Theres an old adage, never to judge a book by its cover. After many years in this industry Ive just about managed to get myself out of that habit. Although, like any normal human being, I often relapse and make a snap judgement about somebody or a table based on a fraction of a minutes worth of contact. I'd like to say that Im getting more accurate, but I'd be lying, Im probably right as often as Im wrong. Anyway, this particular adage sprung to mind a few weeks ago when I recieved some samples of a Cognac from a house called Godet. We had young Cyril Godet attend a gourmet dinner last year in his role as Brand Ambassodor from John E Fells for Mouton Rothschild. It turns out that he descents from Cognacias distillers who happen to make quite a wide range of cognacs. Anyway to cut a long story somewhat shorter, we needed to get a few bottles in house for the immenent arrival of one of the senior Grosvenor directors. So after swapping numerous emails with folks, we managed to track down a guy called Roshan who is the UK importer. He managed to hook me up with some samples and we were ready to rock and roll.
I was quite surprised to see what turned up on my desk just a few days later. Altogether I think they send me five bottles of cognac, and it was this that prompted me to thing carefully about judging by appearance. Im often wary when I see bottles of any kind of beverage, but especially spirits in really fancy and ornate bottles. I remember having a really rather rotten experience with Grappa that a friend had brought back from a holiday in Italy. The bottles were really intricate with sculpted fruit within the bottle and really delicate necks. What was inside however was pure firewater!! I have never in my entire life, before or since had a hangover as intense or long lasting as the one I had after we had consumed about three of these bottles between us one night. ( I ought perhaps to add that the bottles were 50cl bottles, so that equates to a bottle each.) And Ive had my share of rough nights on Southern Comfort, Pernod (thats a blast cause you can get pissed again the next morning drinking a glass of water!!), Jack Daniels and until the grappa, my worst was after a night of Guinness, which brings its own terrors to the hangover!!
The XO came in a teardrop like bottle, and actually had quite a smoothness about it, with rich raisined fruit flavours. The VSOP Selection Speciale was in a tall, slender bottle and again showed really well. I suspect that this gets a good dose of caramel for the colour, but it didnt show that in its sweetness. The Excellence is also in a tall slender bottle with a small badge at the neck to distinguish it, and silver labelling. A bit richer, more pronounced on the nose with an almost cherryish note, before a floral character became more dominant. Apparently this is an XO with the average age of the eaux-de-vies being 25 years.
The one that really picqued my interest was a pure folle blanche cognac. More delicate and refined on the nose, with white flowers, a kind of golden sultana aroma and a very lightly spiced apple note. The bottle isnt anything special to look at, and in all honesty it would probably be overlooked on a store shelf. But it goes to show that you cant judge a book by its cover, because if you do, you would have missed out on this stunning blockbuster.
On the subject of Cognacs, Ive been invited to a special tasting of Cognacs on the 19th April down at the Lanesborough hotel. David Baker from Brandy Classics is hosting a special tasting in association with the Lanesborough and he is planning on showing off some of his pre-phylloxera cognacs on the day, including an 1810, and possibly some even older than that! Im getting my holiday form in for that one, it will take a pack of wild horses to keep me away!!!