The XXO age designation for Cognac was made official back in 2018. Note that XXO is the oldest official age designation for Cognac (excluding of course official vintages that can date quite far back), applying only to Cognacs that can be justified to be at least 14 years old. It’s interesting to note that even the designations Hors d’Age and Extra technically only need to be applied to Cognacs of at least 10 years of age. Initially, producers were not quick to jump on board the XXO train, with only a slow trickle of XXO Cognacs from big brands appearing on the market then.
Among one of the first small independent family house XXO entrants was Maison Prunier with their Prunier XXO Family Series Number 001.
That first edition was the start of an XXO series created as a collaboration between Prunier and Dale Cooper, a wine importer from Australia, and a massive fan of Cognac – Prunier Cognacs specifically. The Number 001 edition was released some years ago to great success, and now it’s time for the second installment in the series, the Prunier XXO Family Series Number 002. It has still been produced as a collaborative effort between Cooper and Prunier.
The first edition, Number 001, was a blend of two vintages from the Fins Bois. This brand new second edition, Number 002, is a single vintage single cask Cognac from the Grande Champagne. To the best of my knowledge, given that the Cognac is indeed a vintage Cognac, Cooper and Prunier had a decision to label it as an XXO or as a vintage Cognac, but we see they went with the former option. I’d be curious to ask why, but I take no issue with this and the XXO space is better off because of it.
The paragraphs to follow were written after spending just under a week with the newest XXO Cognac on the market: Prunier XXO Family Series Number 002.
Before arriving at a tasting note, and other comments and reflections on this particular Cognac, it is worthwhile to say a few words about production details.
This particular eau-de-vie was carefully selected by Dale Cooper and Prunier’s Stéphane Burnez from within Prunier’s damp cellars in Gimeux, a short ten minute drive outside of Cognac city. Apparently, after tasting through seemingly hundreds of different barrels and other samples, one Cognac stood out amongst all others for Cooper – the Cognac that’s now in the bottle and glass in front of me.
Whereas the Prunier XXO Family Series Number 001 was a blend of two vintage Cognacs from the Fins Bois – 1992 and 1996 – this Family Series Number 002 edition is a single vintage Cognac from 1985 from the Grande Champagne cru. It was bottled at its natural cask strength of 48.6%, that is to say no water was added at any point to reduce its alcohol level. Also, the Cognac has a natural color, was non-chill filtered, and it was bottled in September 2022.
As this bottling seems to be directed at Cognac geeks and demanding connoisseurs, I would have appreciated a few additional production details: From where in the Grande Champagne does this Cognac come from? Wood burning alambic, or not? Alambic size? Did the Cognac age in new oak for a period of time? At what point was it switched to old oak? What type of oak was used?
Of course, the above questions unnecessarily make me obsess over details that perhaps I really do not need to know. All that I see and know so far sounds very agreeable. And I’ve never met a Prunier Cognac that I didn’t like, so we’re off to a good start.
Let’s explore how the bottle is presented.
The first thing that greets the eyes is the custom coffret (box) that houses the bottle. It’s made of thick quality dark gray coated cardboard and contains the red Prunier logo in several locations. Front and center, commanding the eye’s attention is a gold plate on the front side which states XXO 2 and the bottle number – in my case, bottle 92/300.
As the coffret is folded open – all very solidly – the right side is where the bottle is securely housed and the left side contains a small booklet held between two notches. This small booklet contains a family tree showing the names of all Pruniers and Burnezs who have been at the helm of the Maison over the years. There is then a Certificate of Authenticity which lists the key production details listed above. And the following page has a tasting note and small map of the Cognac region and its crus.
The coffret together with the booklet are executed perfectly and with great taste. The overall aesthetic is classic, handsome, and sophisticated, without ever veering into anything over the top and overly glitzy. There is a quiet confidence and an understated look of luxury.
Moving to the bottle, we see Prunier’s classic 70cl Exception bottle. Readers may not know this but each bottle shape has a name, a model name of sorts. The standard bottle we see everywhere is called the Cognaçaise. The Exception is a more refined version of the Cognaçaise bottle, with its more elegant curves, taller shape, and deep punt. It is generally Prunier’s standard bottle, so it’s great to see it again here.
There is no wax, favoring instead a black capsule, so you can set aside any fears about how to remove the wax and just enjoy your Cognac headache free.
The front label continues this design vibe of classicism and quiet confidence. Just under Cognac Prunier, one sees an image apparently coming from the Gimeux region. The Prunier family seal is stamped into black wax on the right side of the label and a East Geelong postal stamp is printed on the left side. East Geelong is where Dale Cooper is from. I think the inclusion of the image, the Prunier seal, and the postal stamp is brilliant. They look pleasing to the eye and, more importantly, they establish a link between the Prunier family, Cooper’s place of origin, and Gimeux, where Prunier has one of its cellars and where this particular Cognac came from.
The label is then signed by Stephane Burnez, Prunier’s current cellar master and the bottle number is mentioned. The back label contains all required legal mentions.
In short, the handsome qualitative coffret complete with its booklet, the choice of the ever-so-elegant Exception bottle, and the clean understated label with elements tying together all involved parties is perfectly executed.
But I ramble…what does the Cognac smell like and taste like? Ultimately, that’s all that really matters.
The following bullet points give several details on how the tasting note to follow was constructed:
- The Cognac was tasted over a period of five consecutive days.
- On Day 1, the Cognac was tasted by itself. On Days 2, 3 and 4 it was tasted alongside a “control” Cognac – in this case a simple VSOP Cognac that I know well. And on Day 5, this Prunier XXO Family Series 002 was tasted alongside two other single cask, cask strength Cognacs from the Grande Champagne: the Domaine Pasquet Le Cognac de Claude L.84 (Grande Champagne) and the Vallein Tercinier 1989 Grande Champagne.
- Tasting duration: 1.5-2 hours per tasting – no rushing at all
- Glass: Lehmann Eau de Vie 15
- No drops of water were added on any of the tasting occasions.
Color: Vibrant amber with shades of bronze. As I coat the glass walls with the Cognac, a thick disk is formed and slow moving legs only begin to crawl down the glass after a good twenty seconds. This suggests a Cognac with a density and concentration so often found in single cask bottlings.
Nose: Very expressive, extroverted. It’s one of those Cognacs that upon pouring a glass, fills the rooms with its various aromas. Not all Cognacs do this, but it’s always a treat when one does.
I can smell the power. This seems like a muscular Cognac. But that gives way to a wave of orange-meated fruits. Here specifically orange, orange peel, and apricot jam. Maybe I’m dreaming, but I smell notes of arancello. There is a hint of vanilla, but it is a minor. I would not categorize this as an oak-forward Cognac; although, there is a warming spice mix present showing that this is indeed a mature Cognac. Very nice nose. I keep uttering to myself extroverted.
Palate: The first small sip (recommended) permits the palate to get used to the apparent strength. From the second sip onwards, we do indeed have a very handsome refined Cognac. In terms of sensations, I would say the overall mouthfeel is quite soft. It is not overly round and rich, like an uber-complex blend with many different eaux-de-vie, but it’s surprisingly soft for the strength. The abundant fruit adds cushion to counterbalance the Cognac’s power.
As expected, the Cognac does not show a single wrinkle. The pure chiseled fruit notes from youth are kept perfectly intact. But there are enough spice notes and jammy fruit notes to remind me that this is not a youngster either. In terms of fruit, yes I get orange jam, apricot jam, and maybe even some tinned peaches. There is a fine tannic grip as the Cognac goes down, which belies the single cask nature of the Cognac. Also, that tannic grip adds a certain energy and seems to make everything else feel bolder, more intense.
In short, this is balanced and refined power and a great reminder of what makes Grande Champagne Cognacs so special. I love a good Fins Bois Cognac, for example, but no other Cognacs than those from the Grande Champagne seem to hold up so well with the passage of time.
Finish: Medium to long length. The aforementioned fine tannic grip really contributes to this finish. As the Cognac is swallowed the fruits give way to the spices and then all slowly fades out thereafter. There is nothing rough, edgy, or unpleasant about the finish. Lovely, elegant, and refined. What a handsome Cognac!
Readers who are familiar with Pasquet’s Cognac de Claude L.84 and Vallein Tercinier’s 1989 Grande Champagne, in terms of style, I would put this Prunier XXO Family Series Number 002 right between the two – The Claude L.84 being quite exotic and slightly wood-forward and the Vallein Tercinier 1989 Grande Champagne being all on soft fruits, honeys, and syrups with very little trace of wood.
Lastly, I’d pin this Prunier XXO as the more classic Grande Champagne when evaluated alongside the others.
As suggested before, Prunier and Dale Cooper have nailed the execution of this Prunier XXO Family Series Number 002. The packaging is smart, sophisticated and exudes an understated look of luxury. The labels are classic and show a good connection between all sides that were involved in its creation. And, most importantly, the Cognac is a slam dunk winner!
Who do I think this XXO Family Series Number 002 is for? I’d say one needs to enjoy single cask Cognacs to get maximum enjoyment out of this bottle. Sure, the aromas are extremely expressive and inviting that anyone can get along with – anyone. But on the palate, the Cognac is not shy about demonstrating its single cask character. Everything is elevated: the flavors, the sensation of the eau-de-vie’s power, the intensity, the finish. That being said, it’s a balanced Cognac and wears its alcohol well, which cannot be said about all single cask Cognacs.
If you want the richness and roundness of a blend, there are plenty of great options – the Prunier Très Vieille Grande Champagne immediately comes to mind. But if you want to experience a textbook single cask expression of Grande Champagne, look no further than the XXO Family Series Number 002.
A reflection I had on multiple occasions while tasting this Cognac is how age does not seem to have shed the slightest wrinkle on the Cognac. Cognacs from the Grande Champagne do this the best. Everything feels so intact, so alive, so chiseled. During its years of patient aging in barrel since the mid-1980s it’s managed to mature and show some of the typical markers of age, while still not dropping any of its youthful characteristics. I personally really enjoy single cask Cognacs that walk that line between youthfulness and maturity. This XXO Family Series does it very very well!
Dale Cooper and Stephane Burnez were indeed very attentive when selecting this Cognac. The XXO Family Series is deeper as a result of it. I can only imagine there will be plenty of good editions to come in this series. But for now, I’ll continue to enjoy this Number 002.
Bravo Prunier! Bravo Mr. Cooper! It’s been a real treat to spend some time with this bottle!