I haven’t been drinking much wine lately. Of course there is a glass here and there, but I’ve overwhelmingly found myself forgoing the wine at dinner, and instead choosing a nightcap to slowly sip after our boys are in bed. I’ve been especially interested in bourbons, but when I was brought a sample of Seraphin XO Cognac, I was eager to try it. Cognac is something I have enjoyed in the past, but rarely think of drinking because I’ve only had it a couple of times. I am always looking to expand my horizons!
Before I discuss the Seraphin, I thought I’d give you some general information on cognac. Cognac is a type of brandy that is produced only in the Cognac region of western France. You will often see letters on bottles of cognac that are the unofficial grades used to market the spirit. These are:
VS Very Special or *** (three stars),where the youngest brandy is stored at least three years in cask, but on average a total of five years in cask.
VSOP Very Special ( or Superior) Old Pale, or Réserve, where the youngest brandy is stored at least four and a half years in cask, but the average wood age is much older.
XO Extra Old, Cordon Bleu Centeur and Antique, where the youngest brandy is stored at least six years and a half in cask, but average 20 years upwards.
These “grades” are not official cognac grades (they are appropriate for brandy) and are simply marketing labels used by certain high profile cognac brands. More traditional cognac houses do not use these grades.
In order to be called “Cognac,” the liquor must meet several strict guidelines. It must be made from at least 90% Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, or Colombard grapes. The remainder may consist of the grape varieties Folignan, Jurançon blanc, Meslier St-François, Montils, and Sémillon. Most cognac, however, is made only from Ugni Blanc. It must be distilled twice in copper pot stills and aged for a minimum of two years in French oak barrels that are sealed air-tight. The resultingeau-de-vie (”water of life”) is a colorless spirit that is approximately 70% alcohol. As cognac ages, a certain percentage of the spirt evaporates from the oak barrels, filling the air with a “heavenly” aroma. This is often called “the angel’s share” (the phrase is also used in whiskey production).
This is where Seraphin cognac gets its name. According to the cognac’s marketing information
The Seraphin are the highest order of angels, composed of fire, like the fire that draws the soul of the wine to produce cognac. They are filled with pure love, and their purpose in creation is to maintain harmony in the universe. A little of this sublime spirit has been bottled by Seraphin XO Cognac so that earthly beings can share it with the Angels”
Seraphin is made by French cognac producer Camus. It retails for around $59.99. The aroma reminded me of pipe tobacco. The product literature claims a nose of prune and hazelnut. The hazelnut I could see, but I didn’t get the prune at all. When I tasted it, the cognac entered my mouth really hot, but finished surprisingly smooth.