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Hermitage Cognac Grande Champagne Trilogy Range: Cigar 15, Cafe 20, Cacao 25

 

If you've been keeping up with Cognacs, you'll know that there's been a pretty big trend sweeping the French eau-de-vie, and that's a greater move towards singular spirits that reflect a vintage, an estate, a producer. This goes right in the opposite direction of how Cognacs have been for a long time, dominated by four big houses that source their eau-de-vies from the hundreds of producers all across the Cognac region, and then subsequently blending them to a desired house style.

A Time And Place For Everything

While mega-blends do have their place and offer some reliable benchmarks, we can't possibly not possess any curiosity at all towards more distinctive and singular styles - and that's become very highly sought after these days.

These single estate and single vintage bottlings offer much in the way of character and nuance and for the most obvious part, differ vastly from one bottling to the next, depending on how the vintage was like that year, the terroir of the estate on which its grapes were harvested, how the producer distills it, and the environment in which it was aged in. You simply can't get to explore all these subtleties in a mega-blend.

 

You Can't Just Walk In (To Someone's Cellar) - Unfortunate!

So you might be wondering, why don't we all just go out there and just simply start shopping for such Cognacs - the reality is, many of these producers are small multi-generational families whose focus is to take care of the harvest and typically rely on small batch distillations - it's arduous work but this is lesser known artisanal craftsmanship behind these eau-de-vies. There's this incredible beauty in what these families do to carry on the methods and recipes passed down from generations ago, much of which is taught through observation, practice and verbal dialogues - you won't find detailed mechanical processes here, it's not a factory after all. And so these families do no possess the vast marketing resources to create and promote their own brands - more have begun to do so, but selection often remains scarce. Few would entertain Cognacs made by a brand they've never heard of, priced in the hundreds, even if it were of a stellar vintage. Thus many of these families simply sell their eau-de-vies to one of the large houses.

Little Bit About Hermitage

The value of independent bottlers like Wiltshire, UK, based Hermitage Cognacs is therefore to go out in search for these Cognacs still taken care of by these family producers (many of which have been passed from generation to generation since the 1800's), and surface them through its bottlings. The quality of these Cognacs is therefore highly dependent on the relationship between independent bottler and family producer - unfortunately, you can't yet simply pop up at someone's estate and ask to check out their living rooms let alone their multi-generational cellars.

 

David Baker.

 

And thus David Baker of Hermitage has done just that for the past three decades, spending weeks travelling across the Cognac region, establishing ties and more importantly trust with these family producers. What started out with his music teacher introducing him to wines, eventually turned into a fascination with Cognac when he was exposed to the French grape eau-de-vie on a trip to Monaco (it took an 1840 Cognac to do the job). This led to David spending increasing amounts of time in the region, learning more about the spirit. Fast forward 30 years, and Hermitage has established a real brand for itself, with David still very much active in the business.

His focus has been largely on the Grande Champagne region of Cognac, which is well-regarded for its Cognacs that have long ageing potential and typically mature slower, in turn producing intense and freshly vibrant flavour profiles. At times he seems to dabble beyond, to Petite Champagne, and the more recently fashionable Borderies, the smallest and perhaps rarest of Cognac producing regions. As mentioned, his focus has largely been on bringing more transparency to Cognacs, many of which carry a vintage on its label with details readily furnished about the producer, and at the same time he tends to have a penchant for surfacing incredibly old vintages from the 1800's.

 

A New Twist! A Refreshing One At That!

But that seems to have changed - I had met up with David and Freddie, who now helps to manage Hermitage, at the ProWine event held in Singapore. This led to my introduction to Hermitage's recently completely Trilogy Series - a Cigar 15, Cafe 20 and Cacao 25, all Grande Champagne single estate Cognacs. Now, while the vintage is no longer established, you still do get a definite age which is a good sign, but what prompted this it seems is a greater desire to give Cognacs a different perspective. Rather than the traditional focus on the its origin - which as we talked about is increasingly becoming a big deal with the Cognac community - Hermitage wants to focus here on showcasing the flavours and pairings that its Cognacs can offer. This in my opinion helps the relatability of its Cognacs with its fans who might find that they can resonate better with familiar and beloved flavours, as opposed to estates and vintages - especially younger fans, I would think! So pretty nifty work in my view!

 

Hermitage's Trilogy Series.

 

On top of that, these Cognacs, which have been distilled in small stills and aged first in new Limousin French oak barrels for a six month initial period, following by spending the rest of its years in older casks, also get a picturesque of 19th Century French cafe culture attached to it in the form of Renoir paintings softly expressed on its packaging. I honestly find this whole effort on Hermitage's part really refreshing and a much more salient manner of establishing its relevance - it's almost as if the Cognacs are speaking directly to its desired consumers, as opposed to what I sometimes feel is quite the reverse, where much of the effort lies with the consumer who is almost expected to reach out towards the Cognac. Stellar effort Freddie!

So with all that said, it's time to try some Cognacs! Onward!

Hermitage Cognac Cigar 15, 41% ABV - Review

 

Tasting Notes

Colour: Deep Amber

Aroma: Darker scents of raisins, tobacco leaves, autumnal forest floors, brown sugars, cacao and some orange zest. 

Taste: More of the same from the nose - it leads with brown sugar, toffee, yellow raisins, tobacco leaves, layered atop a medium body. 

Finish: More cacao here, also a little more dry. Browned leaves, with some tannins wrapping this up.

 

My Thoughts

I really liked how the flavours here were well-defined and leaned into a darker side of the flavour palette, giving more of these richer and earthy notes from start to finish. This isn’t one of those standard “balanced” Cognacs, rather it decidedly gets straight to the point and focuses on those darker flavours to a lovely nuance. 

It also nails that perfectly whilst making sure it doesn’t fall off the deep end. While it led with darker notes, there’s always a subtle and understated floor of body to make sure it’s never bitter or tannic. For the price - it's a good entry point that offers a heap of rich flavours, and a reasonably good depth and body. Nicely done!

Hermitage Cognac Cafe 20, 42% ABV - Review

 

Tasting Notes

Colour: Deep amber

Aroma: Lovely oranges and orangettes, burnt brown sugar, more richness here, with some more tobacco leaves, milk chocolate and a light nuttiness that keeps it slightly dry. This has a pretty good depth too.

Taste: More vibrancy to the body. Brown sugar, tobacco leaves, milk chocolates, alittle bit of cacao in the mix, coffee grounds and cocoa powder. This has a richer body that has a nice energetic quality to it.

Finish: More yellow raisins, walnuts, tobacco leaves. A slightly dry finish.

 

My Thoughts

This was more fruity and also felt more expansive than the Cigar 15 - it has a wider range that’s also more mellow and aromatic. There’s more sweetness here, with a more subtle intensity. It’s also richer and more robust which is delightful to have and keeps it vibrant that’s a nice contrast to the mellower flavours. The lightly drying touch on the finish was also a welcome contrast to the sweetness. Also a solid upgrade in terms of the fuller body it offers.

I find this to be a really solid balance of richness, depth and body.

Hermitage Cognac Cacao 25, 43% ABV - Review

 

Tasting Notes

Color: Dark amber

Aroma: Intensely rich, there’s lots of yellow raisins, brown sugar, tobacco leaves, chocolate sauce and mocha. Also some candied ginger.

Taste: The richness persists with such a smoothness, lots of honey, maltose candy, yellow raisins, milk chocolate. It’s well integrated with a nicely buoyant body that is rich but does not feel heavy.

Finish: More on tobacco leaves, deeply aromatic cigar notes. It’s really smooth and rich even on the finish.

 

My Thoughts

Going a step up, the Cacao 25 continues on its elevation to provide even more body, richness and depth. The range of flavours here is even wider, with the various dimensions blending seamlessly into one another, you couldn’t tell them apart. It’s a rounded and well integrated, candied expression that harmoniously mixes in dried fruits, earthy cigars and confectionary chocolates. Its elegance is just superb.

The Last Word

I really enjoyed Hermitage's Trilogy Series - it feels like the perfect gift set for any Cognac lover that'll keep them entertained for quite some time. It's incredibly enjoyable to taste them and observe the lock-step nuances as you go from the Cigar 15 which is rich, more dry and also intense, to the Cafe 20 that takes it a step up in terms of its breadth of flavours, but nicely packs a fuller body, and finally get up to the Cacao 25 that is just a masterclass in elegance with an incredible candied roundedness, richness and depth.

There's this sense that across the series, there's a distinctive and singular core DNA, but as you move across them, you see it expressed in various form factors, with variations of richness and depth - which is really such a fun experience that kept me delightfully surprised when I got to the next one. Just when I thought I got it, I move to the next, and I find myself going damn, I did not see that coming. 

Very fun, very tasty, a must for every Cognac lover's wishlist.

 

Kanpai!

 

@111hotpot