance. This is as fine a glass as I’ve had recently. As always, slow down and let the glass reveal all it has to say.
Finish: Dare I say the finish is so long that it even bothers me. Seriously, the fruit, honey, and spice flavors linger so long on the entirety of my tongue that taking another sip feels like an interruption. I have no problem taking my time, but these flavors struggle to fade away. I know, what an unhelpful complaint. Kidding aside, I’m impressed by the depth of flavor, the richness of texture, and length of the fruit, earth, and spice notes. I might not brush my teeth tonight.
For a more detailed critique of this new release go over to the Cognac Expert review platform. There you cen find a precise tasting matrix as well as specific tasting notes and a total ranking.
Unsurprisingly, Pasquet’s Le Cognac de Noel and Le Cognac de Claude are winners. They are honest, true Cognacs that perfectly represent their respective crus, Domaine Pasquet, and I presume the interesting characters for whom these products are named after, Noel and Claude.
So who are these for? For the Cognac enthusiast that is starting to venture away from the complex balanced blends – which are equally fascinating – this would be an ideal introduction to overproof single barrel Cognac.
Despite its 46.4% ABV, the smells, flavors, and textures of Le Cognac de Noel are delivered with balance and ease. You will experience a heightened intensity of flavor, but your palate will not feel abused. And for the price asked, there is absolutely nothing to disagree with. A single barrel that behaves like an ultra complex blend. Top class spirit here!
Le Cognac de Claude flexes its muscles and shows what the Grande Champagne is capable of at a certain maturity. While far from being an aggressive Cognac, the 49.8% ABV level will cater more to demanding palates – so Cognac and general spirits nerds. That being said, I keep coming back to how well it wears its alcohol. There really is a sense of comfort and composure from tasting this Cognac. But, it should not be your first time tasting overproof spirits. And if any whisky or rum enthusiasts are reading, jump on this bottle to see exactly what well-made optimally bottled mature Cognac has to offer. It will be impossible to regret it!
Lastly, to Jean and Amy at Domaine Pasquet, thank you and wonderful work with these bottles.
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