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Everyday Cognac, Armagnac, Brandy, etc.


mrbigjas
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The Solera method actually originated with Brandy de Jerez, and is in actual use there.

Cognac and Bas-Armagnac are "statically" aged, in other words they are single barrel spirits which live out their life in that barrel until they are disgorged into bottles. Of course you get derivative value-priced blended products from these Cognac houses but Cognac in the purest sense is a statically aged, unblended product.

Solera, on the other hand, is a fractional system of aging, where you have a stack of barrels, and every few months a portion of the spirit from the barrels on top is moved into the barrel directly underneath it, and so on. Thus the end product you get is very consistent and you have very old brandies mixed with newer ones.

http://www.egullet.org/tdg.cgi?pg=ARTICLE-perlowbrandy

A Solera Gran Reserva is similar to the distinction of XO (5 years aged minimum) in Cognac-speak -- the minimum age permitted by the Consejo de Brandy de Jerez in order to be labeled a SGR is 3 years but in reality they are aged for much, much longer.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I've said it before in this forum and will probably say it again.

One of the best value for dollars purchases you can make in distilled aged grape spirits is Germain-Robin's Fine Alembic Brandy.

Does anyone know of a store in the DC/MD area that carries the Fine Alambic Brandy? Pearson's will order it, but doesn't have it in stock. TIA.

"My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne." John Maynard Keynes

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  • 2 weeks later...

Courtesy of MatthewB, how about De Luze VS, from Rémy?

Edited by Alex (log)

"There is no sincerer love than the love of food."  -George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, Act 1

 

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but that's not what this is about.  what i'm interested is in an 'everyday' cognac, as much as there can be an everyday something in a liquor category where the most basic of the basic costs $25 a bottle. 

i'm looking for the kind of thing where you can use it to flame your steak au poivre without feeling like you're throwing your wallet in the garbage disposal. 

but i'm also looking for the kind of thing where if you felt like a cognac after dinner, you could drink it without feeling like you were swilling the cognac equivalent of bankers club.

does such a thing exist?  is there a cognac version of eagle rare 10 year bourbon--damn good sippin' booze that's still reasonably priced enough to use in mixed drinks, cooking, and the like?

I second Jason's suggestion: Pierre Ferrand Ambre. The best everyday cognac I've ever come across. I've found it cheaper than the $40 figure Jason mentioned, although I don't know if ever quite as cheap as the $25 you are asking for. Maybe $32 or $33 for 750ml.

Jon Lurie, aka "jhlurie"

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Has anyone had Claude Chatelier VSOP? It's on sale near me for $14.99 (reg. $18.99) and both prices seem low for a VSOP, but I've little experience with Cognac :unsure:.

Thanks very much,

Kevin

DarkSide Member #005-03-07-06

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Has anyone had Claude Chatelier VSOP?  It's on sale near me for $14.99 (reg. $18.99) and both prices seem low for a VSOP, but I've little experience with Cognac :unsure:.

Thanks very much,

Kevin

Heck - for that price it's worth checking out. At worst, you can have a lot of flambeed food in your future. You do enjoy Steak Diane and Cherries Jubilee dontcha? :biggrin:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Has anyone had Claude Chatelier VSOP?  It's on sale near me for $14.99 (reg. 18.99) and both prices seem low for a VSOP, but I've little experience with Cognac :unsure:.

Thanks very much,

Kevin

Heck - for that price it's worth checking out. At worst, you can have a lot of flambeed food in your future. You do enjoy Steak Diane and Cherries Jubilee dontcha? :biggrin:

Thanks Katie. I was thinking along those lines but was a little leery as it seemed TOO cheap. I'll give it a go and report back. Can I flame Comstock cherry pie filling for an ersatz Jubilee :laugh:

Kevin

DarkSide Member #005-03-07-06

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Has anyone had Claude Chatelier VSOP?  It's on sale near me for $14.99 (reg. 18.99) and both prices seem low for a VSOP, but I've little experience with Cognac :unsure:.

Thanks very much,

Kevin

Heck - for that price it's worth checking out. At worst, you can have a lot of flambeed food in your future. You do enjoy Steak Diane and Cherries Jubilee dontcha? :biggrin:

Thanks Katie. I was thinking along those lines but was a little leery as it seemed TOO cheap. I'll give it a go and report back. Can I flame Comstock cherry pie filling for an ersatz Jubilee :laugh:

Kevin

I believe that's called Trailer Park Jubilee. :laugh:

Steak Diane is pretty damned tasty. And you can sprinkle some cognac on the salmon if you're making gravlax. There's got to be dozens of ways to use it up if it isn't to your taste for drinking straight.

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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I bought a bottle of the Claude Chatelier VSOP and I think it's pretty good. As I said, I've not much experiance with Cognac, but I've has some that were very smooth and easy to sip, and some that made me gasp and cough.

I wouldn't think for a minute that is comparable to a 'name brand' VSOP that goes for $60 or $70, but for a good everyday Cognac (and at a very reasonable price) this would be good for both cooking and drinking.

Now off to buy sirlions and cherry pie filling :laugh:.

Thanks,

Kevin

DarkSide Member #005-03-07-06

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  • 1 month later...
Pierre Ferrand Ambre ($40)

I haven't had a chance to compare this yet to any of the Germain-Robin products head to head; but as a $30-$40 spirit this is a lovely complex entry.

Some white pepper and heat in the initial taste yet mellow and complex going down.

I keep coming back to the empty glass, appreciating the aroma, and thinking, "Wow!".

This is really beautiful stuff.

edit - fix repetitive usage.

Edited by eje (log)

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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Not a Cognac but I think some of the Cerbois non-vintage Bas Armangac are in the range you are looking for. The vintage Cerbois are superb though they are in a different price range.

The Pierre Ferrand is a wonderfull suggestion also.

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  • 7 months later...

Admin: threads merged.

I'm looking for suggestions for a decent mixing brandy that doesn't cost too much. I have several cognacs that I enjoy quite a bit, but they tend to be far too expensive to mix into (most) cocktails, especially on an everyday basis.

The catch is that I live in Washington state, which has state-run liquor stores and which imposes unfortunately-high taxes on most spirits. I can order from out of state, of course, or pick up something on a trip, but I really want a regular local option. My goal is to find something no more than $25/btl.

Here's a list of everything from the state liquor control board's inventory that matches "brandy" or "cognac" (excluding flavored brandies, non-grape eau de vies, and the like), and that is less than US$25 per 750mL.

Price -- Brand

$24.90 -- ARARAT 3 STAR 3 YR BRANDY

$19.65 -- CHRISTIAN BROS XO RARE RES BRANDY

$19.95 -- FELIPE II BRANDY

$24.95 -- PESHTERSKA BRANDY

$16.40 -- ST REMY XO NAPOLEON BRANDY

$12.95 -- VENDOME VSOP BRANDY

$15.70 -- ANSAC VS COGNAC

$23.95 -- CHALFONTE VSOP COGNAC

$20.95 -- GAUTIER VSOP COGNAC

Any obvious winners in the group? Anything to specifically avoid?

-Dayne aka TallDrinkOfWater

###

"Let's get down to business. For the gin connoisseur, a Martini garnish varies by his or her mood. Need a little get-up-and-go?---lemon twist. Wednesday night and had a half-tough day at the office?---olive. Found out you're gonna have group sex with Gwen Stefani and Scarlett Johansson at midnight?---pour yourself a pickled onion Gibson Martini at 8:00, sharp." - Lonnie Bruner, DC Drinks

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  • 1 month later...

I'm just starting out with cocktails and I've been flipping through The Joy Of Mixology marking off drinks I'd like to try. Many of my choices call for brandy, but I have no knowledge of brandies in any way. Could someone suggest a specific brand or two that are suitable for all those drinks that simply call for brandy? I don't mind paying for quality, especially if it's available in a 375ml.

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A decent VS grade Cognac should cover the bases nicely, you really can't go too wrong with Hennessey in my book. While I don't mind Covoursier for sipping, I don't think it's a very good mixer. I have heard of a brand called Chalfonte whose VSOP is supposed to be a good bottling at a good price, but I haven't had any luck finding it. The only problem with Hennessey is that a fifth will typically run you upwards of $25, which can turn Cognac cocktails into special occasion affairs.

Now Hennessery will work fine for anything from an Alexander or even a tiki drink all the way up to a Sidecar, though I think most would agree that it is more or less wasted in these first two instances, as much as it is required to have it (or something of comparable quality) for the Sidecar. For drinks where the quality of the brandy being used is not paramount, an inexpensive American (or Spanish or whatever) brandy should do nicely, E&J VSOP has done well for me at about $10/fifth.

Hope this helps!

-Andy

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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I have to differ on the E&J VSOP... I picked up a bottle of that for $8 a while back with the idea of trying it for brandy cocktails. It was horrible in sidecars and stingers. Too woody, too sweet, no structure at all. I'd avoid the E&J.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

Learn to brew beer with my eGCI course

Chris Holst, Attorney-at-Lunch

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For drinks where the quality of the brandy being used is not paramount, an inexpensive American (or Spanish or whatever) brandy should do nicely, E&J VSOP has done well for me at about $10/fifth.

Note that I specify E&J for things that are not Sidecars. I would never really bother making a Sidecar (or a Stinger, on the rare occasion I drink one) with anything but the best stuff I could afford. If I don't feel like using the good stuff, I drink something else.

-Andy

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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I've actually been pretty happy with the Korbel VSOP Brandy I picked up.

I originally picked it up as a sort of joke, when I was about to visit Wisconsin.

Korbel is the number one brand in the Brandy Belt.

I was surprised how good it is in cocktails (90 Proof! Woo!).

You certainly won't mistake it for Cognac or probably be drinking it in a snifter after dinner. All the same, it's a decent spirit.

Do not confuse it with the Korbel XS, though. That's a flavored brandy.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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The Chalfonte V.S.O.P is my "house" Cognac for mixing and there's about a half bottle in my cabinet right now. Perfectly acceptable for mixing and even for sipping neat, although clearly not of the caliber of stuff that's twice the price. It costs $19.89 here in PA.

The E&J is extremely woody. In fact, I've seen it used diluted with water as a sensory example of what the effect of oak barrels smell and taste like in one of my friend Marnie Old's wine seminars. It's a damned fine example of that.

The E&J works better as a secondary ingredient in a mixed drink. Or as part of the solution to macerate sangria fruit in, for example. But in the finished product, I'd surely use a low level Spanish Brandy like El Presidente to get that real Iberian flavor, instead of that over-wooded California flavor we hate so much in cheap Chardonnay. It's like French kissing Pinocchio. :rolleyes:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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Wow well maybe it's not acceptable then. I never used it in things where the brandy flavor was very prominent or articulated so I guess I never noticed. I just happened to try it once and it worked for what I was doing at the time. I don't have any right now, still trying to use up the Chatelier that I don't care much for, but I suppose I won't be going back to it. Not that I make many of those types of drinks anyway. Use more Cognac and Calvados now. Hell, I probably use more Pisco than American/well brandy now.

-Andy

Andy Arrington

Journeyman Drinksmith

Twitter--@LoneStarBarman

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Thanks for the replies on my question folks. That gives me a much better idea of what to get.

PS: I have a bottle (well half a bottle :-) ) of Pierre Ferrand Reserve, Grande Champagne- something that is pretty darn tasty straight up. Is this something "good enough for a Sidecar?" Or too good for some other generic drinks? Granted, using it isn't wasting it - I'm more worried about trying a Sidecar for the first time and thinking it's horrible because I used the wrong liquor. Even worse would be that such a mistake might cause me to never order or make a good Sidecar for the rest of my life.

Edited by Scott S (log)
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The Chalfonte V.S.O.P is my "house" Cognac for mixing and there's about a half bottle in my cabinet right now.  Perfectly acceptable for mixing and even for sipping neat, although clearly not of the caliber of stuff that's twice the price.  It costs $19.89 here in PA.

ditto here. well, actually not--i ran out and am now drinking something else that was about $15 for the VSOP, at canal's in jersey. and lemme tell ya it tastes it, too. i'll be mixing the rest of it and flaming things with it, and it's back to chalfont for cheap cognac for me.

(on the bright side i got a bottle of ferrand pineau des charentes while i was there, which i've never seen here in PA.)

edited to say it's chateau des plassons, the one i'm drinking now.

Edited by mrbigjas (log)
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[...]

PS: I have a bottle (well half a bottle :-) ) of Pierre Ferrand Reserve, Grande Champagne- something that is pretty darn tasty straight up. Is this something "good enough for a Sidecar?" Or too good for some other generic drinks? Granted, using it isn't wasting it - I'm more worried about trying a Sidecar for the first time and thinking it's horrible because I used the wrong liquor. Even worse would be that such a mistake might cause me to never order or make a good Sidecar for the rest of my life.

To me, the Pierre Ferrand Reserve is a little on the expensive/refined side for mixed drinks. I've got a bottle of the Ambre, and honestly, think I would be losing out some of the nicer elements of that Cognac by mixing it with lemon juice and Cointreau.

Beyond a certain point, nicer spirits don't necessarily make better drinks.

Because older spirits are often more mellow, the bite of a younger spirit often works better in a mixed drink or cocktail.

On the other hand, if it's just gathering dust in the closet, and you can't imagine finishing the bottle inside of the next 10 years, I'm sure it would make a pretty tasty Sidecar, Old-Fashioned, or Sazerac.

---

Erik Ellestad

If the ocean was whiskey and I was a duck...

Bernal Heights, SF, CA

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