Tag Archives: Cognac

Martell Blue Swift

Martell Blue Swift Arrives in Atlanta

Cognac meets Kentucky in the latest release from Martell, the oldest and one of the best known Cognac houses. Introducing Martell Blue Swift, a VSOP Cognac finished in Kentucky bourbon casks.

Martell Blue Swift

Martell Blue Swift was unveiled at an exclusive launch party in downtown Atlanta earlier this month. After guests sipped on Martell VSOP cocktails, brand ambassador Karim Lateef pushed back a wall revealing a room dedicated to Martell Blue Swift. The celebration then kicked into high gear with a DJ, live artist painting and tastings of Blue Swift on its own and in cocktails.

Martell Blue Swift launch party

Blue Swift is a spirit that represents the partnership between France and America. Martell was the first to ship its Cognac to the United States more than 230 years ago. The name is a tribute to Martell’s swift emblem, a bird that can fly for extremely long distances, including across the Atlantic Ocean.

Martell Blue Swift

Blue Swift is an Eau de Vie de Vin. It starts with a base of high quality Cognac, the VSOP, and then spends additional time aging in Kentucky Bourbon casks. The VSOP has flavors of candied fruit and plum, while the bourbon casks impart notes of vanilla and smoky oak. Round and smooth, Martell Blue Swift can be enjoyed on its own or in cocktails. My favorite way to sip it is mixed with ginger ale.

Click here to learn more about Cognac

Martell Blue Swift is now available in Atlanta and select U.S. cities. It retails for $49.99.

For more information visit Martell’s website at martell.com/en-us/.

Vicard barrels

From the Archives: How Barrels are Made

Originally posted on August 29, 2011

A Tour Inside Vicard Cooperage

Oak barrels play an important role in the production of wine and eau de vie. Go inside Vicard Cooperage in Cognac, France for a look at how barrels are made.

The process of making a barrel starts with the oak tree. Seventy five percent of Vicard’s barrels are made with French oak; 20 percent are made with American oak and 5 percent are Hungarian or Romanian oak. Only thirty percent of the trunk is used for barrels.

The logs are sprayed with water to maintain the level of humidity and to keep bugs away.

To make the staves, the log is split into quarters. Following the natural lines of the wood, the oak is carefully cut into planks. The wood is laid in a pattern for aging and placed outdoors for two to three years. The exposure to sun, wind and rain seasons the wood and eliminates the undesirable tannins.

To assemble the barrel, the staves are placed inside a metal hoop. Using steam and force the wood is pulled into the recognizable shape of a barrel. More hoops are then placed on the wood to maintain the shape.

Toasting the barrel is very important as the amount of toast affects the flavor of the wine inside. Vicard uses computerized technology to monitor each barrel and to ensure the ideal toast profile.

As the finishing touches are put on the barrel, the metal hoops are adjusted or removed. The round ends are inserted and carefully fit into place. The wood is sanded and new metal hoops are placed on the barrel.

The final step is to add the logo. Using a computerized system and lasers the image is burned into the wood.

Vicard produces 55,000 barrels each year.

Evening of Decadence at the Speakeasy Cocktail Festival

 

Pinstripes and pearls. Feathers and fedoras. Blackjack and burlesque. The 1920s came roaring back Saturday at the second Speakeasy Cocktail Festival.

The event was a celebration of the style and sips of the Prohibition era. Revelers enjoyed 1920s inspired cocktails, and tastes of rum, vodka, tequila, cognac and beyond.

Opera in Midtown provided the perfect location to see and be seen – or not. Guests could take in performances from three floors, or sneak off to side rooms for drinks or cigars.

For those who were feeling lucky, the casino offered poker, blackjack, roulette and craps.

With sensual performances and all the classic and creative cocktails you could imagine, the Speakeasy Cocktail festival was a true evening of decadence.

Proceeds from the event will benefit the Health Education & Communication Center of Atlanta. Click here to read about the organizations supported.

Speakeasy Cocktail Festival Brings the 1920s Back to Atlanta

Click here for video on the 2013 Speakeasy Cocktail Festival

Get your pinstripe suits and feather boas ready, the Speakeasy Cocktail Festival is returning for its second year.

Taking place the weekend before the 31st, the Prohibition-era cocktail celebration is the perfect Halloween party — and yes, you’ll want to come in costume. The festival will be held on Saturday, October 26th at the Atlanta Event Center at Opera, with two identical sessions: 1:30 to 4:30pm and 5 to 8pm.

Speakeasy Cocktail FestivalGuests will enjoy libations in several Prohibition-styled lounges:

Speakeasy Liquid Lounges — Located throughout the festival, these will offer tastes of cocktails, beer and wine in a souvenir glass.

Cigar Lounge — Guests will have the Speakeasy Cocktail Festivalopportunity to sample premium cigars and exclusive spirit selections from Camus & McCormick Distilling Co.

Casino Lounge — Attendees can play poker, blackjack, roulette and craps and enjoy exclusive spirits from Hedonist Cognac. Chip leaders and poker table winners will have the opportunity to win a premium prize package from Dave & Buster’s and a three night stay for two with transportation at the MGM Grand Resort’s Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi.

VIP Lounge — Guests who purchase a VIP ticket will have access to special Patron Spirits tastings, entry to win a Beau Rivage Resort trip package and drink specials at Article 14 Restaurant.

Speakeasy Cocktail FestivalCome for the cocktails, stay for the entertainment. There will be burlesque-inspired performances by Dangerous Curves, live music from local bands Cicada Rhythm and Lives of the Monster Dogs, entertainment from the Sadie Hawkins and Marilyn Chen duo and more.

Speakeasy Cocktail FestivalClick here to see highlights from last year’s event

There will also be the Makers & Shakers Mixology Championship, where some of Atlanta’s best mixologists will compete head to head in a secret ingredient bartending contest. The final challenge will be held at the end of session two.

Be sure to come dressed to the nines in Prohibition-era inspired garb — it could win you a trip to Beau Rivage! Each session will have a costume contest for guests, with the winner receiving a resort and casino package.

Tickets are now available online at the Speakeasy Cocktail Festival’s website and cost $75 for general admission and $110 for VIP. Each ticket is for one session and comes with 10 tasting tabs.

Proceeds will benefit the Health Education and Communication Center of Atlanta, which works to build awareness to improve health literacy and positively impact health outcomes throughout Georgia.

For more information visit www.speakeasycocktailfestival.com.

The Speakeasy Cocktail Festival, Saturday, October 26, 2013 at the Atlanta Event Center at Opera, 1150 Crescent Ave. NE, Midtown.

photo credit: Speakeasy Cocktail Festival

Classic Cocktails for the Return of AMC’s Mad Men

 

Don Draper and the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce gang return this Sunday with the premiere of season five of AMC’s award-winning series Mad Men.

Get in the 1960s spirit with these classic cocktails.

Americano

2 oz Campari
2 oz Sweet Vermouth
club soda
lemon peel
ice cubes

Fill rocks glass with ice. Add Campari and sweet vermouth. Top with a splash of club soda. Garnish with lemon peel.

Old-Fashioned

1 sugar cube (or ½ tsp loose sugar)
3 dashes Angostura bitters
club soda
2 oz Bourbon
ice cubes
2 inch strip of lemon peel

Place sugar in a rocks glass. Add 3 dashes of bitters and a short splash of club soda, then muddle the sugar. Add ice, then Bourbon. Gently stir. Garnish with lemon peel.

Sidecar

¾ oz Cognac
¼ oz lemon juice
¼ oz Triple Sec
1 orange peel
ice cubes

Place ice cubes in a shaker, then add Cognac, lemon juice and Triple Sec. Close the shaker and shake until frosted. Strain into a martini glass using a cocktail strainer. Press the orange peel over the drink.

Mint Julep

2 oz Bourbon or Cognac
½ oz simple syrup
mint leaves, plus sprig for garnish
crushed ice

In a chilled julep cup or rocks glass muddle mint leaves and simple syrup. Add ice and Bourbon (or Cognac). Stir gently with spoon or swizzle stick. Add additional crushed ice and mint sprig garnish.

Gimlet

2 oz Gin or Vodka
½ oz Rose’s lime juice
lime wedge garnish

In a shaker filled with ice, pour gin (or vodka) and Rose’s lime juice. Shake, then with a strainer pour into a cocktail glass or over ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with lime wedge.

barrels

How Oak Barrels are Made

A Tour Inside Vicard Cooperage

Oak barrels play an important role in the production of wine and eau de vie. Go inside Vicard Cooperage in Cognac, France for a look at how barrels are made.

The process of making a barrel starts with the oak tree. Seventy five percent of Vicard’s barrels are made with French oak; 20 percent are made with American oak and 5 percent are Hungarian or Romanian oak. Only thirty percent of the trunk is used for barrels.

The logs are sprayed with water to maintain the level of humidity and to keep bugs away.

To make the staves, the log is split into quarters. Following the natural lines of the wood, the oak is carefully cut into planks. The wood is laid in a pattern for aging and placed outdoors for two to three years. The exposure to sun, wind and rain seasons the wood and eliminates the undesirable tannins.

To assemble the barrel, the staves are placed inside a metal hoop. Using steam and force the wood is pulled into the recognizable shape of a barrel. More hoops are then placed on the wood to maintain the shape.

Toasting the barrel is very important as the amount of toast affects the flavor of the wine inside. Vicard uses computerized technology to monitor each barrel and to ensure the ideal toast profile.

As the finishing touches are put on the barrel, the metal hoops are adjusted or removed. The round ends are inserted and carefully fit into place. The wood is sanded and new metal hoops are placed on the barrel.

The final step is to add the logo. Using a computerized system and lasers the image is burned into the wood.

Vicard produces 55,000 barrels each year.

Click here for more articles on Cognac

pineau des charentes

Pineau des Charentes: Aperitif of Cognac

Pineau des Charentes is a sweet fortified wine produced in the Charente and Charente-Maritime departments in France. It is a blend of Cognac and grape juice that is most often enjoyed as an aperitif.

The juice comes from grapes that are used to make wine. For white Pineau, grapes including Ugni Blanc, Colombard or Folle Blanche may be used; for red Pineau it may be Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. The high alcohol content of the Cognac prevents the grape juice from fermenting.

In its most basic form, Pineau is made by combining approximately 25% Cognac (eau de vie that has aged for at least one year in oak barrels), and 75% grape juice. The blend is then aged for at least 12 months. From the Comité National du Pineau des Charentes:

“Pineau des Charentes is exclusively aged in oak barrels. White Pineau ages for at least 18 months, including 12 in barrel. Red and rosé Pineau are aged for 12 months, including eight in oak. This ageing is a very important part of the winemaking process, and gives Pineau des Charentes its characteristic vanilla and nutty flavour.”

From there, Pineau can vary greatly among producers. Some may blend an older Cognac with the grape juice, and some may let the Pineau age in oak barrels for five or more years.

The taste of Pineau is sweeter than wine, with a pleasant and full mouthfeel. The acidity and alcohol prevent it from being too syrupy. Pineau that has spent more time aging in barrels tends to be more complex in flavor.

Pineau ranges in alcohol from 16 to 22 percent.

Pineau should be served chilled and in a tulip-shaped glass. It is commonly served as an aperitif, though it can complement a range of foods and desserts. Pineau may also be used in cocktails.

For more information on Pineau des Charentes including serving suggestions visit the website for the Comité National du Pineau des Charentes.

Chateau Beaulon water

A Visit to Chateau de Beaulon

About 30 miles southwest of Cognac in the commune of Saint-Dizant-du-Gua in Charente-Maritime is Château de Beaulon.

The château was built in 1480, with eau de vie production on the estate dating to 1720.  From 1543 to 1574 the home belonged to Francois de Beaulon, Lord of Saint-Dizant and advisor to the Bordeaux Parliament.  Today the estate is owned by Christian Thomas, who has been producing Cognac and Pineau des Charentes at Château de Beaulon for more than 40 years.

The grounds of Château de Beaulon are open to the public and well worth a visit.  Past the banana tree, past the row of lavender in the French garden, past the more wild English garden, you come to a sight that takes your breath away – “Les Fontaines Bleues,” natural springs that are a mesmerizing blue color.

The hue is due to a type of algae that grows in the water.  These springs have been the subject of local legends, including one about a monster (now pacified), that used to pull curious people down into the depths.

Winding back through the mammoth plane trees you come to the north face of the château.  Of note are the two different roof windows.  The window on the left was built in the style of medieval architecture, while the right window was built in the classical style.

Beaulon’s production and aging facilities are a short drive away in the neighboring commune of Lorignac.  Floor-to-ceiling windows at the distillery show off the gleaming copper stills.  Eau de vie is stored in a cellar across the street.

Nearby is Château de Beaulon’s recently completed state of the art aging and bottling facility.  Here, in rooms that look like science labs, the eau de vie is analyzed to determine its potential and direction.  A large concrete cellar offers a contrast to the one by the distillery, lacking the cobwebs and black fungus that thrives off the evaporating alcohol.

The new facility was designed to be eco-friendly as well.  The roof is covered in vegetation that helps to maintain a cool interior temperature.

Surrounding the distillery and two cellars are Château de Beaulon’s vineyards.  Unlike many Cognac houses, Beaulon does not use Ugni Blanc grapes for its Cognac.  Instead Folle Blanche, Colombard and Montils are used.

For a taste of Château de Beaulon’s Cognac, I was invited to join Mr. Thomas inside the manor.  We started with a Pineau des Charentes, a blend of Cognac and grape juice (click here to read more about Pineau des Charentes).  For its white Pineau, Château de Beaulon uses Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc grape juice.

The Pineau was the perfect complement to the sunny and warm afternoon.  It had flavors of dried apricots, vanilla, honey and white flowers, with a pleasant sweetness balanced by nice acidity.

Next we tasted two Cognacs: the Tres Vieille Reserve du Château, vintage 1983, and the XO Vintage 1975.  Both were extraordinary.  They were elegant, complex and well balanced, with flavors that lingered for quite some time after each sip.

The vintage 1983 was rich and intense, with layered flavors of candied fruit, spice and fresh flowers.  The vintage 1975 had a beautiful amber color, with notes of orange peel, dried apricots, cedar, caramel and walnut.  Extremely smooth, both would turn any non Cognac drinker into a fan after one taste.

From the dazzling natural springs to the exceptional Cognac, a visit to Château de Beaulon is a feast for the senses.

For more information visit chateau-de-beaulon.com.

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ABK6

ABK6: Cognac for a New Generation

Flashy labels. A name derived from typing. A blend specially created for sipping on the rocks.

This isn’t your grandfather’s Cognac.

With a mix of tradition and modernity, ABK6 is bringing the French spirit to a new generation.

It starts with the name — ABK6 is one of those internet short-hands, like OMG or LOL. When pronounced in French it sounds like Abécassis, the last name of the family who bought the estates in 2003. Francis Abécassis oversees ABK6 with his daughter Elodie, who at 24 years of age brings a unique perspective to the brand.

The packaging of ABK6 Cognac immediately catches your eye. The bottles have square shoulders and the bright labels beckon you to take a closer look. These Cognacs demand to be displayed among the premium liquors at trendy bars and restaurants, not stashed away in a dusty liquor cabinet.

Still, tradition is very important in the production of ABK6 Cognac. Each part of the process, from distillation to aging and blending the eaux de vie, is monitored closely by cellar master Simon Palmer to ensure quality.

All Cognacs produced by ABK6 are single estate Cognacs made from Ugni Blanc grapes. The wine is distilled in small Charentais stills, and the “heart” of the second distillation is aged in French Limousin oak barrels. Once the eau de vie has reached maturity it is blended with other eaux de vie from the same estate.

Click here for a detailed description on how Cognac is made

ABK6’s Cognacs are aromatic with complex flavors that unfold with each sip. The VS Premium has notes of apricots and spice; the VSOP Super Premium has notes of baked apple, vanilla and brioche; the XO Grand Cru is extremely smooth with notes of dried fruits and toasted almonds.

ABK6’s newest venture is ICE Cognac. Coming soon to the United States, ICE Cognac is the first Cognac that is meant to be served on ice. With its shimmering white bottle ICE Cognac has a look that will appeal to younger Cognac drinkers, as well as those who enjoy drinking spirits like Scotch on the rocks.

The blend of eaux de vie in ICE Cognac was specifically selected because of how its flavors progress as it comes into contact with ice and water.  At first you taste almond and vanilla; as the ice melts you taste white peach and orange blossom, then lemon sorbet and mint.

Cognac purists need not fear – ABK6 produces a number of single estate Cognacs for those who may not embrace such a modern design.  Cognac Leyrat is produced with grapes from an estate in the Fins Bois region.  It’s here, among the rolling hills that are blanketed with grapevines, that ABK6 has its tasting room.  ABK6’s other Cognac is Le Reviseur, which is made with grapes from an estate in the heart of the Petite Champagne region.

Modernity and tradition – ABK6 successfully blends both with a range of Cognacs for either taste.

For more information on the Cognacs of ABK6 visit www.abk6-cognac.com.

bottle images from ABK6’s website

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Hennessy

A Visit to Hennessy

You can’t talk about Cognac without mentioning Hennessy. It is the big daddy of Cognac, making up 43% of Cognac production. As a comparison, the next largest producer is Remy Martin at 17 percent.

Hennessy dominates the market, but also makes it possible for the smaller producers to exist.  Hennessy buys a large portion of its grapes and eau de vie from other growers and producers in the region, who are then able to sustain their own Cognac production.

Hennessy is located within the town of Cognac, along both sides of the Charente River. A visit begins with a boat ride.

Our guide was Marc Boissonnet, Ambassadeur de la Maison. He did what would seem to be impossible – make Hennessy, the giant of Cognac, feel intimate and special.

Marc was particularly knowledgeable and engaging, and had some of the best analogies for Cognac production.

“Keep the spirit, dispose of the body,” is how he described the process of making Cognac. It’s a pretty good simplification of the distillation process, which reduces the liquid to approximately one tenth of its volume while retaining the essence of the grapes and wine.

Kids, adults and relationships played roles in other parts of the Cognac story.

As Marc explained, just like with children, the character of eau de vie must be shaped when it is young. Early on the potential of the eau de vie is assessed, and then the proper oak barrel is selected for aging.

After aging in oak the eau de vie is blended, a process that Marc described as similar to a marriage. You need to be mature when you get married, and eau de vie needs to mature before it is blended. It is up to the cellar master and blender to determine when an eau de vie has spent the ideal amount of time in barrels. With seven generations of blenders, Hennessy uses the memories of experience to determine the potential of and future course for the eau de vie.

Marc continued with a statement that sounds good whether you’re talking about Cognac or people. “Aging is good,” he said. “Because aging means living.”

The highlight of the tour was stepping into “Le Paradis.”  Meaning paradise in English, this is the cellar where the rare and precious eau de vie and Cognac are stored.

Barrels in Le Paradis contained eau de vie that had been aging for 50 plus years. I found eau de vie from the birth year of my parents, then just steps away found eau de vie from the birth years of my grandparents and great-grandparents. Beyond the barrels were shelves of demijohn bottles that contained Cognac from the 1800s.

Enjoying a wine from your birth year (if even possible) is a rare and special treat. But enjoying a Cognac from your birth year, well, that might not yet be ready to drink.

Hennessy’s goal is to produce Cognac that is perfectly balanced, rich and complex. It also strives for consistency; fifty year-old Cognacs from Hennessy should be identical, no matter the year they were bottled or where they were purchased.

At a tasting following our tour we had a chance to sample a variety of Cognac from Hennessy.

The first glass had perfectly clear eau de vie that hadn’t been aged in oak barrels. With 70% alcohol, this was not something you would want to drink. However after a sniff and placing a drop on the tongue, it was possible to make out the fruit and floral essence necessary for producing a high quality Cognac.

With the next two glasses we were able to compare the use of barrels. Both were Cognacs that were approximately five years old. The first, lighter in color, was Cognac that had been aged in previously used barrels. The second Cognac was darker in color because it was aged in new barrels.  Newer barrels impart more color and flavor to the eau de vie.

Our fourth glass took us back in time to 1983. This Cognac was darker than the previous two because of the longer time in oak. It had flavors of dry fruit, spice and “rancio,” a French term that means a desirable earthy, nutty or musty characteristic.

Going back to 1956 with our next glass, we had a chance to see how Cognac softens and becomes more complex as it ages. This Cognac had lovely floral aromas with flavors of vanilla, nougat, almond and honeysuckle.

Our final Cognac was the Hennessy XO, a blend of Cognacs. Darkest of the group, this Cognac was refined, polished and elegant, with flavors of hazelnut, black pepper and dark chocolate.

Even with the focus on age, history and tradition, Hennessy keeps Cognac modern and fresh. One look at the limited edition Hennessy VS (pictured at left) and you can see this isn’t your grandfather’s Cognac. At a party later that evening inside the Cognac Blues Passions music festival, Hennessy cocktails were all the rage. Mixed with apple juice, muddled fresh berries or (my favorite) ginger ale, Hennessy Cognac is ever evolving, long after it leaves the barrel.

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