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The Cognac Masters 2022 results

Cognac has enjoyed a real growth in interest in the past 12 months, with sales and value in the sector jumping significantly. We put the liquid to the test in our annual blind-tasting contest.

Cognac Masters
From VSOP to single cru, the Cognac Masters put top-quality bottlings to the test

Cognac has experienced a boom in the past year, with drinkers looking to stock their home bars with high‐end bottlings from heritage producers. In 2021, the French brandy’s value soared by 31%, and its volume sales jumped by 16%, reaching a total of 223.2 million bottles sold, according to the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac.

We set out to put this flourishing category to the taste test in The Cognac Masters 2022, gathering industry experts at London venue Abigail’s in Vinegar Yard to assess a multitude of entries. All samples were judged blind.

Chairing our first panel was Matt Chambers, co‐founder of the Whisky for Everyone blog and the North London Whisky Club. He was joined by: Bernadette Pamplin, freelance spirits writer and founder of the Under the Ginfluence blog; Evan Prousaefs, bar manager and assistant general manager of Los Mochis restaurant in Notting Hill; and Michael Fichtner, head bartender at the Coburg Bar at The Connaught hotel in Mayfair.

The second group of judges was led by Melita Kiely, editor of The Spirits Business, and comprised: Dimple Athavia, founder of All Things Drinks; Bryan Rodriguez, wine and spirits buyer at Harvey Nichols; and Anne Jones, drinks experience and event development, Waitrose.

The competition got off to a strong start with the No Age Statement – Super Premium flight, in which two Gold medals were awarded. One went to Rémy Martin Club, with its “soft, fruity and inviting nose” and “really rich palate”, and the other to Rémy Martin 1738 Accord Royal, with a “delicious palate with juicy dried fruits and warming wood spices”.

The Gold standard continued in the No Age Statement – Ultra Premium round with Rémy Martin Tercet. “Very drinkable, all in balance, and approachable with enough concentration and complexity,” Jones said.

Concluding the no‐age‐statement rounds, our judges turned their attention to VS – Premium Cognacs, finding Martell VS worthy of a Silver medal.

Caramel sweetness

Of the VS bottlings in the super‐premium price bracket, Honor VS Cognac stood out to our experts, earning a Gold medal for its “nicely balanced palate” with “some raisins, dates, gentle baking spices and caramel sweetness”, according to Chambers. Two Silver medallists were also discovered: Branson Cognac VS Phantom and Ferrand 1840 Original Formula.

The VS portion of the tasting finished with a flight of single cru bottlings, in which Courvoisier VS bagged a Gold medal for its “superbly elegant nose” and “creamy and fruity” palate.

“These are all mixing Cognacs,” said Rodriguez, talking about the VS flights overall. “They work for what they are. I’d like to see them embrace less caramel colouring and sweetness.”

Next our panellists moved on to VSOP – Premium expressions, and the first Master medallists of the day were revealed. Honor VSOP snapped up the top award thanks to its “clear notes of pear and wood both on the nose and palate”, along with its “lasting and expressive finish”.

A Master medal was also bestowed upon Cognac Frapin VSOP, which boasted a “rich and peachy nose” with “juicy raisins and sultanas and a drip of orange oil”.

The premium VSOP bracket produced six Gold winners, too. Among them were Bisquit & Dubouché VSOP, the recently revamped brand from Campari, with its “hints of ginger and spice”; and Ferrand 10 Générations, offering “savoury notes” and “pastry‐butter sweetness on the finish”.

In the VSOP – Super Premium flight, another Master winner was uncovered: Branson Cognac VSOP Royal. The bottling was hailed as “delicious, with caramel and toffee, rum and raisin, juicy sugary sultanas, milk chocolate and delicate wood spices”.

Branson Cognac continued its winning streak in this round as a Gold was handed to its “fantastic” VSOP Grande Champion expression. “Maybe a little disjointed at times rather than a seamless journey, but overall a great experience,” said Pamplin.

Battleborn Spirits’ Shay by Le Portier and Cognac Jean Fillioux’s Subtil & So VSOP also lived up to the Gold standard in the super‐premium VSOP flight.

A pair of Gold medallists made themselves known in our VSOP – Single Cru tasting. One was Courvoisier VSOP, with “elegant and layered fruitiness”; the other was A de Fussigny’s Borderies VSOP, with “notes of apple, pear and ginger and a lasting finish”.

Our judges were delighted to find another Master‐worthy bottling in the VSOP – Single Estate flight: Hermitage 10 Years Old Grande Champagne Cognac. “I thought this was fabulous,” Rodriguez enthused. “I can see myself putting it into a balloon glass and just nosing it, and relaxing for half an hour.”

Martell added to its medal collection in the XO – Premium round, as its “elegant and complex” Noblige Cognac secured a Gold. Moving on to the XO – Super Premium flight, and Naud Distillery’s Naud XO Cognac took a Gold medal. Our experts proceeded to a flight of XO – Ultra Premium Cognacs, the most expensive price bracket of the day.

Master winner Courvoisier XO was lauded as “beautifully balanced, with a long, soft, fruity finish”. Cognac Frapin XO VIP also took home a Master medal. “Love the sweet caramel and stewed fruits,” Kiely said, describing notes of “caramelised apple” and “tarte tatin”.

Meanwhile, Martell gained a pair of Gold medals – one for its XO bottling, with a “tropical” palate, and another for the “full‐bodied and rich” Cordon Bleu. “Forthright” Rémy Martin XO and “very sippable” Ferrand Sélection des Anges took Gold medals too.

L‐R, top row: Melita Kiely, Bernadette Pamplin, Dimple Athavia and Michael Fichtner. L‐R, bottom row: Bryan Rodriguez, Evan Prousaefs, Anne Jones and Matt Chambers

The final rounds of the blind tasting were loaded with Master winners. In the XO – Single Cru contingent, Cognac Frapin – Château Fontpinot XO took the highest accolade with its “gorgeous nose” and “well‐ integrated” palate. Hermitage 25 Years Old Grande Champagne Cognac received a Master in the XO – Single Estate flight.

Chambers was particularly impressed with this bottling: “Superbly expressive nose, with rancio, cedarwood and sandalwood, followed by deep, dark dried fruits, along with milk chocolate, vanilla and delicious juicy peach. Deep woody spices add wonderful earthy notes.”

Cognac Frapin earned another Master medal in the Vintage – Single Cru category for its Millésime 1995, acclaimed for its “thick, full‐bodied, almost oily” texture, “wonderful” length and “nice complexity”. “The palate is a dream,” Rodriguez said. Hermitage Cognac ensured proceedings ended on a high note, bringing in two Master medallists in the final round, Vintage – Single Estate.

The producer’s 1975 Grande Champagne Cognac impressed with its “roasted walnut and chocolate‐whip aroma” and “magnificent” palate, while its 1972 Petite Champagne Cognac was celebrated for its “well‐rounded combination of fruit, sweetness and spice”. “It is so nice to see the possibilities with these single cru or estate expressions,” Prousaefs said.

With all of the samples assessed, the judges tasted each Master medallist for a final time, before naming Cognac Frapin – Château Fontpinot XO as the Cognac Taste Master 2022.

“There were some wonderfully elegant Cognacs showcased in this year’s blind tasting, which continued to prove why this category is globally revered,” reflected Kiely.

“I was hugely impressed by the standard in the VSOP premium flight. Consumers can find some exceptionally well made expressions in this subcategory, and at a relatively accessible price point, too. That will only help to open up the category to more curious drinkers and elevate Cognac further.”


No Age Statement – Super Premium

Company Product Medal
E. Rémy Martin & Co Rémy Martin Club Gold
E. Rémy Martin & Co Rémy Martin 1738 Accord Royal Gold

No Age Statement – Ultra Premium

Company Product Medal
E. Rémy Martin & Co Rémy Martin Tercet Gold

VS – Premium

Company Product Medal
Martell & Co Martell VS Silver

VS – Super Premium

Company Product Medal
Honor Cognac Company Honor VS Cognac Gold
Sire Spirits Branson Cognac VS Phantom Silver
Maison Ferrand Ferrand 1840 Original Formula Silver

VS – Single Cru

Company Product Medal
Courvoisier Courvoisier VS Gold

VSOP – Premium

Company Product Medal
Honor Cognac Company Honor VSOP Cognac Master
Cognac Frapin Cognac Frapin VSOP Master
Campari America Bisquit & Dubouché VSOP Gold
E. Rémy Martin & Co Rémy Martin VSOP Gold
Martell & Co Martell Blue Swift Gold
Martell & Co Martell VSOP Gold
Prince Hubert de Polignac Cognac Polignac VSOP Gold
Maison Ferrand Ferrand 10 Générations Gold

VSOP – Super Premium

Company Product Medal
Sire Spirits Branson Cognac VSOP Royal Master
Battleborn Spirits Shay by Le Portier Gold
Cognac Jean Fillioux Subtil & So VSOP Gold
Sire Spirits Branson Cognac VSOP Grande Champion Gold
Naud Distillery Naud VSOP cognac Gold

VSOP – Single Cru

Company Product Medal
Courvoisier Courvoisier VSOP Gold
A de Fussigny Borderies VSOP Gold

VSOP – Single Estate

Company Product Medal
Hermitage Cognac Hermitage 10 Years Old Grande Champagne Cognac Master

XO – Premium

Company Product Medal
Martell & Co Martell Noblige Gold

XO – Super Premium

Company Product Medal
Naud Distillery Naud XO Cognac Gold

XO – Ultra Premium

Company Product Medal
Courvoisier Courvoisier XO Master
Cognac Frapin Cognac Frapin XO VIP Master
E. Rémy Martin & Co Rémy Martin XO Gold
Martell & Co Martell XO Gold
Martell & Co Martell Cordon Bleu Gold
Maison Ferrand Ferrand Sélection des Anges Gold
Sire Spirits Branson Cognac XO Silver

XO – Single Cru

Company Product Medal
Cognac Frapin Cognac Frapin – Château Fontpinot XO Master & Taste Master

XO – Single Estate

Company Product Medal
Hermitage Cognac Hermitage 25 Year Old Grande Champagne Cognac Master

Vintage – Single Cru

Company Product Medal
Cognac Frapin Cognac Frapin – Millésime 1995 Master

Vintage – Single Estate

Company Product Medal
Hermitage Cognac Hermitage 1975 Grande Champagne Cognac Master
Hermitage Cognac Hermitage 1972 Petite Champagne Cognac Master

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