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The Cognac Masters 2013 Results

As expected, the Cognac category provided quality and diversity in equal measure, but there was also a surprising surfeit of sweetness and colour, writes Becky Paskin

The-Cognac-Masters-2013-results
The Cognac Masters 2013 results

Like the best things in life, The Cognac Masters 2013 was a short but sweet competition, although in this case the sugar wasn’t necessarily welcome.

Among the relatively small line-up at this year’s tasting was a comprehensive variety of high quality Cognacs in numerous styles, reflecting the broad diversity available within the category. And while our judges were unreservedly impressed by so many products displaying depth, finesse and character, they were disappointed by how many were overly employing spirit caramel.

“At their best the Cognacs showed the quality and diversity that the category can offer, but there’s still a little too much manipulation and make-up being applied for my liking,” explained Richard Woodard, freelance wine and spirits writer and one-third of The Cognac Masters 2013 judging panel.

Joining him for the tasting at the cavernous 23 Grosvenor Square in London were spirits consultant Ed Bates and myself.

We began the day’s proceedings with a selection of VS Cognacs, all of which had starkly different characters that divided the judges. After much deliberation however, we agreed to award two Silver medals.

Naturally the next category we came to were the VSOPs, which again threw up such a variety of different styles that our judges were once more divided in terms of their preferences. “It’s surprising how much variety you can get with VSOP,” explained Woodard. “Within the samples, we saw both the masculine and feminine styles of Cognac, for want of a better way of explaining it. My favourite showed some lovely fruit, but also had oak influence to balance it out.”

One of the more successful rounds of the competition, the VSOPs walked away with one Silver, two Golds and one Master medal, which went to Cognac Bisquit VSOP.

The-Cognac-Masters-2013
There was a vast variety of colour and sweetness in The Cognac Masters 2013

But it was coming into the XOs that our panel began to detect heavy handed use of sugar and spirit caramel, with some samples displaying younger taste profiles than the colour would suggest, and others being overbearingly sweet.

“One or two had fallen into bad habits like being overly sugared, the wrong colour, or just too young,” Bates commented. “Saying that, there were some lovely Cognacs in this round showing some good terroir employment.” Woodard concurred: “I hope we’re not seeing here that stock issues are having an effect on the finished product, as we all know how expensive XO can be.”

Despite the flawed samples, we all agreed the round showed a strong diversity of styles, and awarded three Golds and a Master, the latter of which went to Rémy Martin XO Excellence. The Superior round was one of the most interesting of the day.

Despite there being just a handful of entries in this category, the judges awarded a Gold to Château de Triac Reservé de la Famille for its “good complexity”, and a Master to Cognac Prince Hubert de Polignac Extra, which was described as “a true Cognac,” displaying “finesse, balance and bags of character”.

Bates observed: “This round showed the very best and the very worst of Cognac in just a few glasses. Some were stupendous, gorgeous examples while one demonstrated artificial and lazy spirit making.”

The Cognac Masters 2013 attracted just one Vintage entry this year, but while it was a lonely Cognac, Hermitage 1988 Chez Richon Grande Champagne demonstrated the heights single vintages can attain. It walked away with a Gold medal for its “delicate, soft spices”.

The-Cognac-Masters-Judges
The Cognac Masters Judges: Becky Paskin, The Spirits Business; Ed Bates, spirits
consultant; Richard Woodard, freelance wine and spirits writer

The Prestige round, as the name suggests, recognises the very best products that no doubt carry hefty price tags to boot, but the entries here fiercely defended their worth with two Masters and a Gold medal awarded.

Woodard said: “All these Cognacs were of a generally high standard with one really standing out for me, with its interesting character, balance and complexity. For something in its price range it delivered in quality and character, and is certainly not just another expensive Cognac.”

Finally, rounding off the day was Cognac’s sister spirit Armagnac, which although slim in size, drew tremendous praise from the judges. “The Armagnac we tasted was a nice example of a well-balanced spirit with lots of character,” said Woodard.

By the end of The Cognac Masters 2013, the diversity of styles in the category had been clearly laid out before us, and although it was clear a number of products were in need of some improvement, the competition showed just how much the spirit has to offer.

“There were some stunning examples of how good Cognac can be that made me really delight in the spirit and in all its depth, complexity and diaphanous layers,” summated Bates.

The full list of The Cognac Masters 2013 results are on the following page.

VS
Company Product Name Medal
Ladoga Group Favraud VS Silver
Bisquit Dubouché et Cie Cognac Bisquit VS Silver

 

VSOP
Company Product Name Medal
Bisquit Dubouché et Cie Cognac Bisquit VSOP Master
Château de Triac (Great Whisky Co) Cognac Triffon VSOP Gold
Compagnie de Guyenne Meukew Icøne Cognac Gold
Ladoga Group Favraud VSOP Silver

 

XO
Company Product Name Medal
First Drinks Brands Rémy Martin XO Excellence Master
H Mounier SA Cognac Prince Hubert de Polignac XO Royal Gold
Cognac Delamain (Mentzendorff) Delamain Pale & Dry XO Gold
Compagnie de Guyenne Meukew XO Cognac Gold

 

SUPERIOR
Company Product Name Medal
H Mounier SA Cognac Prince Hubert de Polignac Extra Master
Château de Triac (Great Whisky Co) Château de Triac Reservé de la Famille Gold

 

VINTAGE
Company Product Name Medal
Brandyclassics Hermitage 1988 Chez Richon Grande Champagne Gold

 

PRESTIGE
Company Product Name Medal
Brandyclassics Hermitage Réaux 50 Year Old Vintage Cognac Master
H Mounier SA Cognac Prince Hubert de Polignac Knight Trunk Master
Château de Triac (Great Whisky Co) Château de Triac Reservé de la Famille Gold

 

ARMAGNAC
Company Product Name Medal
Armagnac Castarede Bas Armagnac XO 20yo Gold

 

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