There is an area in Cognac, France known as the “Golden Triangle” which includes Grande Champagne. This is not a sparkling wine, it is the very heart of Cognac and also where the Pierre Ferrand distillery has been blending and aging its spirits for five generations; and it is here where we begin our story.
Cognac was THE staple of many cocktails from the 18th & 19th centuries, including the Sazerac, Mint Julep, and dozens of punches. Two things changed the status of Cognac to where it languished in near obscurity until recent hip-hop culture has brought it back into the limelight.
The first was a small insect called the phylloxera louse which invaded Europe via vine clippings gathered by British botanists on visits to America during the late 1850’s. This tiny creature destroyed two-thirds of all the vineyards in France in just a few decades. This left the great Cognac houses without enough wine to produce their product for the world market. The second blow came during America’s “Noble Experiment” of 1919, which effectively prohibited well-made spirits from being imported into the U.S. until the mid-1930’s.
So, it has taken quite some time for Cognac to make its comeback to one of the great cocktail spirits. One of the best of the latest expressions is Pierre Ferrand 1840 Original Formula which recently won the coveted “Best New Product” at the 2012 Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. Developed by Alexandre Gabriel, the company’s proprietor, cellar-master Christian Guerin and cocktail historian Prof. David Wondrich, this style is based on the taste profile of three-star Cognacs from the early 1800’s. Three-star by the way, is a designation rarely used today, but is a rough equivalent of VS (Very Special) which is aged for a minimum of two years in Limousin oak casks.
Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac (90 proof)
Visual: A bright clear and metallic gold.
Nose: Dark, rich and engaging; yet at the same time balanced at the opposite end of the olfactory spectrum with a lot of crisp high notes of vanilla wafers and a hint of citrus zest.
Taste: Rich and creamy, with a great balance of fruit and wood, notes of new leather, sucrose, vanilla, fresh caramel, nougat and dried orange peels.
Finish: Medium-long with a lingering flavor reminiscent of fresh-baked hot cross bun.
Overall: Not only is this a fantastic cognac on it’s on, but it works exceptionally well as a mixer, adding a depth of body to any brandy based cocktail. One of the more intriguing cognacs to come along in quite a while.
GSN Rating: A
For more information go to: Pierre Ferrand