Monday, April 24, 2017
In a previous Cognac review that I posted to You Tube, I said that VS grade Cognac was terrible stuff neat, and only suitable as a base of a cocktail. When I made that declaration, it had been over a decade since I last had VS grade Cognac. But, I now have the benefit of ten years of spirits wisdom and having revisited VS Cognac, I am haunted by the words of Winston Churchill:
"In the course of my life, I have often had to eat my
own words, and I must confess I have always
found it a wholesome diet."
I think his observation of himself applies equally to me. Read on friend.
. . .
Cognac. A fancy term that simply means distilled wine (eau de vie) which is subsequently aged in French oak for a period of years dependent upon the grade. VS (Very Special) grade cognac must be aged for a minimum of 2 years.
Reasonable and affordable.
None, but this VS grade Cognac is made up of 3-7 years old brandies.
A bit of faint alcohol that I liken to pears. Garden fresh mint. Damp earth. Loam.
Sweet initially, milk chocolate, becoming mint chocolate, orange rind, thyme and good, young oak.
Spring water, white cake, apricot, tarragon, summer savory and black teas. Tannins.
I beg to differ.
VSOP and XO are certainly smoother, and I will accept that the XO does deliver some complexity of flavor missing in the VS. But! On a value for money basis, the VS reigns supreme. VS has some bite, but a playful hickey of flavors that challenges you to like its foreign spices (summer savory), Vichy water, and a spoilt funkiness that is hard to describe that is simultaneously off-putting and endearing.
If you are a newbie to whiskies, I suspect that the coarseness of VS with its funkiness will put you off. A newbie to whisky, who likes blends, will enjoy the VSOP and certainly the XO level, as such a consumer seeks smooth delivery and refinement of flavors.
For the experienced whisky tramp like me, I get more kicks out of the VS than the VSOP or the XO. I find the XO particularly boring. Of course it tastes good, pleasant, and refined, but a little too boring. When I factor in the crazy price, I am thinking for a third of the cost I can get similar Swiss milk chocolate flavors from a 12 year old Scotch or Irish Whiskey (Jameson 12 comes to mind).
There is a considerable leap in smoothing out of flavors when you go from VS to VSOP, that is reflected in a higher price. Fair enough. Pay $20 more or thereabouts and you have a VSOP. However, the same cannot be said for the price jump between VSOP and XO grades of Cognac. XO is about 2.5 times the price of VSOP where I live. Crazy since there is not 2.5 times the quality.
As a whisky drinker, I prefer the VS because it is lively and more challenging than the VSOP or XO, which are simply great drinks of milk chocolate and orange rind without the Vichy water and summer savory that you get at the VS grade. In a word, VS and XO are a bit boring. VS challenges me. It is defiant. And I like that.
Note: Quote of Winston Churchill taken from a biography written by Ashley Jackson, page 4, "Churchill" published by Quercus, 2011.
Thursday, March 30, 2017
Rémy Martin XO
"XO" stands for 'extra old.' Specifically, no eau-de-vie (distilled wine) making up this spirit is less than 10 years old. In fact, Rémy Martin XO is comprised of eau-de-vie that ranges from 10yrs - 37yrs and is a blend of 400 eau-de-vie, which has been aged in French oak.
85% Grande Champagne eau-de-vie.
Complexity abounds with notes of raising, red wine, saddle leather, dry leaves, roses and peonies.
Smooth, rich entry of strawberries, orange spice, vanilla, dark plums and a little Canadian maple sugar.
Good length leaving mellow cinnamon, cardamom tea, drying oak.
As one of my viewers astutely pointed out, Scotch whisky and other whisky fans are probably going to find the flavor profile of cognac rather muted. It is less, how shall we say, spicy and vibrant than single malts and say other whiskies like bourbon. So, adjust your expectations if you want to try Cognac. It is much smoother.
That being said, it is enjoyable and is a big step up from the VSOP level. This spirit is balanced, dry, and profoundly drinkable, especially when paired with dark chocolate or a great cigar.
Sunday, March 12, 2017
It gets lonely here on mantel with zee other bottles. Bourbons are enough friendly, but I find zose guys from Islay and other Scottish Isles to be real snobs. Zey are cold and distant like zeir geography. Thinks zeir malted barley don't ahh how you say? Stink? Of course it does stink of peat bogs, decay and bad manners.
I understand that you're proud of daughter's graduation of high school, but placing framed photo to front of me makes my view of zee TV impossible.
Speaking of télévision, I see that you Canadians are az uncultured az your mouth breathing brethren to south. Between reruns of Trailer Park Boys, PokerStars and 2 Broke Girls, I am convinced that you are culturally deprived or should I zay depraved? No doubt both apply where you are concerned. Nevertheless, I have edifying antidote. Turn to channel 423 "Classic French Cinema" you silly little, unimportant man. Watch Bob Le Flambeur (1956) three times followed by all of Jean Pierre Melville's other films and zen I will resume speaking to you.
Your wife iz French.
She iz . . . how you zay . . . your only qualidee redeeming.
I like her.
Mais, when she lights candles here on mantel, it gets rather warm and G-d forbid she gets ignites fireplace. Blameless she is, as she not put me here to show off. You did, you stupide, petit bourgeoisie cochon. I belong in honor place, top shelf of your cabinet of liquorz, at right hand of G-d: Remy Martin XO!
You know why? Because zey do not celebrate Christmas. So, here iz a note to your-stupide-self: do not string holiday garland around me or suspend from my neck a North Pole Elf who chokes me! Elf on zee Shelf belongs on Shelf! Fool! By way, don't even think of converting. Zee Jews would never have you.
Your elderly Chinese neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Chen, I very much like. Have you notice zey always ask about me? This because zey know good character! I can tell. Mrs. Chen can't take her eyes off me, unless Highness-on-High, XO, makes an appearance.
Rémy Martin VSOP
Complex orange blossom, very ripe Moroccan tangerines, very floral notes of violets, roses, vanilla and mulled wine.
Oranges, tangerines, spiced rose water, Australian red licorice, cardamon, dry apricot. Rum cake.
Dry oak, vanilla and bittersweet dark chocolate, pencil lead.
. . .
Contrary to opinions of bourgeoisie (all other whiskies on zis shelf), I am superior spirit, distilled from noble, acidic white grapes rather than coarse and stillborn barley, and other lesser grains that belong in a morning cereal or seven grain bread, you silly little Anglo-jambon of a man whiz your bad teeth, inferior cuisine and unfashionable vêtements.
Monsieur Rémy Martin
Saturday, March 11, 2017
Saturday, February 11, 2017
Got an expensive car lease that you impulsively plunged into during the sunny honeymoon period with your ex-gf, and now, under the gathering sombre clouds of insolvency, you are desperate to escape? Johnnie actually knows someone, who knows someone, who wants that overpriced and unreliable German automotive piece of revenge, launched against us because our grandfathers won the War. After a volley of texts, email, and countless lattes, you will find yourself, a prisoner released from the Mercedes Benz Finance debtor's prison.
Seated next to Johnnie, in a gray Philadelphia Eagles poncho, is Glen, or more precisely Glenfiddich 12, and he likes fishing, Coors Light and football. Everyone likes Glen, particularly the ladies. He has an interesting opinion on everything from Ford truck lift kits to what kind of industrial glue, wax and gold metallic paint is used to maintain Trump's pompadour!
And sitting across from these two characters at the coffee shop/ bookstore / consignment art gallery, or hunting ground for a Friday night date, is Jura. He's got the J.Crew catalogue thing goin' on a little too much with the green merino wool v-neck, the golf ball white Brooks Brothers button down underneath, and of course ironed safari beige khakis. Are we in church or trying to meet ladies in a coffee shop / bookstore / avante garde nude interpretative dance theatre troupe gallery or whatever the hell this place is? C'mon Mr. Rogers !!!
Single Malt Scotch
Cheap price for the 10 yr single malt category.
43% (depending on market, may be 40%)
Aged exclusively in ex-bourbon casks, unpeated.
Banana, cream, honey sweetness, faint floral notes.
Creamy, banana, oak, melon, honey, coconut and white cake bread. Faint marine/dulse note (even though the malt is not peated, maybe the bogs covering much of the island transfer some peat/phenolic notes into the natural water supply used by this distillery). Wood smoke / kippers.
Tight green apple, slightly acidic green pepper, unripened melon, bitter lemon seed and orange pith. Some mackerel and wet wood smoke too.
Jura delivers the goods for the price, but just barely. The grapefruit pith and lemon rind finish is simply too bitter to be pleasant leaving this malt unbalanced and wanting. Maybe it needed more time in the cask. Or maybe the spirit needed some time in sherry casks to soften the citrus bitterness. I suspect so.
For what you paid, you receive a very basic malt. No complexity, no intrigue, no excitement. Maybe sometime you may want a simple Maritime style whisky that will not break the bank.
You are not being wowed. Your friend is not Highland Park 18 doing an in-store poetry reading, that attracts a circle of fluttering ladies like moths to a flame.
Instead, Jura is a strait-laced / law abiding fellow, who by turns can be a little taciturn, which makes it hard to attract bees since there is little honey sweetness once the finish arrives or when he opens his mouth to speak. I mean, he is not willing to accept some sherry casks and peat into his personality. Need I say more? He would be more charismatic if he would adopt the easygoing world view of Glen. As a friend, you accept Jura's risk-averse nature for what it is, a decent character, who by turns is a little bitter and astringent.
P.S. Glenfiddich 12 is typically priced lower than Jura 10 yrs "Origin" and does not present any of the bitter grapefruit pith notes. However, Glenfiddich 12 is not particularly smoky or marine-like in the style of Jura. If you want the nautical and sea-like style around the same price point, then please consider Old Pulteney 12 years.
Tuesday, February 7, 2017
None, but estimated to be 7 - 10 years old malt whiskies.
Triple distilled, aged in a combination of ex-sherry and bourbon casks.
Very affordable. Good value for money!
Oak, sherry, cooked apples.
Smooth entry of sweet chocolate mousse, dark raisins followed by a light spiciness. Warm fruitcake.
Long. Lingering malt notes, blackberry, cherrywood, cocoa, salted dark chocolate.
More sherried than bourbon cask influenced. Balanced with no graininess. Highly recommended!
Monday, January 30, 2017
Glen Breton Rare 10 years Single Malt
This Canadian single malt has been a poor performer in the past. When first launched there were a lot of problems, but I can report that when I and the crowd sampled it, we found it had improved a lot. It was good, not great though, and given the price point, I was not about to rush out a buy a bottle. However, I do see a bright future for this distillery. They are on the right track and just need more time to hone their craft.
Oban Little Bay Single Malt
This new release from the great distillery proved to taste lighter than the classic and always impressive Oban 14 years. Oban Little Bay was nice and oak accented, but given it was at the same price as Oban 14, I am always gonna reach for the latter. Crowd agreed.
Ardbeg Uigeadail Single Malt
This malt was the hit of the night. Everyone liked it. An Islay that balanced the sherry cask maturation with the peat and smoke of Islay beautifully. At an ABV of 54.2%, the addition of water is a must, but oh what a treat. Would happily buy this bottle!
Jura Superstition Single Malt
Slight peat, a wee smoke and grass clippings. Wet cedar bushes. Maritime. Do I see a clipper on the horizon?
A light bodied scotch serving up smooth tastes of angel hair weight peat, light malt and the gentlest of mint and phenolic compounds. Lightly smoked kippers. Do I detect sherry? Yes. Very restrained.
Ginger, camphor enveloped in mild corona cigar smoke. Becomes a tad medicinal upon repeated sips, but somehow does not prevent me from reaching for more.
We all liked it!
Glenmorangie Milsean Single Malt
We didn't know what to make of this expensive, no age statement single malt. It is well north of $100 a bottle. The distillery takes its great spirit and finishes it for two-and-a-half years in toasted ex-Portuguese-red-wine barriques. The result is a single malt that is not like anything I have had before. It definitely tasted of tropical fruit cup, sweet, mango, lemon, grapefruit, but also something else that is hard to identify. Must be the wine casks. There is a wood component that is unique and a bit baffling. Very different. A dessert whisky for sure. I was not a fan. It was not bad, but the flavor profile was not quite like anything I have ever had in the past. Others were also bewildered, but there were a couple of fans. Before buying a bottle, I recommend you sample a few drams at a bar or out of someone else's bottle before making the costly plunge.
Highland Park 10 Years Single Malt
Nobody even sampled it. They had it in the past and did not like it. Here is a You Tube review of mine where I lay out all the reasons why you shouldn't buy this malt:
Tomatin 14 years Single Malt
Everyone liked it.
Posted by Jason Debly at 11:00 PM