Review: MARTELL XO – #24

Martell, the grandfather of cognacs, dates back to 1715 and is one of the four biggest houses.

Baked banana dipped in vanilla, cigar traces, citrus, roasted nuts and a variety of dark fruits is what you canMartell XO expect from this XO. It is much more on the fruity side compared to Hennessey XO but still has some masculine features in the form of spices, traces of cigars and an ash fade. It is more comparable to Martell Cordon Bleu I would say. Still while Cordon Bleu is a closer resemblance there is also a significant gap between these two. Martell XO is fruitier, spicier and not as soft as Cordon Bleu. Even though there is more depth to the XO I still prefer Cordon Bleu or, if I had to choose between other XO’s from the big houses, Hennessy XO.

VERDICT: It definitely deserved its silver medal at the IWSC last year (2012) but I still don’t think it can compete with Hennessey XO or even Martell Cordon Bleu.



Review: MAXIME TRIJOL Elegance – #29 hit

When referring to the quality of cognac young age is commonly associated with inferiority. This is not the case with Mamaxime_trijol_elegancexime Trijol Elegance however. With only 10 years on its back Elegance is the youngest in the family but has still managed to win gold in competitions like the International Spirts Challenge in London 2005. Although young, Elegance is a pure Grande Champagne cognac and is a worthy adversary to most V.S.O.P.s and even some XOs. The palate entry is led by a dry-yet-fruity medium body with delicate notes of under ripe pears. Creamy vanilla appears followed by a soft bite that could only be expected by a cognac of this age. There is surprisingly good complexity and depth something I find rare among younger cognacs. Comparing price to age I can see why some people would be put off. I must emphasize though that Elegance is of good quality and worth every penny spent.

VERDICT: When comparing this to the available range of V.S.O.P.s I find it slightly superior to most. That being said you can get a cheap XO (but not necessarily of better quality) for the price of a single Maxime Trijol Elegance.


Review: FRAPIN vsop – #17 hit

I solely purchased this Cognac because it, supposedly, tasted like ripe apples.  If it wasn’t for mfrapin_VSOPy high consumption of Calvados I might have been fooled. However I know apples when I see (drink) them and this is not it. Maybe, and this is a stretch, you can vaguely discern distant fruity flavors that could be mistaken as ripe apples. This necessitates both huge effort and imagination however and I am more inclined to write it off as a cocktail of spring grass, vanilla and citrus fruits. Apples or not this is still a very decent Cognac especially considering its young age. In my opinion it puts itself several ranks above standard V.S.O.P.s and could almost go as a XO, but only almost.

VERDICT: This is a very gentle and refreshing cognac that rises above most V.S.O.P.s out there. The alcoholic punch that often accommodates younger Cognacs is more or less absent which almost makes you believe this was a XO. Where the apples are hiding however is beyond me…


Review: CHABANNEAU XO – #70 hit

I had never heard about Chabanneau Cognac before I received this XO as a present some time ago. Then I realized that supposedly this XO was the best selling cognac in Europe. This really came as a surprise to me. Having tasted it now I believe its popularity is more due to the price rather than taste…CHABANNEAU _XO

Although not one of my favorites Chabanneau XO is still a very well crafted traditional Cognac. Traditional in the sense that you have the well known – and very welcomed – soft entry of toffee, vanilla and wood. Later toasted marshmallows appear on the palate together with even more vanilla. Altogether it is more sweet than oaky. There is not much to jump up and down about here because, as I mentioned, the flavor is more common than unique. Still it is a decent XO at not a too steep price.

VERDICT: Very smooth and traditional flavors, nothing surprising here. As a whole it is more on the sweet than oaky side. The low price also makes it attractive and I would recommend it if you just need a plain Cognac and are not out to impress anyone.


Review: MARTELL Cordon Bleu – #16 hit

Cordon Bleu Cognac is one of those cognacs that don’t stay in the glass for long. It sinks down so easily that before you know it you are pouring yourself a new glass.  It leaves you with mixed images of baby blankets, cigar smoke, and tropical islands in the pacific. Celebrating its 100 birthday last year (2012) with a bronze medal from IWSC Cordon Bleu is still going strong. PMartell-Cordon-Bleuersonally I prefer this as opposed to Martell’s XO. This is not because of the price, even though you can get almost two bottles Cordon Bleu for the price of one XO, but because it is so perfectly balanced and utterly smooth. This is truly fluid candy and yet it has subtle notes of oak and ash that appear at the end. The exotic fruits are overwhelming and even though Cordon Bleu might lack some complexity I am not complaining!

VERDICT: Cordon Bleu should be in any Cognac enthusiast’s collection. I guarantee you that this is as smooth eaux-de-vies gets. It has the perfect balance of sweet fruits and oak and you don’t have to spend a half paycheck to get it (you can find it around 100 bucks I reckon).


Review: REMY MARTIN XO Excellence – #22 hit

Supposedly the taste of Excellence this XO is a blend of over 300 cognacs whereof most come from the Grande Champagne region and have aged from 10 to 37 years. Among the four biggest houses – Hennessy, Courvoisier, Martell, Remy Martin – this is my least favorite. It is not that I don’t like it or find it inferior to VSOPs, I just don’t feel there is anything to write homRémy-Martin-XO-Excellencee about. Why this is I am not 100% sure but there is something about the taste I can’t put a finger on. In addition to this I find it slightly one-dimensional compared to the rest. As it enters you are welcomed by the traditional velvety flavors of dried fruit and exotic spices and as this might sound good there is nothing extraordinary about it. It desperately needs character in my opinion. The ridiculously high price also puts me off. When all that is said this XO is not bad, not at all. It is just not for me.

VERDICT: I guess the saying “all dressed up and nowhere to go” would perfectly fit the description of this cognac. Excellence it is not.


Review: HENNESSY XO – #8 hit

This Cognac takes you back to the 40’s. I picture myself sitting in an old chesterfield couch surrounded by a dense fog of cigar smoke and listening to the tunes of Billie Holiday while sipping on this very accomplished XO. It was originally created for the personal use of Mr. Maurice Hennessy and his family back in 1870 but rapidly spread to royal families throughout the world. This partly explains its high status among cognacs. Still its success cannot be credited solely to its history. The taste of this very mashennessey xoculine XO is truly unexceeded, a perfect blend of more than 100 eaux-de-vies. It is more complex than most cognacs and it is hard to describe the taste in just a few words. The palate entry is led by dried exotic fruits, vanilla and raisins that slowly fade into the background as more masculine notes emerge. Wet leather, roasted nuts, and especially white pepper appear towards the end. I am especially impressed by the creamy finish that leaves dark chocolate, caramel and oak lingering on the palate for several minutes. Without a doubt the best thing that has come out of France, liquor-wise that is.

VERDICT: Whether your devotion lies with the masculine or feminine Cognacs I urge you to try Hennessey XO. The floral notes are toned down while the oak grip is very noticeable. In line with the woodiness you have a very delicious bed of both nuts and leathery notes that, in my opinion, separates this Cognac from so many other generics.