Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Review: Domaine De Jean-Bon 1995 20 Year Old Armagnac

Domaine De Jean-Bon 1995 - 20 Year Old Armagnac, 45%

Appearance:  Auburn, caramel.

Nose:  Some alcohol, a bit of caramel and even a bit of grape.

Taste: A little light and thin for the proof.  The alcohol makes its presence known throughout each sip.  Tastes of light caramel and some cherry.  It has a nice oak spice and leaves just a little sweetness but overall has a dry finish.

Conclusion: This is good but not great.  At 20 years for $60 it was a good value and in my opinion is worth the price.  This has some flaws but it s still enjoyable and I don't regret buying my bottle.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Review: Chateau de Pellehaut 14 Year Old Armagnac

The first bottle of Armagnac, and first bottle of brandy, I ever bought was an 18 year old Chateau de Pellehaut.  It was love at first sip.  I loved that bottle and while it is long gone, and that vintage has since passed, there have been several to replace it since and I continue to be in love.  Pellehaut has a house style that I really love.  They bottle with proofs high enough to leave some boldness and their expressions are generally pretty oaky.  Coming from the world of bourbon Pellehaut made for an easy transition to brandy.  They are still one of my favorite producers today.

Review: Chateau de Pellehaut 14 Year Old Armagnac - Distilled in 2001, bottled in 2015, 49%.

Appearance: A beautiful amber, light caramel.

Nose: Alcohol, oak spice, dry with some apricot.

Taste: A bit of sweetness up front, a brown sugar type sweetness.  A little vanilla.  The finish is dry with some noticeable oak which fades into a bit of astringency but not in an unpleasant way.

Conclusion:  This is more fruit forward than the other Pellehauts I've had which makes sense given the age.  There is a good balance of fruit and oak though this is drier and oakier than I would have ever guessed given the age.  At 49% this has some boldness.  The alcohol makes itself known.  If you are looking for a subtle pour this probably isn't it but if you are looking for something a bit more bold and just a tad rough around the edges this will do nicely.

This is a regular pour for me.  At $50 a bottle I think it's a fantastic bargain.  I try a lot of different brandies and there are so many to choose from that it's not often that I buy another bottle of the same thing from the same year but I went through this one pretty quick and the sight of the almost empty bottle made me sad so I bought another which is really the highest complement that I can give. This is right square in the middle of the axis between value and quality.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Review 1: Ragnaud-Sabourin No. 20 Reserve Especiale Cognac

Ragnaud-Sabourin No. 20 Reserve Especiale Cognac - Grand Champagne, 2015 bottling of a 20 year old cognac.  

Appearance: Pale yellow-orange, like a hazy, smoggy sky.

Nose: Sweet peach and marmalade. A beautiful bouquet.

Taste: Bursting with sweet fruit flavor, some orange and maybe pineapple upfront, some caramel but restrained and never overly sweet, just a hint of bitterness as oak makes an appearance on the finish.

Conclusion: I really like this. Nicely complex and hits all of the right buttons, plenty of fruit but the oak is there too yet not overpowering. At 43% there is a good amount of flavor but with no alcohol heat.  This is everything I want in a Cognac.


I've been a whisky drinker for a long time.  Back in my early college days I was something of a vodka connoisseur.  I had the desire to taste and try numerous vodkas to really pick out the differences and nuances.  I've always had this kind of curiosity but looking back it was a much less rewarding experience trying all of those vodkas than it has been doing the same with whisky and brandy.  At the time though I had no desire to try whisky, what I had tried was bottom shelf blended American whisky and I had no reason to think whisky could be much better than that so I stuck to vodka.  Brandy was even further from my mind, I thought of brandy as sickeningly sweet with few redeeming qualities. I had no idea just how wrong I was.

I was saved by Johnnie Walker.  Sometime during college I was invited to a Johnnie Walker tasting by a friend of mine.  It was an eye opening experience for both of us and wholly converted me over to a scotch drinker. I was a dedicated Black Label drinker and to my mind it didn't get much better than that.  Much as with my prior vodka experience though I had a curiosity to try new things and this led to trying the entire Walker line and eventually branching out into single malt scotch which was a world I stayed in for a long time.

Bourbon seemed somehow inferior to scotch.  This was misplaced but was a long held belief of mine which goes back to my terrible experiences with American whisky in college.  I didn't know the difference between bourbon and blended whisky and I didn't know about the strict quality of bourbon either.  Further driving my belief that bourbon was inferior were age statements.  Most entry level scotches were at least 12 years old while that was about the high end for bourbon at the time.  Older must be better right?  I didn't understand the differences that climate had on aging or the difference that using new oak versus a used barrel would have.  What finally brought me to bourbon though was my love of bourbon barrel aged beers.  Bourbon barrel aging does something magical to beer, something that scotch barrel aged beers never seem to be able to match.  Realizing this was the impetus I needed to finally give bourbon a try.  It started with Four Roses Single Barrel and I've never looked back.

Of course my love for bourbon didn't stop with Four Roses Single Barrel, it grew from there.  Along the way though, while I continued to educate myself about bourbon, I became curious about all kinds of other spirits.  There are a lot of fantastic whiskeys in this world and I really grew to appreciate and want to try all different types from American malt whiskys to Japanese rice whisky to whatever I could get my hands on.

It was through this journey that I found what these days are my two biggest influences.  When I was living in Los Angeles I stumbled across the K&L Spirits blog and SKU's Recent Eats blog.  I'm not sure which came first but together David Drisoll (of K&L) and SKU (obviously of SKU's Recent Eats) educated me not just on whisky but on Armagnac, Cognac, Calvados and all kinds of brandy.  This was a whole new journey and what ultimately led to me creating this blog.  I got so much out of reading what both of them wrote which only increased my curiosity and led to me wanting to learn more.  But there isn't a whole lot more out there, at least not that I've found.  The spirits blogs out there really seem to be heavily whisky influenced (let's face it, even this one is going to have a lot of whisky talk) but there are few doing quality writing on the incredible modern world of brandy.  While I can't promise quality writing I can promise reviews and discussions on brandy.  I don't know that anyone will get anything out of what I write but I hope one day someone will stumble across my blog, much as I did SKU's, and decide to take a chance on their first bottle of Armagnac.

Hello world.

Welcome to my blog.  I plan to use this space to share my thoughts and experiences on what I'm drinking.  I have a real fondness for whisky and brandy (specifically Armagnac) so this blog will probably focus mostly on those with some occasional deviation.  The world has a million whisky blogs but, in my opinion, not nearly enough blogs that talk about brandy.  That was really the genesis of me taking the effort to start this blog.  I wish there were more people talking about what I like to drink so I'm going to do my part and add to the conversation.  While there are already a million whisky blogs and the world probably doesn't need one more of those I figure no one is actually going to read this anyway so think of this blog as my personal journal and feel free to take a look at my innermost liquor related thoughts.