Cognac Expert spoke to Michael Tran, podiatric physician by day and Cognac-with-dessert drinker by night. Michael shared with us how he first came to love eaux-de-vie, his top 10 favorite Cognacs and the sweet treats he pairs them with.
Our Cognac Expert Facebook group, Cognac Lovers, has been running since late 2018 and now stands at 2,800 members. Within this group are a number of Cognac connoisseurs who take the time to share their niche knowledge and eaux-de-vie experience with the community. Every once in a while, a particularly interesting or enthusiastic member of the group will catch Cognac Expert’s eye and we simply have to find out more about them and their Cognac taste. Michael Tran is one such individual.
Michael Tran has been an active member of Cognac Lovers for just over three years now but a real buzz started to build around him in December 2021, thanks to his reviews of the Cognac Expert calendar and the magnificent home-made desserts that he paired his samples with. Needless to say, his mouth-watering treats combined with his love of eaux-de-vie lured both us, and many other members of the Facebook group in, and we reached out to Michael to learn more about his passion.
Introducing Michael Tran
Born in Vietnam, Michael relocated to the USA at the end of the Vietnam War when he was just 8 years old. 46 years later and Michael still resides in America, he now lives with his wife and works as a podiatrist, a physician that specializes in feet and ankles. Outside of his work, Michael has an affection for Cognac which he enjoys indulging in after-dinner accompanied by whichever delectable dessert his wife has prepared that day.
It was Michael’s Canadian cousin who accidentally introduced him to Cognac, just seven years ago, when he gifted a bottle of Hennessy XO to Michael’s father, who did not drink. Interestingly, up to this point Michael had only ever tasted beers and wines, and this bottle of Hennessy that was passed to him by his father was his first experience of liquor of any kind.
Michael eased himself into eaux-de-vie, mixing his bottle of XO with Coca-Cola and finishing the bottle over the next months by means of this concoction. Now we know that it will pain many of our readers to think of an XO being consumed with coke, but rest assured that after this first bottle, Michael progressed onto drinking his next bottle of Hennessy XO neat. Once this second bottle was finished, Michael’s palate was ready to venture out and see what the rest of the eaux-de-vie world had to offer.
How Michael enjoys his Cognac
Michael and his wife, Annelise, share their love for Cognac and enjoy tasting bottles from their extensive collection together, as part of an intimate after-dinner ritual accompanied by Annelise’s delightful desserts. As Michael points out though, eaux-de-vie does not suit any confection and the balance must be just right. He says:
“Desserts that are slightly sweetened, buttered or have mild cheese ingredients will enhance the flavors but if there is too much sugar or salt then the taste is spoiled.”
Michael’s favorite combination of Cognac and dessert is his wife’s French-style cake with buttercream, paired with Hennessy’s XO.
When discussing which Cognacs Michael had purchased over the years and which had particularly impressed him, he shared with us:
“Crus do not matter, but my preference is for predominantly XO Cognacs or older.”
The Hennessy XO is Michael’s all time favorite Cognac due to its:
“Consistent taste and the optimum level of coloring and sugars to it.”
Their VSOP is also one of his top 10. Also amongst Michael’s collection is the renowned Remy Martin Louis XIII which, interestingly, despite being the most expensive bottle he owns, does not succeed in making it as one of his top 10 favorite Cognacs.
Although Cognac was the first spirit that Michael tasted, since then his palate has expanded and he now also enjoys American Bourbon Whiskeys and Armagnac. We’ll let you into a secret; three years ago Michael suggested that we add Armagnacs to Cognac Expert and at the time we weren’t quite sure about that, but Michael was ahead of the pack and we now have an exquisite collection on our shop.
See here for the selection of Armargnacs.
Michael’s Favorite Cognacs and Sweet Desserts
Now that you have had a taste of Michael Tran, we want to get down to the delicious details of his favorite Cognacs and the sweet treats to enjoy them with. Michael shared his top 10 favorite bottles with us and their perfect accompaniments. You’ll also be pleased to know that many of them can be found on the Cognac Expert shop. His list is as follows:
Prunier XO Très Vieille Grande Champagne
This multi-award-winning Grande Champagne blend has been aged for an average of 45 years. The original blend was created by Jean Burnez in the early 1930s and since then each cellar master has contributed their own personal touch of eaux-de-vie to it. It presents mature aromas of menthol, leather, dark chocolate, a hint of licorice and concludes with an exceptionally long finish of rancio, hazelnuts and toffee.
You can discover the joys of this Prunier’s aromas by heading over to the Cognac Expert shop.
Paired with caramel candies: The dark chocolate aromas blend luxuriously with these caramel based sweets which also accentuate the nutty and brown-butter flavored notes of the finish.
Deau Louis Memory
The masterpiece of the Deau Louis collection, this Grande Champagne Hors d’Age contains eaux-de-vie that dates back to 1916. The endlessly unfolding aromas and flavors of this blend include hints of honeybush, peach, vanilla and cinnamon.
Make tasting this stunning Cognac a memory of your own; you can find it available on our shop now.
Paired with Sara Lee cheesecake: This classic creamy cheesecake beautifully enhances the delicate floral and light spiced aromas found in this Cognac.
Michel Forgeron Barrique 2.1
Another prestigious Grande Champagne blend, this Cognac has spent almost 20 years aging before being patiently reduced to an alcoholic degree of 47%. With delicate nuances of iris, vanilla and okoumé essence, this is a delicacy that possesses great depth and finesse.
Interested in tasting these unique nuances yourself? You can find this delectable Cognac on our shop now.
Paired with milk and dark chocolate truffles: Complex Cognacs such as this one respond well to the simplicity of chocolate, particularly organic dark chocolate which brings out the more subtle nuances to be found.
Kelt Commodore Tour Du Monde Grande Champagne
This unique Grande Champagne Cognac is aged for around 7 years before it boards a vessel to sail the seas for around three months, blessing it with the flavors that come with aging on the ocean. On the nose it presents a wide array of white flower aromas and on the palate you can find hints of apricot, pear and tangerine compotes.
This interesting eaux-de-vie is in high demand and not currently available, however you can register your interest here to be notified when it comes back in stock.
Paired with pirouette cookies: This dessert’s beauty comes in its simplicity, which allows the unique aromas of this Cognac to shine through. The crunchy texture of the cookies also brings an enjoyable contrast to the smoothness of the eaux-de-vie. You can find the recipe for these delicious cookies below.
This XO from one of the most coveted Cognac producers in the world, has received a plethora of awards and is widely regarded as one of the best there is. A stunning blend of Grande and Petite Champagne eaux-de-vie with just a touch of Borderies to bring an added layer of complexity.
This Cognac is a rich and decadent spirit that simply must be experienced, so we suggest wasting no time and heading over to our shop now.
Paired with canelés: Although in the image we can see a different bottle, canelés can be perfectly paired with any Courvoisier thanks to its vanilla flavors and caramelized characteristics which succeed in drawing out the divine oaked notes of a quality Cognac.
Michael’s personal favorite Cognac, the Hennessy XO indulges the senses and contains over 100 eaux-de-vie, some of which have been aged up to 70 years. This powerful and woody blend presents complex but rounded spiced aromas and reveals slight sweet notes of fruit and flowers on the palate.
Get yourself a bottle of Hennessy XO here.
Paired with homemade steamed egg custard buns: Although Michael’s favorite pairing for this Hennessy is a French-style cake, the combination of a buttery pastry with slightly sweet custard also matches seamlessly with the rounded spiced notes and subtle sweetness of this Cognac.
Larsen Viking Sky Blue
Housed in the most stunning of decanters, is this Grande and Petite Champagne XO blend that delivers a smooth and delicate floral bouquet. The recipe for this Cognac has gone unchanged since 1952, this bottle is both a work of art to taste and to admire.
If you want to have this masterpiece as part of your collection, you can find it available on the Cognac Expert shop.
Paired with Audry XO: A Cognac doesn’t always have to be paired with dessert, as Michael has discovered. The Larsen Blue is particularly enjoyable when tasted next to another Cognac, such as the Audry XO. The floral notes of the Larsen are wonderful to explore in contrast to the toasted and creamy flavors found in the Audry XO. To taste this divine pairing yourself, you can go to our Cognac Expert shop.
Camus Extra Dark & Intense
Crafted from a selection of Camus’ finest barrels, this blend of Fine Champagne and Borderies eaux-de-vie is both aromatic and intense, yet also manages to remain elegant. Having spent time in barrels that are freshly toasted in order to release their full aromatic potential, the result is a spicy, fruity and rich Cognac that has earned multiple awards.
It is no surprise that this Cognac has flown off the shelves, however not to worry, you can register your interest here and we will notify you as soon as it is available.
Paired with Belgian cookies with flaked almonds: The dense complexity of the Camus is only enhanced by the sugar and spice of these almond cookies.
Hennessy VSOP Privilege
Tiramisu with Hennessy VSOP Privilege Cognac and mascarpone cream cheese: A slight twist here, as Michael’s wife actually used the Hennessy VSOP as an ingredient rather than an accompaniment. Hennessy’s VSOP is delicately balanced with soft spices of vanilla, cinnamon and clove present on the nose and a burst of freshly pressed grapes on the palate, these flavors blend harmoniously with the mascarpone cream cheese, bringing the dessert to life and giving it a pleasant kick.
Fancy whipping up your own dessert with Hennessy VSOP as an ingredient? Pop on over to our Cognac Expert shop and you’ll be baking in no time.
An unexpected contender for the top 10 here, the Kirkland Signature XO Fine Cognac from Costco has pleasantly surprised Cognac enthusiasts around the world with its delicate yet bold flavors. The eaux-de-vie in this unique XO has spent between 12 and 21 years aging and reveals tantalizing aromas of citrus, dried fruit, honey, rich chocolate and almond which develop into notes of molasses, apricot and exotic spices on the palate.
Costco’s Cognac has truly been a hit and is not currently on our shop, however if you let us know you’re interested then we will notify you once it’s available.
Paired with pound cake: The simplicity of this dessert is exactly what is needed to accompany the Kirkland XO and its never ending flavors, the pound cake acts as the perfect stage for the Cognac’s aromas to dance on. You can find the recipe for this simply stunning dessert below.
Michael’s Top 2 Favorite Dessert Recipes
- 1 lb of unsalted butter
- 1 lb of white granulated sugar
- 6 whole eggs
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 lb of all-purpose flour
- 1 tbsp of vanilla extract
- A dash of salt
- Grease and flour your baking pan
- Beat the butter until smooth, then add the sugar. Cream until light and fluffy
- In a separate bowl, combine eggs, egg yolks, vanilla, and salt. Slowly drizzle egg mixture into your butter mixture whilst beating, slowly at first and then increasing speed
- Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add flour until well combined to produce a smooth and uniform batter
- Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth the top
- Bake in 350F oven for an hour and ten to an hour and fifteen minutes
- Allow to cool before serving
You can find the full recipe on Sugar Spun Run.
- ¼ cup & 2 tbsps of softened butter
- 1 cup of icing sugar
- ¾ cup of all purpose flour
- 4 large egg whites
- 1 tsp of vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 425F
- In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy
- Add flour, egg whites, and vanilla extract and blend until well combined
- Coat a sheet pan with cooking spray. Spoon 1 ½ tsps of batter into four quadrants of the pan, spreading each portion into a 4×3 inch oval shape
- Bake for 3 minutes until edges are golden
- Using a metal spatula, loosen cookies but leave on the pan. Working quickly, place 1 cookie upside down on counter and roll it lengthwise around handle of a wooden spoon
- Remove cookie from wooden spoon and allow to cool on wire rack
- Repeat process with rest of the batter
You can find the full recipe on The Spruce Eats.
Cognac & Confection Conclusion
We hope you enjoyed this eclectic mix of Cognacs to sip with sweets, or maybe even use as an ingredient for a decadent dessert and what better time is there for such an indulgence than Valentine’s Day? Woo your loved one with confections and Cognac, it’s the way to a connoisseur’s heart. We would love to hear your tasting reviews both on the Cognac Lovers Facebook group or via our new rating system.