Top 10 award-winning CognacsBy Nicola Carruthers
Superior quality was in abundance at this year’s Cognac Masters competition. Here, we present 10 acclaimed bottlings from our latest blind tasting.
The Spirits Business held its annual Cognac Masters earlier this year, where an experienced panel of judges recognised the best bottlings in the business.
Looking across multiple categories, from VSOP Premium to XO Single Cru and Vintage, a wide range of Cognacs were awarded the top accolades of Master and Gold medals for their quality.
The individual scores of each entrant have not been revealed, however these were 10 of the highest rated medallists in the competition, in no particular order.
While some expressions carry a more premium price tag, our judges have given each Cognac listed here the seal of approval for offering excellent quality within their respective price categories.
Click through to the following pages to view the top award-winning Cognacs of 2020.
Cognac Frapin XO VIP
Price: £155 (US$192)
Cognac Frapin took home a Master medal in the XO – Single Cru flight after impressing judges with its XO VIP expression. The judges particularly liked how “expressive” the Cognac was.
“You can only get certain characteristics with a bit of extra age,” noted one judge. “Here we started to get some of that coming through. The subtle spiciness and dryness on the finish just elongated everything.”
The expression, enhanced with very old Cognacs from the family cellars, is harvested, distilled over lees and aged at the 240-hectare estate in Grande Champagne.
Camus Very Special Cognac
Price: €36.90 (US$41.32)
In the VS – Super Premium flight, Camus Very Special Cognac picked up a Gold.
One judge said: “The nose was great for such a young Cognac; you wouldn’t expect it. It was full‐bodied, and quite special for this age.”
Distilled with lees and aged only in small French oak barrels, Very Special is said to boast an extremely high concentration of esters.
The Vintage – Ultra Premium round saw a Master medal go to Martell XXO, which one judge described as a “staggering” Cognac.
Tasting notes for this particular expression included a “savoury and woody” nose with “dried fruits”, leading to “caramel, treacle sweetness and warming spices” on the palate.
Produced by French group Pernod Ricard, the bottling is a blend of 450 very old eaux-de-vie drawn from four terroirs in the Cognac region.
Hermitage 40 Years Old Grande Champagne Cognac
Price: £200 (US$247)
In the XO – Single Cru flight, Master-winning Hermitage 40 Years Old was said to taste “peachy, tropical” with hints of “boiled sweets” and “confected fruits”.
The expression is produced with Ugni Blanc grapes and aged for four decades.
Exsto Cognac Elixir
Exsto Cognac Elixir secured a Master medal in the No Age Statement – Ultra Premium round.
It was deemed worthy of the top accolade due to its “inviting nose” and flavours of “raisins, caramel, medjool dates, leather and wood polish”.
Elixir is made from a mixture of eight eaux-de-vie. Exsto is said to be the first Cognac created in partnership by a master blender and a sommelier.
Courvoisier Initiale Extra
Price: £270 (US$334)
A Master medal was bestowed upon Courvoisier Initiale Extra in the Vintage – Ultra Premium flight.
The panel was impressed by the expression’s aromas of “delicate wood spice and toasted oak” leading to flavours of “raisins, tropical fruits and toffee brittle” on the palate.
The Beam Suntory-owned Cognac is a blend of Grande Champagne and Borderies crus, starting from the age of 30 and maturing up to, and beyond the age of 50.
Martell Blue Swift
Price: £45 (US$61.80)
A Gold was awarded to Martell Blue Swift in the VSOP – Super Premium flight with its notes of “rich and warming spices” and “caramel apple”.
Martell Blue Swift is made of VSOP Cognac, matured in French oak casks and finished in Kentucky Bourbon casks. The Cognac-based spirit drink is described as “reinventing” the category.
The expression celebrates the brand’s historic ties with the US, with Martell being the first Cognac house to ship its barrels to America from 1783.
Merlet Brothers Blend Cognac
Price: £40.95 (US$53.63)
In the VSOP Premium leg, Gold medallist Merlet Brothers Blend Cognac was praised for having notes of “burnt caramel, popcorn” and “dried apple”.
Produced by liqueurs maker Merlet, the expression is a blend of eaux-de-vie aged between four and 10 years.
Cognac De Luze XO Fine Champagne
Maison Boinaud stormed to success in the XO – Super Premium round with its Gold medallist, De Luze XO Fine Champagne.
One member of the panel noted: “I really enjoyed the palate from start to finish. It was full‐bodied and slightly dry at the end.”
The expression is around 20 years old, with the oldest Cognac in the bottle being from the Boinaud Estate harvest of 1980.
Price: £80 (US$99)
After a tasting of XO – Premium expressions, the judges discovered a Gold in the form of Courvoisier XO.
Produced by Beam Suntory, Courvoisier XO Cognac is a combination of eaux-de-vie, aged from 11- to 25-years-old.