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Tasting Through Four Tesseron Classique Cognacs & One Tesseron Experience 01

 

World Cognac Day was around the corner and what better way to celebrate than to attend a masterclass with one of the top Cognac producers around - Tesseron! And it's led by none other than Noe Tesseron, the fourth-generation Tesseron who helps to manage the House along with his father and uncle, Alfred and Gerard, as well as his sister, Justine, and cousins Melanie and Philippine.

Now Tesseron's Cognacs have been around for the better part of two decades, having first launched to consumers in the early 2000's. But don't be fooled, the House traces its history to 1905... and then some! What started out as a personal passion in collecting Cognacs has turned into a four-generation grower and producer of Cognacs, which up until recently engaged primarily as a wholesaler to negociants in the form of the major Cognac houses (major brands like y'know who don't produce their own Cognacs but instead purchase Cognacs from around the region, blend them, bottle them and focus on marketing them instead of producing the Cognac themselves).

 

The Tesseron estate in the heart of Cognac.

 

It wasn't until the early 2000's that third-generation Tesseron, Alfred, decided that a century was long enough, and it was perhaps time for the House's Cognacs to don its own name. Today, the Tesseron house is widely understood to be sitting on some of the most well-developed stock of Cognacs, which are available directly to consumers, and no longer go unnamed under another Cognac megablend.

Although the Tesseron's have largely built their name on Cognacs, based in Chateauneuf-sur-Charente, you might also recognise their fingerprints on some of highly regarded Bordeaux, such as Pauillac's Chateau Pontet Canet, and up until recently, St Estephe's Chateau Lafon Rochet, which they recently sold. 

 

Today's Menu: (Top Row, Left to Right) Tesseron Lot 90, Lot 76, Lot 53); (Bottom Row) Tesseron Lot 29.

   

And so it's pretty clear that the Tesseron's have a strong know-how when it comes to viticulture, which was something emphasised during the masterclass.

Now to delve more specifically into Tesseron's Cognacs, the House sits on 40 hectares of land across Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne, where they grow a combination of Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche and Colombard grapes, representing the trio of Charentais varieties that Cognac can be made of (it's become more common for other growers to focus solely on Ugni Blanc, yet the Tesseron's have kept the Cognac tradition alive as one of the last remaining houses to do so). Whilst Ugni Blanc is prized for being the core of Cognacs, it is also easier to grow and thus its popularity. Yet Tesseron maintains that whilst the Folle Blanche and Colombard varietals are much more difficult to harvest, they are necessary to add finesse and complexity to the Cognac. 

 

Tesseron operates fully from vineyard to bottle, from grower to producer, and now its own brand.

 

Grapes are harvested in early autumn, where it is fermented and double distilled (repasse) in a traditional Charente copper pot still heated over a naked flame. Only the "heart" of the spirit produced is used (the "head" and "tails" which is the spirit that comes out first and last respectively, is not kept due to inconsistency and lack of richness). The spirit is distilled on lees to enhance complexity, then aged for at least 3 years in French Limousin oak barrels, before being re-racked into older, less active barrels to mellow out and continue ageing. During the ageing, these casks are stored in Tesseron's 12th Century cellar that was once the crypt of a local church where it is cool and humid to allow very gradual ageing. 

Once they've reached the optimal maturation, the Cognacs are then frozen in time by being transferred into 25 litre glass demi-john jars where they no longer interact with oak and don't age. They are stored for decades and centuries in a dark cellar known as the Paradis where they stay just as they were when they first entered. Finally they are then blended to create the expressions that we enjoy today!

 

The Tesseron blending room.

 

As Noe mentions, Tesseron's ideal flavour profile is one that harnesses the best of what Grande Champagne Cognacs are known for - freshness and richness, with long ageing potential. The more it ages, the more vibrant it gets!

We started off first with the Tesseron Classique Collection that includes four numbered Lots - Lot 90, Lot 76, Lot 53 and Lot 29.

The inspiration behind the four expressions with their respective Lot numbers was to reflect the lifetimes' work of four generations of Tesseron's. 

Tesseron Cognac Lot 90 XO Ovation - Review

We start off with Lot 90 XO Ovation, distilled in 1990. This expression is made of Ugni Blanc grapes harvested across Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne and Fins Bois, which is then aged for over 10 years in French Limousin oak casks. 

 

Tasting Notes  

Colour: Gold

Aroma: Great freshness with a moderate richness, we're on to yellow raisins, with some green grapes in the mix, big scoops of maltose candy and some orange peel. There's a light mustiness of oak cellars, and a waft of milk coffee.

Taste: Good richness here, more of that maltose candy and yellow raisins. It's got a fuller body, it's rounded and brighter with a vibrance to it. Gentle notes of fresh cedar with a light mustiness of wooden cabinets.

Finish: The oak has a very nice and more prominent presence here, backed by cacao and dark chocolate, maltose candy, alittle bit of nuttiness and rancio. Brings about a deep and satisfying warmth.

 

My Thoughts 

Superb! At the entry level of the range, this blows it out of the park with its freshness and richness. It's got a good intensity to it as well, it's punchy and flavour forward. It's uncomplicated, vibrant, fruit forward with a very lovely roundedness and fuller body. It really clues you in even on the nose with aromas pouring from the glass, really vibrant body, and an incredibly satisfying nailed-it finish. It's crazy to think this is just the start. 

If you're just waddling into Cognacs, this one's the one.

Tesseron Cognac Lot 76 XO Tradition - Review

Now we get up to the Lot 76, distilled in 1976. This is fully Grande Champagne Cognac, Ugni Blanc of course, aged for "more than one generation in Limousin oak". 

Now, one of the things I love about Cognacs unlike any other category of drinks is that you get to enjoy spirit from some incredible vintages, and so something I like to do when I'm enjoying vintage Cognac is to look up what happened that same year. 1976, we've got - Apple Computer was founded (whaaat!) and the boxing-themed movie Rocky was released. Nice.

 

Tasting Notes 

Colour: Amber

Aroma: Really nice richness and depth, here it's more mellow, more honeyed - almost syrupy with this very lovely thickness. It's got a fullness to its bouquet, with more on maltose candy, soft notes of yellow raisins and figs, as well as some mocha. There's an almost sweet Sherry core as well.

Taste: The richness and thickness persists - maltose candy, figs, raisins, dark chocolate. It's tending towards a darker and more earthy profile here, outlined by some oak as well.

Finish: More on leather, figs, some runny honey and a dusting of nutmeg. It's leaning alittle more dry now, with green grapes on the aftertaste.

 

My Thoughts

The Lot 76 takes the Lot 90 and gives it much more depth and beefs up its body. Here we've got a darker flavour profile, more earthy and with loads of Sherried notes - it's got all these rich flavours of figs, cacao, leather and baking spices. It tones down the brightness and amps up the earthiness and richness of it.

Very tasty! This would go down well with Sherry whisky lovers.

Tesseron Cognac Lot 53 XO Perfection - Review

We're headed into rarefied territory here with the Lot 53, that's distilled in 1953. This is the same year the late Queen Elizabeth II was crowned and Edmund Hilary and Tenzing Norgay become the first documented mountaineers to submit Mount Everest!

The Lot 53 was actually the first Cognac expression named with a "Lot", and actually came as a result of inspiration from the perfume Chanel No 5. When it was bottled, famed sommelier Olivier Poussier had convinced the Tesseron family to create a whole range with Lot numbers, knowing that the family sat on some of the oldest stocks in Grande Champagne.

Here we have Ugni Blanc and Colombard grapes harvested fully in Grande Champagne, aged for "more than two generations in Limousin oak".

  

Tasting Notes

Colour: Deep Amber

Aroma: Ridiculous amounts of bright fruit! Heaps of fresh green grapes - all very vibrant - mixed in with yellow raisins, green grape skins, and a load of maltose candy. It's incredibly rich and with such depth to the candied aromas, and yet it's got such a freshness. Some nutmeg, honey and all the way at the back is a cave cellar mustiness.

Taste: Thoroughly fresh, great vibrance, there's green grapes, green grape gummies, honey and then it veers darker and towards flavours of mocha, leather, with a gentle woodiness. It's got such range! From fresh fruits all the way to deep earthiness.   

Finish: Raw honey, maltose candy, still with those yellow raisins and green grape gummies that just won't quit. There's also some nutmeg, with a deep note of coffee grounds, giving it more earthiness and some soft oakiness.

 

My Thoughts 

It's ridiculous how as we work towards some incredibly vintage lots, it seems as though Tesseron is only getting fresher and more vibrant! There's so much vibrance and richness here of candied green grapes and yellow raisins that don't register as being this well aged, and yet on the palate, it's got so much complexity and range, moving from fresh fruits to deep earthiness. It keeps all that freshness and vibrance on the body, along with all that richness and depth, marrying such a spectrum of flavours with such elegance - Tesseron makes it look far too easy and slick! 

The freshness, vibrance, richness and complexity here is really something else - something supernatural for that matter! I absolutely loved how full the flavours were here, with vibrant top notes and richer and earthier base notes, so cohesive and seamless. This was the winner for me from the Classique Collection - I loved the balance of fruit and earthiness, supported by huge richness.

Tesseron Cognac Lot 29 XO Exception - Review 

And we go one more generation up! This is the Lot 29, distilled in 1929 - which is absolutely staggering to think about, made by the first generation Abel Tesseron himself, the man who founded the house! This is almost 100 years old - okay, it's shy of 5 years but who's counting? It's made with a combination of all three Cognac varietals - Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche and Colombard - something you don't see often these days. It's entirely Grande Champagne harvest, and aged for "three generations in Limousin oak".

When you think about 1929 - it truly is a tale of human triumph. It was obviously an incredibly difficult year which marked the start of the Great Depression, and yet it was also the same year civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was born, and the first time ever the Academy Awards was held! Looking back at how much the world has progressed in an ever greater way, this Cognac has been through it all, it's quite a historical marvel and a celebration of the enduring human spirit!

 

Tasting Notes

Colour: Deep Amber

Aroma: Crystalline richness and depths of maltose candy coated black grapes (it's called tanghulu in North Asia), candied yellow raisins, heaps of maltose candy. The depth and elegance here is absolutely breathtaking - it's loaded with sugar crystals with notes of raw honey, Kyoho grapes and to a smaller extent green grapes, nutmeg, with even a touch of tree resin.

Taste: It's rich, it's full bodied, incredibly candied, tons of black grapes coated in maltose candy. It's got such a richness and depth, and yet manages to remain soft and velvety, and with a very focused intensity. More on licorice too. With time, we move into lots of green grape gummies, a blast of freshness emerges, later joined by black grape gummies - it's all candied and jellied. It really is a fruit cornucopia.

Finish: More honey, raisins, it's really pillowy soft on the finish. Great freshness, some light oak woodiness, lacquered wood, and then back to the green grapes and black grape gummies.

 

My Thoughts 

"Crazy Fruit Gummies" was the first thing I noted down, which really be instructive with the Lot 29. Just when you thought it could not get any fresher, more fruity, more candied, it does! It's just simply remarkable that for a Cognac close to a century old, it's evolved in such a gorgeous way, giving this total fruit and candy explosion. The aromas are sublime - it's reached this incredible high point of crystalline quality, completely elegant and transcendent. It has shed any sense of excess and kept just the purity of its honeyed structure - and yet it's not closed off in the slightest. Right out of the gate, it's aromas are perfumery and vibrant, confectionary yet rich. It's also taken on more of a black grape flavour that we haven't seen yet in the previous Lots. 

On the palate, there's even more progression to be had - everything on the nose carries through so consistently to the palate - moving through black grapes to green grapes, richer and dark to confectionary and bright, all throughout it's juicy and fresh. Impeccably candied. Into the finish, it's pillowy and softly fades, all throughout keeping that fuller body. There's some lacquered oak to give it a sense of antiquity and contrast as well to the massive fruits. This both shows none of the typical scars of ageing and yet at the same time demonstrates just how the utterly unique Cognac storage in glass demijohns in the cellars (they call them Paradis) under the region's special ambient climate can refine the eau-de-vie into its most purest and concentrated form.

Tesseron Cognac Experience 01 - Review

 

 

And so with the Classiques tasted, we're down to the highlight of the afternoon - the Tesseron Experience 01!

The blend of eau-de-vie bottled in the Experience 01 was made by Guy Tesseron himself, as mentioned he's the second generation of the Tesseron house, and has been aged across three generations, made from Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche and Colombard grapes harvested from Grande Champagne. For the Experience 01, a selection of eau-de-vie was married together by Guy, before being left to rest in two barrels for somewhere between 30 to 40 years, and in 2024 it was then decided that it would be bottled!

There's 1,000 bottles made, each coming in specially made wooden oak display gift box as well as a hand chiselled glass decanter - we've got Noe proudly showcasing it below (he's not included in the Experience 01 - we checked).

 

Tasting Notes

Colour: Mahogany

Aroma: Really nice freshness, it's vibrant green grapes, yellow raisins, scoops of maltose candy. It has that characteristic Tesseron brightness contrasted with richness. It's got some buoyancy and isn't too heavy. There's some soft herbal notes of eucalyptus and drops of Pei Pa Koa cough syrup wafting about.

Taste: The freshness and vibrance carries through, it's brighter here with a more buoyant body. It's heaps of yellow raisins and green grapes, decked in honey. There's a good energetic quality here with a textural coherence and tension, as opposed to being syrupy and heavy. In that sense it feels youthful and supple, completely not indicative of being worn and aged. Into the finish there's a minty freshness of eucalyptus. 

Finish: More of those yellow raisins, the tannins here are soft but firm giving it a nice structure to the richness. There's soft notes of cedar with more runny honey.

 

My Thoughts 

This was a lovely summation of the essence of Tesseron in my opinion - it's got that freshness and vibrance of fruit balanced out against the richness of honey. It's got depth and even throws in something we haven't quite seen yet - this herbal balmy note that adds a minty dimension to the story. I find the Experience 01 to be the most balanced of what I've tried today - it gives you some of everything that makes Tesseron stand out, with added depth and mellowness. 

For me, this has an understated elegance to it. It trades out punchiness for a velvety smoothness and mellowness that feels endless - it's like tracing a train of silk. It's plush and soft in texture, yet full in flavour, with a subtle sense of antiquity whilst somehow presenting a youthful energy in its body. If taken a few proofs higher, this would've been perfect. 

 

To Sum Up

By now it's abundantly clear that Tesseron's forte is in demonstrating its ability to create incredibly vibrant and fresh, rich and energetic Cognacs that have stupendous ageing potential - in fact, it seems like the longer they age, the fresher and more vibrant they get. It truly is a masterclass in Cognac showmanship, particularly when you consider that Tesseron does everything themselves, vineyard-to-bottle in fact! From acting as a grower, to distiller and producer, and then ageing and finally bottling and marketing their family's generational Cognacs. It truly is impressive how everything we tasted today is 100% the work of the Tesseron's, which displays clearly how much expertise they have at every step of the way with the intention of producing Cognacs in their signature profile.

To that end, I have to say that it was such a total pleasure to walk through the Classique Collection and the new Tesseron Experience 01, which conveys with such clarity the evolution of the Cognac with vintage and age, and how that all plays into the intentional effort of the Tesseron house in designing such a profile. With each Lot, there's a clear step up in freshness and vibrance, and it's quite mindblowing to me that even its entry level Lot 90 itself was already marks above most Cognacs available, and believe me everyone in the room let out oooh's of delight as we worked up to the veritable Lot 29 and Experience 01 - you think that was it, well Tesseron will show you they've got a number of cards up their sleeves.

My personal favourite was the Lot 52, which I felt was right down my alley of keeping that vibrance and freshness of bright fruitiness at the top, whilst at the same time balancing a deeper, richer earthiness at its base. That perfect combination of dualities was simply ridiculously enjoyable. My second pick would be the Lot 76, which I felt offered lots of incredibly decadent and rich dark notes of cacao, figs, raisins and baking spices that were so earthy. Special mention too the Experience 01, which I felt was very balanced in giving you almost a touch of everything, maintaining that youthful energetic quality with also a rather mellow and herbal richness.

  

Kanpai!

  

 

@111hotpot