Cocktails with… Courvoisier VSOP

Back in August of last year, I experienced my first Cognac tasting. Today, I want to take a look at Courvoisier VSOP. This is the next step up from their VS, which I tried last time, and is a blend of Cognacs between four and ten years old. In addition, the term “Fine Champagne” on the bottle indicates that at least half of the crus used to make it are from the Grande Champagne region specifically.

The label is decked out in a rather fine, decadent blue, and may be familiar to some as the bottle proudly presented on the desk of Ralph Fiennes’ character, Mallory, in the latest James Bond film, Skyfall. He and M discuss weighty matters over a glass; and, given how much I enjoyed M’s whisky choices from that film, I’m looking forward to trying this.

Courvoisier VSOP Cognac

On its own
Nose: Vibrant, sharp grape to start, like a very good, dry sherry, but, after a while, this softens. Additional notes of caramelised apple, like a sticky, freshly-made toffee apple, then come into play.
Taste: Smooth, but full of flavour, with dry grape at the start quickly opening up with lots of lighter floral notes, reminding me of summer days in the garden; hints of rose, with a slight leafiness and the subtle sweetness of apricot jam. A light finish of white wine, dried apricots and vanilla. A light, pleasant warmth on the finish.

Rich and complex start, with lots of apricot and white grape, but mixed in with a richness that you’d get from red grape,  raspberries and blackberries. A more complex, warming finish, with vanilla, oak and a fresh note of sherbety lemon that lifts the drink.

Lovely, inescapable sweet anise notes on the nose. Pleasantly not too sweet to taste, though, with a far more subtle note of soft liquorice to start, followed by a measured, but surprisingly flavourful interplay between the notes of the anise and rich, sweet fruit. Quite short overall, but an intense drink; perfect for mid-evening.

In Conclusion
Without a doubt, Courvoisier VSOP is currently my favourite Cognac. I love the combination of the subtlety of the start and the rich, but measured fruit notes afterwards (especially the apricot on the finish – lovely!). I  was also impressed at how it worked in cocktails, in particular the Sazerac. I think my favourite way to drink it is on it’s own, though; this may just be the Cognac that persuades me to drink it on a regular basis!
– Mrs. B.

Mrs. B’s Cognac Tasting

Today, I thought I’d try something a little bit different: Cognac. Cognac is one of those spirits that I’ve never tried much of, mostly because it just never seems to be particularly visible in bars and other drinking establishments. Fortunately, that’s less so at home, where DTS recently set up another of his wonderful blind tastings for me, with the aim of providing a short introduction to this undiscovered (for me) category.

Cognac is a type of brandy that must be produced using grapes from a particular region in France. The grapes are pressed, left to ferment for a couple of weeks, and the resultant spirit must be distilled at least twice (in copper pot stills) and then be aged for at least two years in French oak barrels.

Cognacs are labelled into grades, which are based on how long the spirit has been resting in barrels; like whisky, where multiple barrels have been blended together, this is based on the youngest Cognac going into the mix. It’s worth noting that there are often many older Cognacs in the blend; it’s just the that grade is based on its youngest.
– VS (“Very Special”*) – at least 2 years in barrels;
– VSOP (“Very Superior Old Pale”) – at least 4 years; and
– XO (“Extra Old”) – at least 6 years.

Being a blind tasting, I had no idea which of the three Cognacs were in which glass. Here were my thoughts.

Remy Martin VSOP

Nose: Fresh and light, but sharp, with lots of tart grape, followed by a “flash” of sweetness of the natural, fructose variety. Unfortunately, a hint of more artificial smelling alcohol did appear towards the end.
Taste: Initially, very woody – light, white wood, just like I’d expect from a whiskey. After some air has been allowed over the tongue, the grape appears, along with a spicy sweetness. There’s definitely a warmth to the finish, but it’s more of a fruity warmth that lasts for a good few minutes before fading out.



Martell VS

Nose: Less smooth than the first and less of a nose altogether, actually. Mostly consists of a varying hints of alcohol that range between woody and more akin to wood varnish.
Taste: Much smoother than expected, but with same good, gradually building warmth of the first. Again, this is rather woody and there’s distinctly fewer fruit notes. The finish is dry and ever-so-slightly bitter, before a woody, sweet note of liquorice at the very end. Lovely.


Courvoisier VS

Colour: I don’t tend to take colour into account, but this one is notably darker than the previous two – a deep, dark caramel colour.
Nose: Strong notes of sweet, charred wood and fruit: grape, pear and a tart note of apple juice at the end.
Taste: Very sweet to start, then the flavour suddenly appears: this one tastes much stronger, being more like a sensation than a taste at the start (like some strong bourbons). I actually found it quite tricky to identify any particular flavours to start with, but then grape and apple notes follow through from the nose, mixed with a sweet – again, almost bourbon-like – woodiness.

In Conclusion
The Martell VS was definitely my favourite of the three, although I prefered the nose of the Courvoisier VS. I was pleasantly surprised at how close they were to whisky, having always – naively – assumed that they were much more like wine in character. Given the combination of grape and wood flavours, I can imagine these being a particularly satisfying end to a good, home-cooked meal.

– Mrs. B.

* These acronyms can’t fail to remind me of some of the great acronyms used by Physicists, e.g. VLT (“Very Large Telescope”).

Courvoisier Cocktails – Drinks for the Diamond Jubilee

The Jubilee Bank Holiday is upon us and people will, no doubt, be holding their own celebrations across the country (or even the Commonwealth), but some would argue that a party just isn’t a party without a punch. Luckily, I was recently sent a punch recipe by Courvoisier, along with the ingredients to make it, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.

Punch is a great way to share a drink with friends, as well as being very quick and easy to make and – with a little preparation – serve at a party.

Courvoisier Punch (makes one punch bowl)
250ml Courvoisier VS
750ml lemonade
20 dashes of Angostura aromatic bitters

Courvoisier Punch (makes one glass)
50ml Courvoisier VS
150ml lemonade
Four dashes of Angostura aromatic bitters

Taste:As a punch should be, this is very refreshing. If you like a slightly tarter, still (not fizzy) drink, I found that, in addition to lemon soda, still lemonade also works well. The warm complexity of the Cognac works well with the sweet spiciness of the bitters and is a nod to the fact that, historically, Cognac was a very popular base for punches.

If you are making a punch bowl of this, I’d suggest freezing a mix of lemonade and bitters in a used, but clean, butter or margarine tub in preparation. By placing one of these in the punch bowl, you will ensure that your punch is cool, without being watered down by slowly melting ice.

If you prefer a more complicated cocktail (made just for you), then why not try:

Courvoisier Rendezvous
25ml Courvoisier VS
12.5ml Bols Apricot Liqueur
1 wedge fresh lime, squeezed
12.5ml elderflower cordial
75ml lemonade

Taste: This was another pleasant cooler, with a sweet combination of dusky floral notes from the elderflower and jammy fruitiness from the apricot brandy. The flavours also add depth and complexity to the drink. The Cognac adds a sophisticated, warm note at the end, with the lime and lemonade balancing out the richness and providing refreshment.

In Conclusion
Many folks may think that cognac is just for classic short drinks such as the Sidecar or the Stinger but they also can work really well in drinks like these punches and add a touch of regality to you jubilee weekend.

Courvoisier VS Cognac is available from  al major grocery stores – RRP £23.79 for 70cl