The Cognacs of Pierre Ferrand have, over recent times, certainly been revered in some of the best industry publications. For example, comments such as, “Majestic, unfathomable, of international class. In the upper echelon for connoisseurs”, as was written in The Spirit Journal way back in 1999, is praise indeed. Cognac Expert is delighted to present the backstory of this impressive brand, and provide a little insight as to the ethos and core values behind this award winning house.
Photo credit, Maison Ferrand
Maison Ferrand: The beginning
The story is an interesting one. We have to head far, far back in time over four centuries to discover the roots of the name, Ferrand Cognac. This Grande Champagne, family run firm created eau-de-vie in the traditional manner, and handed their precious secrets down over an incredible 10 generations.
Fast forward to 1989, and the entrepreneurial Alexandre Gabriel began a passionate mission to bring top class, traditional, and most importantly, artisan, Cognacs to the international market. He acquired Chateau de Bonbonnet and the vineyards of Ferrand Cognac, and the house of Maison Ferrand was born. His goal was to create a spirits movement that truly captured the production of old, committing to the traditional creation methods whilst embracing advancing innovation in a subtle, sympathetic manner. At a time when many other brands were concentrating on the concept of mass production, this was indeed a novel approach.
Alexandre surrounded himself with a close-knit team who shared the same strong beliefs. And that was to create superb, traditional Cognacs that expressed the passage of time, the terroir, and the burning passion of the experts that create them.
Who is Alexandre Gabriel?
Born in the Burgundy region of France, it’s safe to say that winemaking is deep within the genetic makeup of Alexandre. His childhood was spent on the family farm, learning the skills of working the land and, of course, harvesting grapes. His grandfather was a huge influence during these formative years, and he remembers well that his relative instilled in him that “wealth could only come from the land”.
Alexandre’s education included time spent in the U.S.A. before returning to his home country and attending a Parisian business school. It was here that his wine career began in earnest. He would travel the various wine producing regions in France, meeting small, craft producers and advising them on ways to further expand their business. This, naturally, only served to feed his passion for spirits, and for Cognac in particular. Fate led to a fortunate encounter, and when the time was right, Alexandre became the head of what we now know as Maison Ferrand, the home of Pierre Ferrand Cognac. He is a true Cognac radical, an important innovator and decision maker in the region. His vision is to take Cognac that one step further.
We (Max & Sophie) were delighted to visit Maison Ferrand and meet with Alexandre earlier in 2018. The passion and knowledge of him and his team shone through, as did the quality of the Cognacs produced.
A worldwide Network
At the beginning of the venture, as with all successful business people, Alexandre consulted with his professors and mentors. The outcome of this was the decision to first build a great distribution network. After all, if you want to market your product on a global scale, then the method to do so must be put in place. He still had his business studies to conclude, so Alexandre surrounded his new baby with experts who shared his dream and passion. He even persuaded a former Cognac house manger to step out of retirement and help in an advisory role.
His enthusiasm was infectious. When a fortunate educational assignment took him to Tokyo and New York , it meant he could trade his regular student garb of jeans and T-shirt to don a suit and visit potential spirit distributors. His devotion and eager emotion certainly won connections, as did the quality of the craft Cognacs that he was able to showcase.
After graduation from business school, Alexandre dedicated all of his time to Maison Ferrand. This meant he not only immersed himself in the distilling and aging process of Pierre Ferrand Cognacs, but also the oh-so-important matter of the global distribution channels. It was a proud day for this driven young man when his grandfather visited Chateau Bonbonnet and said, “This is going to be your farm now”. He also presented him with his ancient wine press for good luck—an item that is now one of his most treasured possessions.
Cognacs of yesteryear, to be savored today
The raison d’etre behind all of Maison Ferrand’s products is to create exceptional spirits, and showcase the craft taste that our ancestors enjoyed. The whole team are dedicated to bringing only the very best, exceptional creations to market. Around 90% of all Cognacs sold worldwide are produced by the major houses, and their goal is not to compete with this. Instead, it’s to bring Cognac back to its roots, to design in the way of our forefathers, and capture the true expression of the raw spirit.
The Pierre Ferrand Ancestrale Cognac is a wonderful example of this. A Cognac aged for around seven decades, only 300 bottles are produced each year. If you’re looking for a wonderful example of how very special such a traditional Cognac should taste, then we can highly recommend this one.
Another great, super well-aged Cognac is the Pierre Ferrand 1975 Collection Prive Cognac. This vintage Grande Champagne delight demonstrates the very reason Ferrand’s Cognacs are becoming the choice of connoisseurs the world over.
One of Pierre Ferrand’s products that is, we have to say, a wonderful example of how a superb Cognac need not cost the earth, is the Pierre Ferrand 10 Generations.
This is a tribute to the complete Ferrand family that, as we mentioned earlier, has passed down their knowledge and know-how over no less than 10 generations.
As ever, innovation shines through with this creation, as 20% of the spirit finished off the aging process in casks that had previously held Sauternes wine. This has imbued the delicious Cognac with hints of the sweet wine, bringing a unique and deliciously luxurious taste experience. The packaging is also rather eye catching, making for a great bottle to display on your drinks cabinet, or as a real eye-opener when you bring it to a party or social occasion. Enjoy this citrusy, fruity, vibrant Cognac neat, over ice, or as a decadent ingredient in your favorite cocktail. Discover more about the Pierre Ferrand 10 Generations and purchase in our online shop.
Award winning Cognacs
With a team that spans most of the globe, the Cognacs and products of Maison Ferrand are marketed and enjoyed in 68 countries. They’ve also been presented with some of the world’s most prestigious awards in industry competitions. The Pierre Ferrand Selection des Anges won a gold medal in the 2008 Beverage Testing Institute, a gold medal in The 2016 Cognac Masters, and a double gold in the 2016 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Such is the quality of Pierre Ferrand Cognacs they continue to be mentioned in many of the most revered industry publications as ones to watch out for. It’s tantamount to Alexandre Gabriel’s business expertise that the brand is known and loved on multiple continents. They’ve managed to span the world without compromising on artisanal quality. Indeed, so dedicated is Alexandre to his cause that he’s also set his sights on bringing other craft spirits to his global audience.
Maison Ferrand: It’s not just Cognac
One of the delights about Maison Ferrand and Alexandre Gabriel’s passion is that he’s expanded operations to encompass other traditional French brandies such as Calvados and Armagnac. In addition, he has a real penchant for the spirit, Gin, having studied the history and the making of it in great depth. This led to a rather unique method of dual usage of his Cognac stills.
Strict regulations by the AOC mean that Cognac stills can only be used during five months of the year. They normally lie dormant during this time, but the entrepreneurial mind of Alexandre realized that this was a true waste of resources. In 1996 he created Citadelle Gin, the very first artisanal Gin de France, and one of the first of the craft gins that are now so extremely sought after in many countries of the world. It took some time (five years, to be exact), but he eventually gained permission from the AOC to be able to use his Cognac stills to distil gin during the seven month down period. If ever there was a great way to ensure the stills were working year round, this has to be it.
Photo credit, Maison Ferrand
But Alexandre didn’t stop there. In 1999 he introduced Plantation Rums. These are aged in Bourbon casks in the Tropics, and are then brought to Cognac to finish off the aging process in Ferrand French oak casks. In 2017, Maison Ferrand purchased the West Indies Rum Distillery.
They also market a range of liqueurs under the name of Mathilde Liqueurs. We can all appreciate the enthusiasm and drive of Alexandre and the whole Maison Ferrand team in their dedication to the creation of artisan spirits.
Traditional, innovative, and unique
We love the fact that the Cognacs of Pierre Ferrand never fail to push the boundaries, yet still manage to be the epitome of tradition. With vineyards that are wholly located in the ‘Golden Triangle’ of Grande Champagne terroir, this is a brand that truly specializes in old and very old Cognacs. There’s a fine line to walk when it comes to remaining true to the old methods, yet embracing the new to have a truly current range. Not to mention how challenging it can be for a smaller house to become truly global.
It appears that the Cognacs of Pierre Ferrand and the whole Maison Ferrand team are managing both with aplomb. We’re proud to showcase this brand to our loyal readership. But beware! Once you’ve tried one of their offerings, we guarantee you’ll be desperate to sample some more. (Don’t say we didn’t warn you).