Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Super Premium Cognacs

World-wide shipment of cognac is at an all-time high, thanks in particular to the growth of super premiums. Here, we’ve selected some of the newer luxury blends well worth savoring.

by Kelly E. Carter

Hennessy Beauté du Siècle
A must-have for the truly elite, this exceptional cognac composed by Master Blender Yann Fillioux draws on the reserves of the House of Hennessy’s rarest eaux-de-vie─the 100 greatest of the last century to be exact─to celebrate Kilian Hennessy’s jubilee on February 17, 2007. No flavor dominates in particular; instead, this blend expresses a range of beautifully subtle nuances. In order to preserve these nuances and aromatic finesse, Fillioux opted not to filter this cognac. It is presented in a show-stopping Coffre à Secrets (Chest of Secrets), an extravagant piece of art designed by the famous contemporary artist Jean-Michel Othoniel and weighing 160 pounds. Four glasses from Murano and a spectacular “Talbot” fund art book featuring a photo collection from the 1900s are included. The Baccarat decanter is shaped like the eaux-de-vie sample bottle used by Fillioux and his tasting committee. Buy one and get another free─well at least an extra decanter of Beauté du Siècle to be stored in the founder cellar for the purchaser to offer to a direct descendant. Makes its US debut at Art Basel in Miami this month. Priced at $200,000.

Frapin Cuvée 1888 Rabelais

An exquisite blend of very old Grand Champagne ler Grand Cru cognacs from Frapin’s rarest and most historic reserves, some predating 1888 and most prior to 1870. Folle Blanche, a difficult but rewarding grape known for its finesse and elegance, is also included in this cognac created in homage to Pierre Frapin, who in 1888 replanted Frapin’s world-renowned vineyards, decimated by phylloxera, with healthy rootstock from the United
States. Hints of dried fruit, raisins, prunes and candied orange peel, along with walnuts, hazelnuts, toasty notes of cocoa, roasted Tonka beans and coffee settle on the nose. Powerful yet subtle, it projects the sweetness of linden blossoms against a backdrop of pepper, warm spice notes, honey, vanilla, leather and sandalwood. The decanter is fashioned from blown glass at the Cristalleries Royales de Champagne, bound by a 24-carat find gold thread that winds around it, representing the spiral of time, and sealed with a stopper also gilded with 24-carat gold. It is presented in an elegant and luxurious gift box made from steamed beechwood. A drawer at the base contains a beautiful fob watch with a flick mechanism, a reproduction of a model designed in 1888, gilded with fine gold. Only 1,888 decanters produced. Available at Harrods; priced at $7,500.

Hennessy Ellipse

A blend of seven eaux-de-vie, each selected by the seven generations of Hennessy master blenders that date back to 1800. Each blender, all descended from the Fillioux family, noted the most exceptional eaux-de-vie and highlighted it in his prized tasting notebook. This selection is slightly higher in alcohol than most other cognacs (43.5% by volume compared to the usual 40%) but possesses a delicate, well-balanced bouquet with notes of crystallized fruits, wild roses and the renowned rancio of very old cognac. On the palate, it is the perfect combination of age and elegance with a fine blend of subtle qualities. Each handmade decanter, designed specially by Thomas Bastide of Baccarat, has been carefully fashioned by master craftsmen and individually numbered by Hennessy. And each is decorated with seven indentations, indicating the presence of the seven eaux-de-vie. Enjoy this fine cognac at select
establishments, including the Hotel Bel Air in Los Angeles and The Umstead Hotel and Spa in Cary, NC, for $450 a glass or $4,000 for the bottle.

Courvoisier Succession J.S.

Master blender Jean-Marc Olivier combined several vintages, from a secret family that is one of the house’s best suppliers of cognac in the Grande Champagne region, to create this limited-edition cognac to celebrate the bicentennial year of Napoleon’s crowning as Emperor of France (December 2, 1804). The family’s name, JS, inspired this cognac’s name although a great-great granddaughter of the supplier asked that Olivier never reveal her family’s identity. Take a whiff and smell old sherry wine, cedar wood, leaf of Havana cigar, crème brulée, freshly roasted coffee, licorice and hot honey. A sip is powerful, complex and mellow yet rich and delicate at the same time. It has a long finish reminiscent of a hot and velvety fruit cake. Presented in a simple and traditional decanter with the classic décor taken from the Courvoisier Museum, it is engraved in gold with the Napoleonic crest and topped with a gold wax capsule. Offered in a miniature replica of Napoleon’s Chest of Secrets, which is displayed in the Courvoisier Chateau. The wooden chest has an elaborate looking mechanism and key with Napoleon’s initials. This set includes four crystal tasting glasses engraved with the Napoleonic crest and designed by Olivier. Available in Bermuda, Russia, France, Ireland, Switzerland and Canada. Expected to enter the US market in 2009. Priced at €2000.
Hine Vintage Cognacs Mariage

Created by Bernard Hine to honor the 1797 marriage of his ancestor Thomas Hine and Françoise Elisabeth, daughter of a great cognac family, this unique marriage (thus the name Mariage) of 12 vintage Grande Champagne cognacs, selected from years between 1921 and 1959, is a favorite of Russians and only became available in the US a year ago. On the nose, hazelnuts and walnuts stand out to show the maturity of the cognac and combine with floral notes, particularly jasmine.On the palate, notes of oak and vanilla provide structure without masking its softness and persistency. Bernard Hine worked with Baccarat to design the elegant crystal decanter, housed in a red lacquer box designed by Elie Bleu, a renowned French cabinet maker and lacquer specialist. When the cognac is finished, you can turn the box, handcrafted from French sycamore wood and lined with Cedrela Odorata wood from South America, into a cigar humidor or jewelry box. Priced at €2300.

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