I’ve had a couple people in the last few months come in asking for Cognac and they’re most commonly looking for one of the ‘big’ brands that everyone’s familiar with: Hennessy or Courvoisier. During the Pandemic, these brands were impossible to get, and we started sourcing a few high-quality, slightly less-expensive brands from a couple of our small, independent distributors. And they were good.
In fact, as we tasted these with some of our customers, a couple of who were die-hard Hennessy/Courvoisier, we decided that they were actually superior to (and cheaper than!) the big-name brands. A couple of these brands have now become our sort of ‘house’ Cognacs. Sure, we’ll still special order your favorite anytime you want, but these are the staples we keep on hand day in and day out!
Francois Voyer VS Cognac-Produced from Ugni Blanc from 100% Grande Champagne vineyards, this is a blend of 2-3 year old Cognacs. I love how bright and expressive the nose is here, with plenty of golden fruit, a beautiful orange-flower thing going on, and subtle hints of toasty wood. It’s a more delicate and more nuanced palate than the ‘big-name’ VS Cognacs, which often come across as rather one-dimensional, hot, and oaky. The palate is quite refined for a VS, with golden fruit, orange flower water, hints of caramel, a subtle sweetness, and a toasty, warm vanilla-laced oak character that’s in no way harsh or aggressive. The mouthfeel is almost creamy…this is really nice for the price! This is smooth enough to sip, but is a good enough value to use as a go-to staple for cocktails like the Sidecar, etc.
Francois Voyer VSOP Cognac-Here’s the step-up version that, surprisingly, has sold even better than the less-expensive VS. Again, this is sourced from 100% Grande Champagne vineyards, but here the Cognacs in the blend are 6-14 years old. The nose here is definitely more mature, with a bit more wood, a bit more toast, and hints of dried fruit, rather than fresh. The palate is toasty, with a bit of spicy French oak, some peach or apricot fruit, and some vanilla sweetness, along with a hint of candied orange peel. It’s a bit fuller-bodied and seems a touch sweeter than the VS. There’s the slightest suggestion of rancio that flits in and out of the background, but it’s so faint I’m not fully convinced it’s there. At any rate, this is a really nice sipping VSOP at a great price!
So there you have it! Except for brandy enthusiasts (we love you and we need more of you!) we don’t move a whole lot of Cognac except during the cold months. If you’re looking for a fantastic bottle that no one else carries locally, give one of these guys a try…I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. After all, a snifter of good brandy by a warm fire after a big meal is quite a nice way to spend an evening!