GSN Alert: June 4th – National Cognac Day

704px-Map_of_Cognac_Regions3.svgIn honor of National Cognac Day (odd, I know, since Cognac is a French spirit), Good Spirits News is proud to present a selection of some of the best classic cocktails featuring this iconic spirit.

Editor’s note: French grape brandies made in the Cognac region are the only brandies that can be labeled as Cognac.blah

1 1/2 ounce brandy
1 ounce cream
1 ounce crème de cacao
Garnish: Sprinkle of nutmeg
Shake with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Between The Sheets
1 ounce brandy
1 ounce light rum
1 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce lemon juice
Garnish: Lemon twist.
Shake with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass.

East India House
2 ounce brandy
1 teaspoon pineapple syrup
1 teaspoon maraschino liqueur
1 teaspoon orange curaçao
3 dash Angostura Bitters
Garnish: Lime twist
Shake with ice, strain into a cocktail glass.

Fog Cutter
2 ounce lemon juice
1 ounce orgeat
2 ounce light rum
1 ounce brandy
1/2 ounce gin
1/2 ounce sweet sherry
Shake everything, except the sherry, with ice. Pour into a tall ice filled tiki mug or chimney glass. Float the sherry over the top.

2 ounce brandy
1 ounce Cointreau
1/2 ounce lemon juice
Shake with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass.

1 ounce brandy
1/4 ounce white crème de menthe
Garnish: Fresh sprigs of mint, and serve with a glass of water.
Stir with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass.

Vieux Carre
3/4 ounce rye whiskey
3/4 ounce brandy
3/4 ounce sweet vermouth
1/8 ounce Benedictine
1 dash Peychaud’s bitters
1 dash Angostura Bitters
Garnish: Lemon twist.
Build over ice, in an Old Fashioned glass.

GSN Review: Pierre Ferrand Ambre & Reserve Cognac


Maison Ferrand is the result of the encounter in 1989 between Alexandre Gabriel and one of the oldest winegrowing families in the Cognac region. Alexandre Gabriel’s intention was to breathe new life into the Ferrand cognacs. He wanted to maintain age-old, craft-based production methods which were worlds apart from mass production techniques, and sought to bring back to market the true expression of Grande Champagne’s terroir. It is around these core values of authenticity and character that Maison Ferrand built up its business, first with cognac, then with other distinctive fine spirits. Nowadays, Maison Ferrand is a highly regarded company that draws on a dynamic team of people who nurture a passionate interest in what they do.

GSN has previously reviewed the 1840 Original Formula Cognac.  Two more cognacs were recently sent for review.

Pierre Ferrand Ambre (80 proof)
Visual: Deep golden-yellow.
Nose: Musky, sparkling, crisp grape distillate tempered with sharp and bright wood.  Quite engaging.
Taste: The main character lies towards the low-end of the musical scale.  A lot of fat, rich bass notes of rich grape spirit clothed in an elegant robe of French oak cask.
Finish: Quick, medium-short and well-appointed.  A true cognac in every sense of the word.
Overall: This makes a killer Sidecar or French 75 (if using Chris Hannah’s version).  A snifter by itself is also a treat.
GSN Rating: A-

Pierre Ferrand Reserve (80 proof)
Visual: Dark golden-yellow.
Nose: More bright, high notes than the Ambre, but still with the distinctive effervescent quality that immediately makes one take notice.
Taste: Amazingly rounded, smooth, mellow and creamy in both flavor and mouthfeel.  The aging here has melded with the spirit in that neither has the upper hand.  A great balance and a truly fine sipper.
Finish: As the fade hits, there are notes of vanilla, caramel, and interestingly, pineapple.  It begs for a second glass to keep the first one company.
Overall: Terrific, and easily one of my favorite Cognacs that is readily available pretty much everywhere.  Alexandre Gabriel has done it again!
GSN Rating: A+

For more information go to: Pierre Ferrand Cognac


GSN Backbar Review: Mar. 24-28, 2014

imagesThe first peach brandy made at George Washington’s distillery at Mount Vernon in more than 200 years will be unveiled on April 1, the Distilled Spirits Council and Mount Vernon jointly announced. Some 400 bottles of the peach brandy will be offered at the Distillery & Gristmill at Mount Vernon, retailing at $150 a 375-ml. bottle. The brandy was recreated at the distillery in 2010 by a team of craft distillers who used 18th century techniques, double-distilling the product in copper pot stills heating it by wood fires, then aging it two years in toasted oak barrels. The distilling team was led by Ted Huber of Indiana-based Starlight Distillery, Brian McKenzie of Finger Lakes Distilling in New York, Lance Winters of St. George Spirits in California, Dave Pickerell of Vermont-based WhistlePig Whiskey and Hillrock Estate Distillery in New York, Joe Dangler of A. Smith Bowman Distillery in Virginia and Scott Harris of Catoctin Creek Distilling Co., also in Virginia.

indexNetherlands-based distiller Lucas Bols is launching what it calls the world’s first-ever “alcoholic foam” in the U.S. market. The product is packaged in 200-ml. bottles and has three different flavors: Blue Curaçao, Crème de Cassis and Amaretto. A pump at the top of the bottle puts out up to two liters of the fizzy foam. “The foams can be as easily applied in-home as in-bar with cocktails, coffees, shots and desserts,” said Bols CEO Huub van Doorne. “On hot or cold drinks, the foam will hold for a minimum of 15 minutes.” The suggested retail price is $17.99 a bottle.

indexProst Beverage Company is introducing Tim Smith’s Original Climax Moonshine to the U.S. market following successful test launches in a handful of states. Climax can currently be found in Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, North Carolina, Delaware, Ohio, Maryland and Washington D.C. for around $29.99 to $34.99 a bottle. A new distillery is set to open next month, allowing the company to expand in June to Kentucky, Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Washington, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, Mississippi and Alabama, with a pending agreement in Virginia. Tim Smith, star of the Discovery Channel’s “Moonshiners,” and Prost Beverage plan to donate $1.00 for every nine-liter case of Climax sold to the National Fallen Firefighter’s Foundation. Flavors are planned for later this year and 2015.

imagesCIL U.S. Wine & Spirits, the American subsidiary of Cognac producer Camus, has been named the exclusive U.S. distributor for GDL Imports’ Trianon Tequila. Billed as a small-batch, handcrafted Tequila, the super-premium Trianon range includes Blanco ($39.99 a 750-ml.), Reposado ($45.99), Anejo ($49.99) and Trianon Triple Bottle ($79.99) expressions. Under the CIL U.S. agreement, Trianon—which launched in Tennessee in late 2012—will initially expand its presence into Florida, New York and Georgia.

indexTexas-based Garrison Brothers Distillery is set to enter the New York market. This distillery is releasing an initial 3,000 bottles of its Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey to bars and retail outlets in New York, which joins Texas and Arizona in its distribution footprint. Billed as the first straight Bourbon whiskey entirely produced outside Kentucky or Tennessee, the distillery has made available its spring 2014 vintage and will later release its fall vintage across New York state. The Bourbon retails in the $85-$95 range.

indexTwo years after launching the D’ussé Cognac brand with a VSOP offering, Bacardi is extending the upscale label with an XO expression. D’ussé XO, produced at the Chateau de Cognac by maître de chai Michel Casavecchia, is made from a blend of eaux-de-vie aged at least 10 years. Introducing the new offering to a small group of journalists and mixologists in New York last night, Bacardi said D’ussé XO, retailing at $230 a bottle, would hit 11 U.S. markets in May, targeted to select high-end accounts.


All information courtesy of Shanken News Daily

GSN Review: Louis Royer “Force 53” Cognac

louis_royer_force53_vsopCognac is one of those spirits that embodies history, and until the great phylloxera epidemic of the late 19th century, it was the go to spirit for many classic cocktails.  Luckily for all of us, cognac has regained its prominence on the back bar and is once again utilized in new craft cocktails.  One of the more interesting cognacs to be released is a 53% ABV version by the Louis Royer company located along the Charente river in Jarnac, France.  Founded in 1853 (there’s that 53 again), the Louis Royer house has engaged the bartending community for the past few years by holding an annual “Show Me the Proof!” cocktail competition.  Using a higher proof cognac is not as easy as it sounds, but this year there was a tie between the two first place winners.  Sother Teague (from Amor y Amargo) and Pamela Wiznitzer (from The Dead Rabbit) each won an all-expense paid trip to France, along with a guest of their choice.

Louis Royer “Force 53” Cognac (106 proof)
Visual: Burnished copper.
Nose: Sweet notes of vanilla, toffee, caramel and walnut.  A faint grape nose comes in the distance.
Taste: Impressive amount of expertly distilled and well-aged cognac showing notes of vanilla, vine fruit, heavy cream, cinnamon, marigold petals, nut bread, dark caramel and a touch of sea salt.
Finish:  Quite long with individual notes of spice percolating through a honeyed and creamy texture.
Overall: Wonderfully balanced and easy to drink straight in spite of the high-proof.  The heat is tempered by the quite sweet flavor profile which grabs your attention and doesn’t let go.  Try this in a Sazerac instead of rye, and you will be enlightened.
GSN Rating: A

For more information go to: Louis Royer

GSN Review: Camus Cognac

Cognac is one of the world’s great spirits, if not the greatest.  Not only does it boast a rich and varied history (Sazerac cocktails and Phylloxera, anyone?) , but it has a rich and varied flavor unlike most grain based spirits. Camus (pronounced Kah-Moo, like the famous French philosopher) has been a house of Cognac for almost 150 years.  Their products have been sold the world over and have recently been introduced into U.S. distribution.  In a few short years, they have won several awards including Excellent ratings from Paul Pacult’s Ultimate Spirits Challenge and Ultimate Cocktail Challenge.

This week, I was very pleased to be able to try the entire U.S. market line of Camus Cognacs, including one to which I’ve give my very highest recommendation.

Camus VS – Light apple nose, honeyed, oaked. Taste is unrefined and rustic with a heavy and funky almost-but-not-quite menthol quality. Not a sipping brandy, but will work nicely as a base in a brandy punch.  GSN Rating: B

Camus VSOP – Smooth, balanced delicate grape nose.  Taste is quite oaked, but still very much fruit forward.  The VSOP will be fantastic in a Sidecar or a Stinger.  GSN Rating: B+

Camus XO – Rich and sweet caramel nose redolent of Autumn.  A fine, rich and deep Cognac with notes of baked apple, creme brulee, spices.  Very smooth, very balanced and an exceptional sipping brandy.  GSN Rating: A

Camus Borderies XO – Thick and viscous with a dark gold hue almost likened to a bourbon.  Sweet and more liqueur-like than the Champagne region XO.  Hints of butter and dried stone fruits mingle with a light heathery floral quality.  This makes for an amazing sipper after a meal instead of a heavy dessert.  Very impressive, and unique in it’s field as this is the only single vineyard Cognac crafted in the Borderies region.  GSN Rating: A+

For more information on Camus go here.