Ten award-winning Cognacs
With the Cognac category exploding lately, we’ve whittled the brands down to the top 10, featuring notes of wood spices and caramelised apple.
Few spirit categories have seen a boom quite like the one Cognac has experienced in the last 12 months. With 223 million bottles sold in 2021, which brands are the top of the crop?
Our seasoned tasters put some of the biggest players in the category to the test in the Cognac Masters 2022 blind tasting, and these are the bottles that went home with the highest accolades of the day.
Honor VSOP Cognac
Representing the VSOP Premium category was one of the first Master medal winners of the day. Thanks to its “clear notes of pear and wood both on the nose and palate”, along with its “lasting and expressive finish”, the Honor VSOP showed our tasters it hadn’t come to play. It brings a blend of Grande Champagne, Fins Bois, and Bons Bois eaux-de-vie, making this a Cognac that can be enjoyed neat, on the rocks, in a cocktail, or combined with a mixer.
Cognac Frapin VSOP
The second Master medal winner from the premium category was presented by the family-owned Cognac Frapin VSOP. Made entirely on the family’s single estate which includes 240 hectares of vines surrounding the Chateau de Fontpinot, this rich amber liquid boasts a “rich and peachy nose” with “juicy raisins and sultanas and a drip of orange oil”.
Branson Cognac VSOP Royal
Cranking things up a notch in the super premium category is the Branson Cognac VSOP Royal, a Master medal winner praised for its “delicious” taste, punctuated with “caramel and toffee, rum and raisin, juicy sugary sultanas, milk chocolate and delicate wood spices”. It is made with a prime blend of eaux-de-vie and aged for a minimum of four years before being presented in a striking red tear-shaped bottle; very fitting for a Cognac owned by none other than artist and entrepreneur Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson.
Hermitage 10 Years Old Grande Champagne Cognac
For those looking for a single estate Cognac to spend a relaxing evening with, the Hermitage 10YO Grande Champagne Cognac is the one to opt for, according to judge Bryan Rodriguez, wine and spirits buyer at Harvey Nichols.
He said: “I thought this was fabulous. I can see myself putting it into a balloon glass and just nosing it, and relaxing for half an hour.”
Having been double distilled on a small Charentais Alembic still to help concentrate the wine flavours during distillation, it offers notes of spice and coffee with a gentle underlying hint of pineapple.
Master winner Courvoisier XO was lauded as “beautifully balanced, with a long, soft, fruity finish”. The eaux-de-vie of this ultra-premium expression are matured in proprietary barrels using complex ageing techniques, resulting in the praised long finish.
The perfect accompaniment to a night in with a cheese board given the complex notes of candied fruit and caramel ability to stand up to the sharp, tangy and salty flavours of a powerful blue cheese.
Cognac Frapin XO VIP
It’s back to the family-owned Cognac Frapin for the XO VIP category, and the brand’s second Master medal of the tasting. Our judge Melita Kiely loved “the sweet caramel and stewed fruits,” of the expression, and picked up notes of “caramelised apple” and “tarte tatin.” A beautiful expression for a summer’s evening.
Cognac Frapin Château Fontpinot XO
Frapin really did clean up at this year’s blind tasting, not only scooping a total of four Masters medals, but also being named the judges’ Taste Master of the day for the “gorgeous nose” and “well integrated” palate of its XO Single Cru Château Fontpinot XO. The Cognac is made exclusively from grapes harvested, distilled, aged and bottled at the Château Fontpinot.
Its hand-crafted distillation over lee, plus its long ageing in dry cellars, give it the character it was so highly awarded for.
Rémy Martin 1738 Accord Royal
What was good enough for King Louis XV of France in 1738 was more than good enough for our judging panel, who awarded the Rémy Martin 1738 Accord Royal a Gold medal at this year’s tasting.
They praised it for its “delicious palate with juicy dried fruits and warming wood spices”. Its smoothness alongside subtle notes of vanilla and brioche make this particular Cognac the perfect base of a classic Sidecar cocktail.
Hermitage 1972 Petit Champagne Cognac and 1975 Grande Champagne Cognac
Both of the Masters medals awarded in the Vintage Single Estate category went to Hermitage, the first for its 1972 Petit Champagne Cognac and the second for its 1975 Grande Champagne Cognac expression.
Having both spent close to four decades ageing in Limousin oak casks, the judges were impressed with the 1975’s “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.”