As a spirits drinker who has just started his deeper dive into French brandy, a lot of questions always assault me when I encounter a new and less marketed Cognac brand. Questions like “Is this worth the price?”, “How is this different from the big 4?” and “Where do I learn more about this brand?” come to mind. Despite all these questions, it’s almost always a certainty that the small brand you’re encountering will be a family-owned business that’s been at it for decades or more than a century.
One of these new brands that I’ve recently encountered is Normandin Mercier. Thanks to Cognac Expert for sending a bottle. Unsurprisingly, it’s from a family that’s been in the Cognac business for a long time. Normandin Mercier is a Cognac house founded in the estate of Château La Péraudière in the village of Dompierre Sur Mer. It’s a village just outside the coastal city of La Rochelle.
Normandin Mercier’s history
The house was founded in 1872 by Jules Normandin. Today, it’s run by his great-great grandson Edouard Normandin. This makes the Cognac house family-run for at least a century-and-a-half. The brand was created when Jules received financial help from his wife Justine Mercier.
Aside from the estate’s rich history, an ancient oak forest also grows within the grounds of Château La Péraudière. Which means the woods they use to age their Cognacs are home-grown. As someone who is new to Cognac, how impressive is it to learn about a Cognac house that has estate-grown wood?
Normandin Mercier today
They currently mainly focus on Cognac from Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne. It’s a shame Cognac Expert’s blog post about Normandin Mercier is unclear if they distill their own eau-de-vie or source it from various producers. Cognac Expert asked for me. Edouard said they haven’t been distilling onsite since the 1950s. So we can assume they source the distillates from other producers. This is a common thing in Cognac as the big brands also do this. Regardless, based on the blog, all their aging happens in the estate.
Despite their rich history, it’s nice to know that they’re in touch with the times. With organic farming being a known factor for raising quality raw materials up to distillates, they started making organic eaux-de-vie in 2015. Aside from that, they’re also bottling Cognac by the single cask in higher-than 40% abv. In case you’re not aware, bottling by single cask in Cognac isn’t popular yet. It’s also the norm there to bottle at 40% abv. Only a few other producers such as Vallein Tercinier have been following this trend that’s been popularized by single malt.
Aside from it’s not in their culture, I think one more reason single casks aren’t popular in Cognac yet is due to the added costs. I recently learned that when a Cognac producer wants to open his barrel warehouse, someone from the Cognac regulatory agency has to be present. They have to pay for that person to be there. Just imagine the added logistics and costs just to bottle a single cask. To make this payment worth it, one would have to bottle multiple single casks. I can understand if not a lot think it’s worth it.
Normandin Mercier La Peraudière 140th Single Cask
42.7% abv. 50cl. €149 on Cognac Expert. Cask # 3710.
On the nose: Woody and floral. I get long and medium aromas of dried apricots, oak, honey, cinnamon syrup, rancio, and leather. The rancio is more like a shiitake mushroom-based sauce instead of the more usual astringent dry shiitake mushrooms I get in other old Grande Champagne Cognacs.
In-between are really soft and round aromas of peaches and red grape skin.
In the mouth: Astringent from the start. I get persistent tastes of leather, cinnamon, tannins, and dried shiitake mushrooms. Underneath those are bits of honey, fresh peaches, dried apricot.
Thankfully, the astringency weakens as the Cognac gets to breathe more.
Conclusion: I’m not sure what to think of La Peraudière. But I’m sure that I’m more in love with the nose than the mouth. This tastes more like a bourbon-style Cognac. The cask it was aged in seems to be new as there’s too much tannin and other characteristics I associate with astringency. It’s the opposite of what I loved about the nose, which is it was delicate and gentle yet assertive.
There’s the hogo factor that’s said to come with old Cognac. I’m not familiar with it yet so I’m not sure how it factors in here.
Aside from these, I wish the producer would add more details. Such as the cask #, the exact age of the Cognac, type of French oak, blend of grapes, and what kind of cellar it was aged in. I think this type of added transparency and information will make this brand and the whole of Cognac more interesting to whiskey drinkers.
I asked Cognac Expert if they could ask Edouard some questions for me. He said this is a 25 year old Cognac. This explains why I think this is very oaky. Compared to whisky, the price of this is also a steal for the age. Though, being bottled at 500ml is surely making this cheaper.
This will make for a good present. Not every drinker is a geek so age is always an appealing factor. The age of this plus the decanter-like bottle it comes in will be delight for everyone.
Again, thanks to the Cognac Expert team for generously sending me a bottle.