Just In 👉 Rampur Readies Kohinoor Reserve Indian Dark Rum M...

Reviews of Everything Nice

Three Grosperrin Cognacs Selected For The Auld Alliance (Singapore) By M&E Drinks & James Phang: N. 26 Grande Champagne, N. 45 Fins Bois & N. 64 Borderies

   

Today we've got set of three Cognacs from one of the category's rising stars, Grosperrin. Cognac is definitely enjoying alittle bit of a moment right now, which has arguably been led by craft houses with the likes of Grosperrin - and really it's a rather fascinating story this groundswell that cuts to the heart of the big thing going on with Cognacs at the moment. Quite the riveting live or die.

So let's get into it, and along the way it'll also help us understand alittle bit more about Grosperrin as well and it'll provide us the secret key to enjoying these very lovely expressions that spread the geographical regionalities and were bottled for Singapore's Auld Alliance bar, selected by a two local aficionados, James Phang and M&E Drinks.

 

The Auld Alliance bar in Singapore.

The Big Whoop

For lack of a better way to say it, the Cognac business has been a pretty mixed bag in 2023 - the Big Four (That's Hennessy, Martell, Courvoisier and Remy Martin) haven't been doing so swell, and yet smaller, independent brands have surged in popularity.

A combination of finally having the Internet (and social media) to circumvent the need for massive marketing budgets as well as a stark lack of transparency from the Big Four (in the face of increased provenance disclosures from practically all other drink categories from beers to sakes, whiskies and rums) have created the perfect opportunity for independent brands to charge ahead. And boy have they! 

 

Cognac has shaped up to be one of the most unexpectedly underrated spirit of the 2020s.

 

By capitalising on providing much more clarity, demonstrating a true scarcity (think single estate / single barrel Cognacs as opposed to mega blends), telling the stories of the Cognacs they bottle, showcasing incredibly well-aged expressions from across the region - these independent brands offer up an unbeatable value. 

This rift proved that it isn't that Cognacs suffer from a lack of interest or demand, but rather consumers value and put their money where their mouth is when they feel a real sense of provenance, scarcity and singularity of estate style from their Cognacs.

What's Grosperrin Got To Do With It?

And so this is where Grosperrin comes in. Grosperrin plays the role of a negociant (an agent that buys Cognacs and bottles them as opposed to producing their own) - which is no different from the Big Four, except that rather than having all the Cognacs purchased end up in a huge blend, each barrel is aged accordingly and bottled individually.

 

Jean Grosperrin, and his son Guilhem, who has since taken the helm of the Cognac bottler.

 

The house was established in 1981 by Jean Grosperrin who was by then a very experienced Cognac broker (his lineage being that of having been once Cognac distillers themselves). Through his decades of on the ground experiences with Cognac distillers, he had found it a shame that their small batch artisanal Cognacs were destined to simply be part of a mega blend at one of the Big Four, thereby losing any sense of provenance, distinctiveness and would be a piece of history of the craft and terroir drowned out.

For the record, the Cognac region is home to over 350 Cognac producers with 80-90% of their produce going to the Big Four.

Jean thus began acquiring these barrels which he would himself age, hoping to eventually bottle them at their most unadulterated cask strength and single barrel, with a Cognac lover's dream of information about its history, age and craftsmanship - still relatively unheard of. This eventually led to Grosperrin's motto "to bear witness to the Charente's heritage without artifice". Now going back to the special nature of Cognacs bearing incredibly historic vintages, Grosperrin's real value comes in their focus on hyper-aged Cognacs that are typically over 50 years old, and preserving not just their flavour that has gently and slowly matured for more than half a century, but thereby also capturing a piece of history of the land, craftsmen and distillation from generations prior.

Today the Grosperrin house is led by Jean's son, Guilhem Grosperrin.

 

A once in a (multiple) century opportunity has provided a huge tailwind for independent Cognac houses like Grosperrin.

Three Grosperrin Cognacs Selected By M&E Drinks & James Phang For Auld Alliance (Singapore)

Amongst a whole spectrum of spirits, Cognacs are rather unique in that you can find bottles that are fairly recently bottled but whose vintage dates back to over a century ago - not something you'd ever see in whiskies or rums! This is in part due to the ambient climate of the region, which is described as oceanic and thus with cooler temperatures and more humidity, hyper ageing can occur without hurting the Cognac's flavour by turning it overoaked or tannic.

 

 

Other efforts by Cognac houses to maintain their Cognacs well involve humid cellars and the use of glass demijohns that can even halt ageing altogether. This allows for Cognacs to sport incredibly historic vintages (we're talking 1800's to 1920's) to great accuracy of provenance - unheard of in any other spirit category. Many distilling families thus sit on troves of Cognacs produced generations prior, which are passed along as heirlooms.

And so today we've got some rather historic expressions that also help us explore the regionality of Cognac as well!

 

 

Cognacs are grape brandies that come from the designated region of Cognac, France. It spans several regions that move out in concentric rings starting from Grande Champagne, followed by Petite Champagne, Fins Bois, Borderies and then Bon Bois, which takes the region to the coast of the Atlantic Sea. 

Today we'll get to try a Grande Champagne distilled in 1926, and then a Fins Bois from 1945, and finally a Borderies from 1964!

Let's give them a go! 

Grosperrin Cognac Grande Champagne N. 26 Lot 899, Selected by M&E Drinks & James Phang for The Auld Alliance (Singapore), 42.1% ABV - Review

Obviously a very striking label, can you guess the connection?

Well, it didn't occur to me, but the choice to have Marilyn Monroe's portraiture on the label is because she shares the same birth year as this Cognac - 1926! This Cognac is therefore over 90 years old!

It comes from the region of Grande Champagne which has the highest density of Cognac production and is characterised by hilly terrains made of chalky soils, which tends to produce floral and light Cognacs that are suited for hyper ageing.

 

Tasting Notes

Color: Deep Amber

Aroma: Very forthcoming and bold yet mellow, with big notes of yellow raisins, juicy green grapes minus the acidity, gooseberries, and also green grape juice (those Japanese or Korean green grape drink). It’s estery and bright but almost lightly leafy with a touch of muskiness.

Over time it turns brighter with alittle more acidity, more distinct mustiness, light vinous and vine leaves and old vines.

Taste: It takes a more tannic quality here - more bitterness and tartness here that coexists alongside the yellow raisins and green grapes. It’s darker here and more distinct, showcasing its age - this comes in the form of more musty old wines, cooked wine leaves, musky dried longans. 

It’s more along the vein of dried fruit residual sugars, old leaves, more acidity and tannins that give a more drying touch and bitterness. It’s less airy and more definite, but that said thinner than its aromas would hint at.

Finish: More of that longan muskiness, more dry wood grains and old vines, black tea tannins - it’s almost perfumery, opening up even more than what was showcased on the palate. It’s lightly drying with the heavier tannins, but surprisingly more a textural sensation than anything - that is, not much bitterness.

 

My Thoughts

This was a very interesting super aged Cognac - you’ve really got to factor in that age here - and in that sense, that it maintains this level of aroma and flavour is really quite remarkable.

On the aromas, it remained very robust and bountiful with all these lovely, juicy fruitiness, whereas on its palate is where you really get a sense of the age - much more tannins, more mustiness and muskiness, more of that drying quality. But it’s a tradeoff no? On the aroma, it’s almost medium aged, keeping with the juicy airinesss, but on the palate it’s much darker and more distinct and definite in its flavours. You can clearly tell how the age has worked on the Cognac, focusing its flavours to much more precision.

On the whole, this offered up a whole lot of complexity and progression - not to mention quite a technical marvel given its super age - but more specifically for me, I found the aroma and the finish particularly enjoyable with all that juiciness and concentrated fruit, and on the finish those lovely musky longans and vinous qualities of longans, old vines and wine leaves that I do so love!

Grosperrin Cognac Fins Bois N. 45 Lot. 900, Selected by M&E Drinks & James Phang for The Auld Alliance (Singapore), 50.8% ABV - Review

We move on to the 1945 Fins Bois, marked by mixed soil that's similar to that of the Bordeaux region. If you're a big history buff you might recognise the artist's rendition on the label of the V-J Day Kiss At Times Square. After all, this was the year World War II ended! The art comes from Axelle Grosperrin, who is also the daughter of Jean Grosperrin.

This Cognac is over 75 years old and also holds an additional special meaning to the founder of M&E Drinks, I am told - in the flag at the top left of the drawing, you'll find the initials of the founder's father whose birth year is also 1945!

 

Tasting Notes

Color: Deep Amber

Aroma: Thick, sweet notes of dried fruits and fruit jams - quince, pears, apricots, plums and blackberries, a real fruit mix. There’s a light floral bouquet as well of jasmines. It’s rather vibrant and juicy. 

Taste: Here the age comes through more - alittle drier and musty but at the same time quite waxy and buttery, there’s more of those stone fruits, with a side of osmanthus jelly, dried ginseng, dried cranberries, hawthorn. The fruit notes are still big here but alittle more on the dried side.

Finish: More of the wood grains coming through here, giving it a slightly more tannic quality, more of those jasmine florals, with some vanilla cream and cinnamon spices.

 

My Thoughts

This has been a pretty big hit - and for good reason! It’s got all this big, juicy, very fresh and vibrant stone fruits that give it an incredibly aromatic profile that’s very delectable and quite the crowdpleaser.

I especially liked how on the palate there was a slightly more herbal and drier quality that gave it a nice textural and flavour contrast to the juicy fruits, taking it to a more earthy style that I really enjoy. Almost autumnal, and with this really nice depth and richness to it. This is really where this Cognac pulls ahead for me with all this added dimensionality and elegance.

The finish was alittle more confectionary, but also the tannins became more prominent sans the herbal notes, which gave the finish a very silky but light puckering sensation to it.

Deeply enjoyable!

Grosperrin Cognac Borderies N. 64 Lot. 986, Selected by M&E Drinks & James Phang for The Auld Alliance (Singapore), 53.6% ABV - Review

Finally we get down to the 1964 Borderies! Another well-aged expression, this Cognac is over 50 years old.

The Borderies is the smallest of the main Cognac-producing regions and has the terrain of a plateau that holds soil that is mostly clay with many flint stones. This happens to be the oldest of the soils of the region, going all the way back to the Jurassic Period! This is said to create heavily perfumed and floral Cognacs.

This expression carries the artwork "The Gathering Dusk" by Singaporean artist, Tay Bak Chiang, and I've been told was selected because it best visually encapsulated how the bottlers found the Cognac to taste.

 

Tasting Notes

Color: Amber Honey

Aroma: Soft and perfumery florals - lilies and lilacs, supported by a good heap of acacia honey, apricot, yellow raisins. Incredibly floral, and then more herbal jelly, brown sugar, with a light grassiness. Really perfumery with some angelica root herbs.

Taste: Really vibrant! A burst of fruit jelly cups - raisins and quince. Lots of honey, with a light herbal quality. More of that angelica roots, fresh and poached pears, herbal jelly, stone fruit jams - raspberry and blackberry. Over time there’s some vine lychees and dried lychees - slightly musky and lightly tannic with a herbal drying quality.

Finish: More tannins here, alittle more woody and herbal. Deep long warmth, and alittle more dry here.

 

My Thoughts

This was full of surprises, with a whole lot dimensions at each turn - on the nose it showcased a more perfumed floral quality, and then on the palate it was a vibrant burst of fruit jelly cups and fruit jams, before turning more herbal and slightly tannic on the finish, with a super deep and long warmth.

This stands out for all the power and expressiveness it has - be it florals, fruit jelly cups or herbal roots, it’s always expressed with a whole lot of vibrance and saturation, always incredibly powerful and forward. At times it has an almost rhum agricole vibe to it, and also alittle reminiscent of the early 2000’s TDL rums in that very unique lychee note that comes through more with each sip. 

I really liked how there’s a sort of an evolution to its denseness, starting with brighter florals and then transitioning to richer fruit jellies and jams, before turning it even more earthy and grounded with the woods, herbs and roots.

A really elegant one to say the least!

  

Kanpai!

 

@111hotpot