So, Prowein 2016 is upon us. I (Max) was there on Monday and Tuesday, and I must say this year it felt slightly less busy. And my impression was confirmed by about 80% of the Cognac producers.
Before we get into the detail, take a look at the following 2 minute video about my 2 days at Prowein, Dusseldorf, Germany. Prowein and Vinexpo are always really hectic, not to mention being somewhat exhausting… Watching the video really will show you the best of some of the new Cognacs available:
So let’s start with the two most interesting products I saw during Prowein: Bache Gabrielsen and Francois Voyer – which definitely lead the field.
— Max drinks Cognac (@cognac_expert) March 15, 2016
Now let’s explain the reason why, and exactly what these new Cognac products are.
Innovation with Bache Gabrielsen Aroma-Driven Edition
I really love this. Hervé Bache-Gabrielsen and the team introduce a new way of getting into Cognac. Instead of using traditional age categories (VS…what? VSOP…excuse me?). What does this even mean!? If the way traditional Cognac is labelled confuses you, take a look at our blog article about Cognac Age Categories & Classifications) It’s a simple guide to understanding Cognac. But Bache have given cognac age specification the 21st century touch, by using taste labels. Very smart.
We have seen this previously with Leopold Gourmel’s range, but this is a slightly different concept. So let’s call this aroma-driven labeling:
Secret Garden: A pretty young, floral Cognac. Tasting and smelling this Cognac will show you exactly what the term ‘floral’ means.
Fruity Harvest: A more fruity Cognac – again you realize exactly what a Cognac drinker would define as ‘fruits’ in a Cognac.
Golden Wood: Now it’s getting more woody and sweeter. Clearly a rounder Cognac, but still with a solid punch in the end.
Spicy Trip: That is a very rancio-driven, older Cognac with a full body. Complex & spicy as the label says.
All bottles retail at around €35 and every bottle contains 35cl of Cognac.
Now, these bottles are targeting Cognac connoisseurs and French consumers, and are closer to the Whisky category. For those of you who don’t know: The French do not drink Cognac. OK – perhaps this is slight exaggeration, but it is the truth that most of the French and Parisians are completely in love with Whisky.
Needless to say that we here at Cognac-Expert have always loved the Pure & Rustic series. This new label edition is part of that series: And the contents are combine with a wonderful craft bottle design. Bravo.
Bache Gabrielsen also has a new 1995 Fins Bois Vintage Cognac. Again, this is a Pure & Rustic Cognac.
Time travel with Francois Voyer Age d’Or
Pierre Vaudon and the team have created a new Cognac that I really love. It’s a 100% Grande Champagne Cognac, in the upper VSOP+ to Napoleon segment. The retail price is in the upper 40 euros. Now, while this really authentic Cognac brings some joy to the palate the label is simply fantastic.
Voyer takes us back to the Golden Age: A beautiful choice of font; the logo on the bottle is actually the sign of the town of Cognac – simply beautiful. Also, let’s put this in context: Francois Voyer is a small, artisanal house that doesn’t have the means of mid-sized or larger Cognac houses. They do everything in-house, including the bottle design. Credit goes to Morgan here.
DEAU and Moisans Cognac
Deau presented their Privilege Cognac, a VSOP category cognac, with new packaging. Their Moisans Cognac also received a revamp, which we like. As you may know, here at Cognac Expert we really like DEAU’s trilogy, containing Black, XO, and Louis Memory. There may be news about DEAU in the future, so stay tuned.
DEAU stood out again with a really elegant booth, emphasizing the quality of their products with a playful black-violet combination.
De LUZE & J. DUPONT
So, let’s look at these guys new Cognac products.
DE LUZE has kicked off a redesign of the A bottle: They decided to get rid of the 100%-silver of the bottle, meaning now you can actually see the liquid. Also, they’ve presented a new tasting set, which I think is a real sweet thing. They’re sister brand, J. Dupont, 100% Grande Champagne, presents a Art de Vie decanter. Below we see Charles Boinaud performing:
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The Boinaud family also presents a new Vodka which has a somewhat strange packaging – the vodka is pretty smooth. But hey, I’m the first to admit that I’m no Vodka expert.
Wealth Solutions: Cognac in a Swiss Watch
I also had a meeting with the guys of Wealth Solutions, who’ve launched some upper-premium Cognacs like Sein de Dieu, Old Gautier and L’Esprit de Tiffon. When they had their event of opening ‘that’ Gautier bottle together with a watch maker from Switzerland, I never realized that they actually wanted to put the Cognac into the watch. A pretty awesome stunt I’d say, and also pretty funny.
Tessendier: Park Single Barrel Cellar 8 Borderies, Campagnère Prestige, Grand Breuil Elite
Tessendier of course had some great new products. One is Park Single Barrel Cellar No.8 Borderies. I didn’t get to taste it, but I will treat myself by availing myself of their whole range with their really nice Cognac tasting set… Always a winner.
The other new bottle here is Campagnère Prestige, which comes in a 700 ml, 2 litre and 3 litre bottle.
The third new bottle from these guys is Grand Breuil Elite.
I have to say that they are really proactive.
There was also one gentleman on their stand who promoted a brand called Thompson. The concept? – An Englishman in France. You may know that Aquitaine used to belong to Britain, and that’s why there’s still a rather large English culture in southwest France. Thompson offers a wide range of spirits made in Bordeaux, like Gin, Fine Bordeaux, Whisky, and French Brandy. I like the concept: I like the man.
HINE: New Vintage Millesime Bonneuil 2006 & Redesigned Company Logo
HINE’s Per Even was happy to announce quite some movement: And it’s true there is a lot of stuff going on at HINE right now. They are about to release a new 2006 Bonneuil by Domines Hine, a pure Grande Champagne Cognac. After the 2005 edition comes the 2006 Cognac – pretty young and fresh; this time the packaging is no longer in purple, but a darker yellow. Really elegant.
The other big news is that HINE had a redesign of the logo. They got rid of ‘Vintage Cognacs’, and replaced it with ‘Maison fondée en 1763’, emphasizing the tradition of the house in terms of a.) FRENCH and b.) OLD. They also added the deer as an image element to the logo. Per Even also showed me a new image video they made, with some very interesting choices: They only show the logo once at the beginning and once at the end. You won’t see a bottle or any Hine products in the film – it’s really about the process of making Cognacs.
Cognac Monnet gets a total rebranding
Monnet is part of the HINE family but a stand-alone brand. The brand is really big in Finland and just got an entire rebranding. Very fresh blue & white tones – a very scandi-feeling, in my opinion. The new branding will hit duty free and domestic markets in April. I like how they brought back the salamander to the packaging.
Camus targets Whisky category habits with a 40-years old Cognac
I met with Anne Blois, the Global Commercial Director of Camus, and Thomas who works in marketing. I loved the fact that I was served Camus coffee.
Camus re-releases Cuvée 3.140 from the Masterpiece Collection. The item consists of three different Cognacs from three different crus: Grande Champagne, Bons Bois, and Petite Champagne. The edition is limited to 950 items worldwide.
A rather new item is Camus Borderies VSOP, a limited edition of batches of around 11,000 bottles. A pretty smooth VSOP with a typical dry-violet Borderies touch. I’d prefer this one over the VSOP Elegance by Camus.
What I really found interesting was a 40 year old Cognac. And it actually says “40 years” on the Rarissimes edition item. This Cognac was taken from 3 casks, aged for at least 40 years. Camus clearly gets closer to the whisky drinker’s world with this item. Compared to Courvoisier and their 12 and 21 years old Cognac, a 40 year old Cognac is clearly something special.
Please note: Many Cognac blends may include Cognacs that are 40 years old but not everyone can actually get proof that a blend in total consists of Cognacs that are at least 40 years old.
Bossard’s triumph in Sweden by Dobbé makers
Our friends at Dobbé have had a field day when their Bossard VS won against 50 other VS Cognacs in the Swedish selection process of state monopoly distribution entity, Systembolaget. While Bossard has distribution in California, Dobbé is seeking distribution & importers for the entire US. Read our introduction article about Cognac Dobbé.
Frapin with new VIP XO Design & Packaging
When I approached the Frapin booth the great Patrice Piveteau was already standing there, as if he expected me. Monsieur Piveteau revealed Frapin’s new VIP XO bottle design: A pretty organic, round-shaped bottle. Reminds me a bit of an alembic charentais, but there is also the idea of the “poet & writer” in the bottle. I do prefer the new design.
New Cognac brand St. Rob
Here comes a new Cognac brand by Chabasse & Bowen makers – not the same company but linked. Magalie Chabasse presented the new brand, consisting of 3 bottles so far: VSOP, XO, and EXTRA. Note that there is no VS (yet?) so the brand is rather focused on older Cognacs. I’d say the bottle design is really different to many other Cognac bottles, which is a good thing.
Obviously the family is going for diversification here – the bottles are rather crass, and not comparable to the understated and male look & feel of Bowen, for example.
I think it’s the first time I saw the Godet family at a fair – please don’t haunt me if I’m mistaken. Godet has had a huge change in packaging and bottle design from my point of view, and it was really interesting to see all those items. Jean-Jacques Godet, surrounded by his three sons, was busy managing incoming visitors – the booth was pretty busy. I love the direct scepticism of the father towards a Cognac-Blogger-Journalist-Salesman like me.
I’ve been in touch with one of the three sons, Jean-Edouard Godet, around 4 years ago for Godet Antarctica and other products from the Cognac house – and here we were again. You can tell that Jean-Edouard really loves the family’s products, presenting many products with a charming swing of humor and almost-childish amazement. The first products he showed me were two different Folle Blanche Cognacs in a traditional packaging: Epicure “The Original Cognac”. The new XO packaging and XO Extra Centenary Blend are contemporary, but still stick to the old version I know. And there is a new packaging for Godet Extra, which comes in a round protection box. It’s very graphic.
ABK6, Leyrat with new XO+ Cognac & a new Cognac Brand
I had a nice meeting with Elodie Abecassis and cellar master Christian Guerin. I think Christian is extremely knowledgeable, but also a very kind person. He also is a really good educator. We discovered our common interest in Truffle plantations at the end of the meeting.
ABK6 is still on a successful track with their Honey Liqueur ,which launched a year ago for the producer’s 10th anniversary. The new product this year is ABK6 Renaissance, which is positioned between ABK6 XO and Extra.
Leyrat also has a new Cognac; XO Elite (oops, Tessendier’s Grand Breuil also loves the name ‘Elite’), which is positioned right over the ‘normal’ XO.
The Abecassis family also launched a new, fourth Cognac brand called Grands Domaines, consisting of VS, VSOP, and an XO. These Cognacs are rather ‘easy to drink’, and serve well as entry-level & easy-access Cognacs. I really like the very classic design of the VS and the VSOP.
Now let’s note: ABK6 has 4 brands, all of which are distributed in the USA. That’s pretty amazing. Respect to Madmoiselle Abecassis, father Francis, and the whole team.
Larsen & Renault hit Prowein for the first time
It’s good to have Jérôme Durant around because it makes the fair more fun. Also, it’s good to have him because he is interested in opening up the category to more innovation. We didn’t hear much from or about Larsen & Renault before the arrival of Durant. (Read our recent article about the company reboot). Now this obviously has changed:
Renault presents its Carte Noire Limited Edition, and a limited edition (600 bottles only), which is already sold out: Renault Héritage Collection. A beautiful montre design.
The other new item is Renault Age Du Temps, which is a travel retail bottle: A 1989 Petite Champagne vintage that retails at around 250€.
To finish up, Larsen has created an elegant decanter, Extra D’Or ,with a clever golden-metallic strap over the decanter.
Euro Negoce’s Pasquinet Ambre Noir
For the first time I met with Pasquinet. They remade their range last year (VS,VSOP and XO) and have now launched a new Cognac called Ambre Noir. It’s an entirely black bottle, intended to be consumed in cocktails and on ice. The good thing about these entirely black bottles is… You can’t see when it’s finished – it still remains elegant, while bottles that are half empty are a little disturbing to some consumers. The bottle features a QR code on the back, leading to a website with cocktail recipes and suggestions.
The others: Lecat & Prulho
I said hello the our friends at Lecat, who we really like. Great people and solid cognacs in both taste and packaging. Lecat is a brand to watch – a high quality product that needs distribution in some territories. Read our introduction to Lecat Cognac.
We also saw the house of Prulho. The former alambic producer presented their regular range of loud and colorful alambic-metal bottles – we really like those.
Prulho launched a new bottle for the Chinese market, called Prulho Selection, and is in the VSOP category. Prulho is seeking a US distributor & importer.
See you next year everyone.