Thursday, 29 April 2010

Cigars and Cognac

Another great event – can you believe I get paid to do this?!
On the 20th of April, 2010, a group of Cigar and Cognac aficionados gathered at 10 Manchester Street, a gem of a boutique hotel, to learn about, and enjoy, cognac and cigars.
The speakers for the day, Jimmy McGhee from  Hunters & Frankau cigars, and yours truly! For today I would be speaking about a cracking cognac, Pierre Ferrand’s Selection Des Anges.
This cognac is a blend of grand champagne eaux du vies, with an average age of some 30 years. Typically, for Pierre Ferrand, they do not feel the need to slap ‘XO’ all over the label. The delimitation itself only guaranteeing a minimum age of 6 years, it only really serves to impress rappers and fashionistas in New York. The connoisseurs, however, know better what to look for.
This 100% grand champagne cognac is a deep mahogany colour, with a nose of jasmine, honeysuckle and walnut. On the palette it is rich with candied fruit, ginger, honey, and nutmeg. Rancio flavours are abound, which made this cognac ideal for the cigar matching – the purpose of the evening.
I’m pleased to say my choice of cognac went down very well, and the assembled group seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves. My thanks to 10 Manchester Street for the invitation to speak on the evening, and I’m pleased to accept their invitation to return.

Fame at last!

Did I mention I now have a monthly article? No? Well, I have - and very proud of it I am too!
From March 2010 I will be writing a monthly 800 word article for The University Catering Magazine.
If you're remotely interested, you can see my debut intoxicology insight here (it may download as a pdf).

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

700 Years of Armagnac

It’s been a while since my last blog, due, in part, to the number of fantastic events I’ve been lucky enough to attend of late.
Not least of which was the 700th anniversary of Armagnac. Hosted in the luxurious surroundings of the Connaught Hotel, those of us able to evade the army of Mercedes and Bentleys whilst crossing the road were handsomely rewarded on arrival.
The event started with a short lecture from Ian Wisniewski, who never ceases to amaze me (and everyone else present) with his encyclopaedic knowledge of Armagnac (and, ostensibly, any other category he sees fit to discuss).
The inevitable comparisons with Cognac were drawn, but not in the ‘me too’ manner which you might expect. For today was Armagnac’s day to shine in its own right.
I will not be attempting to replicate the information given by Ian in this blog for two reasons:
1 – His fantastically entertaining and informative lecture was obviously the result of many weeks of dedicated research. For me to simply cut and paste it here would be highly dubious.
2 – I couldn’t write quickly enough. The man is a machine!
So, with Ian’s introduction well received, we were set loose on the tasting room.

With some 75 spirits on offer, the obvious threat of inebriation was a real and present danger. As your man in the field, however, I heroically put research before self-preservation and got stuck in,
For the sake of brevity, (and because my tasting notes veered towards the undecipherable), I shall provide you with just my top three highlights, in no particular order.
The Samalens Singles 12 year Grand Bas Armagnac was outstanding. Plenty of roasted, woody flavours brought prunes, fig and almonds to the palette, with a luxurious and light finish.

My biggest surprise of the day was courtesy of Janneau for their 12 year offering. Sweeter than I had anticipated, and delicate to boot. Dare I say, a more feminine take on the Armagnac style? Certainly, something more akin to the Fins Bois cognacs style than the single distillery Armagnac it is.

Moving up a notch in age took me to the Larressingle 21. Being a Tenereze Armagnc, I had expected a heavier, richer spirit. I had not expected, however, such luxurious richness. Certainly, it was a more full bodied spirit, but the power and balance of the developing rancio flavours left it perfectly proportioned. This Armagnac received a very rare 4.5/5 in my tasting booklet, and is something I will definitely be drinking again.