All Cognac is Brandy, but not all Brandy is Cognac. Like most things French, Cognac is associated with romance. It is the universal drink of choice when celebrating success. Much like we imagine bubbles in Champagne have a particular type of magic, the mention of Cognac mystically transports us to a happy place.
Here in South Africa, sometimes we sip Cognac next to a fireplace, in deep leather armchairs, engaging in a deep meaningful conversation with the object of our affection. Sometimes we sit with friends in a tavern, gathered round a bottle of Cognac, debating team tactics about Amakhosi or Sundowns or Pirates. Wherever and however you enjoy your Cognac, each occasion is a celebration.
I recently had the pleasure of attending a Rémy Martin Opulence Revealed media event hosted by the global brand ambassador, Alex Quintin, a lucky person who lives in Cognac and travels the world talking about Rémy Martin. What is Opulence Revealed? It is the journey through an exclusive cognac tasting combined with a luxurious food pairing. It was a lot of fun, a treat for the senses and we learned a lot.
VS, VSOP & XO, the letters on the bottles: Each corresponds to how long the brandy has been aged in oak barrels. In 1983, following a request by the BNIC (Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac, the French government drafted regulations governing the terms used to describe a cognac’s quality. These designations, which may be included on the label, refer to the age of the youngest eau-de-vie used in making the cognac.
VS stands for “Very Special”: only eaux-de-vie at least two years old can be used to make a VS cognac. VSOP stands for “Very Superior Old Pale”: VSOP cognacs are created from eaux-de-vie aged for at least four years. XO stands for “Extra Old”: XO cognacs are made only from eaux-de-vie at least six years old.
I’ve a particular fondness for Rémy Martin and have had the privilege of tasting the Louis XIII here in South Africa and late at night at a bar in Scotland. It is an aspirational and inspirational experience. That particular Cognac contains over 1200 eaux-de-vie aged for 40 to 100 years.
We had three expressions that evening, the VS, VSOP very special 1738. Every sip reveals something new, like all complex spirits should. There are many cocktails created, showcasing the spirit. Alex also mentioned leaving the VS or VSOP in the freezer and serving it in chilled glasses, for a silky smooth experience. Summer is coming and that seems like a great idea.
Tasting notes below – and click on the links above to find out more.
- Eye: golden yellow – from the extraction of oak wood during aging.
- Nose: vanilla, ripe apricot, multi-layered with floral notes (violet and rose) – due to the prestigious Grand Champagne terroir.
- Palate: roundness, hint of liquorice, silky.
- Food pairing: mini apples and dried apricots.
- Eye: deep amber colour – from longer aging in the oak barrels.
- Nose: jasmine, juicy plum, candied orange, cinnamon, honey.
- Palate: rich and velvety, juicy plums, candied orange, hazelnuts.
- Food pairing: Parmesan or Manchego cheese (UMAMI taste); chocolate macaroon (melting sensation).
- Eye: unique, shimmering copper colour.
- Nose: plum, fig marmalade, oaky notes of toffee and toasted bread.
- Palate: mellowness of butterscotch, baked spices with hints of dark chocolate. Exceptionally round with a creamy aftertaste.
- Food pairing: fresh figs and chocolate truffles.