More stories of the road from Kyle Kurani....
I've been drinking Cognac all day. Real Cognac though, no big brands, just small producers spanning all over the region. We had a marathon of a day visiting five different distillers spanning four of the six regions of Cognac. Yeehaw! Why the epic trek across the country? Context. In order to know a region, you have to have context for the different nuances of each specific place. We tasted in well known regions like Grande Champagne and Petit Champagne, but also hauled on out the Bons Bois, as well as the Borderies. There were some gems, and some duds, but there is no stone left unturned in Cognac.
We started the day by driving out to the Bon Boise (think staying in beautiful Healdsburg) then motoring over to Sebastapool; it's very rural, and very far flung from the rest of Cognac; not known for very fine brandy, but we had to check it out. It was a bit of a mediocre appointment, however we got a sense for what was coming out of the region. In the category of we never saw this coming: we did get to taste a bottle that was distilled pre 1900 ( Sharon Stone apparently bought one, who knew), that I thought was going to be the oldest Cognac that we tasted today. Amazing what turns up in the middle of nowhere.
This is completely a side note, but hilarious. For those of you who don't know me, I have long hair. Normally kept neat and tidy and put up, much to the chagrin of one of our owners ("When are you getting a hair cut Kyle?") WELL...the grandmother of the producer we were visiting was puttering around the house and feeling salty. On her first pass while we were tasting, taking notes, and generally taking things seriously, she said: "You talk less than a bunch of women!" Zinger from grandma, we all laughed. The next time she buzzed the tower, I happened to be standing at the bottom of the stairs and she muttered something in French that I couldn't pick up, but David who speaks it started cracking up. What she said? " I just want to pull on his hair!" Granny got game!
Ok, back to work. Off to Grande Champagne.
The outlaw of Cognac is the master blender Stephane at Michel Forgeron. He is doing it his way in Grand Champagne. This is the big region for Cognac. It has the most chalk in the soils and makes the longest lived, fanciest stuff you can find. Common practice dictates Cognac is blended down to 40%, Stephane is not so common, however. He thinks adding that much water kills the spirit, it tastes better at higher proof, so thats what he does. Cask strength whisky drinkers rejoice: "I blend to what tastes good to me. My taste changes, my Cognac changes, thats how it goes," he told us. Lucky for us he has good taste.
Off to the Borderies to meet Francois Giboin and his Cognac house that has been in the family since 1830. The Borderies are know for fruit driven, rich but softer Cognac.. Apple pie and spice cake find themselves in my notes fairly often. Very accessible, pretty yummy stuff that doesn't break the bank. A dose of history and a good dollop of appreciation for just how much time it takes to make Cognac properly. I was beginning to flag down the home stretch though…needed a second wind.
As the sun sets on Cognac, we drag into the last appointment of our journey in Petit Champagne. A little bit less chalk in the soils, but some argue the quality of Cognac produced here is closer to Grand Champagne than the price difference indicates. I must agree, because little did I know, I was about to make that 1914 Cognac look silly.
To be honest, it had been a long, brandy filled day, but all the tiredness evaporates as Jacques Esteve introduced himself. If there was such a thing as grandson adoption, I want Jacques to be my French Grande Pere. Vest, suit jacket, loafers, and 150 years of family Cognac production make him at least the first cousin to The Most Interesting Man in the World. Forget Dos Equis, drink Cognac! We got to taste his family's oldest brandy, the Plentitude. The oldest brandy in the blend being from 1850, with a little 1920 and 40 for good measure. Unbelievably lush and rich, the most complex and nuanced Cognac I've had. Such a beautiful way to end a day…best part is we have some of this amazing stuff on the way to K&L as we speak.
I can't feel very much of my mouth at the moment after nearly 60 samples or so, but I do have a much better idea of where the heck to look for good Cognac. We found everything we'd hoped for today. Fancy, sit in your recliner with your slippers and read a leather bound book stuff. As well as affordable, everyday, make a Side Car or drink on the rocks while you're on the patio stuff. Cognac has something for everybody, and I am glad we endeavored to find it.