Monday 8 February 2021

Let's talk about Malternatives: Vallein Tercinier "Lot 65" Cognac 1965 - 2016 [Tasted #511]

With the exception of the odd Rum or Gin post, we haven't really covered the topic of "malternatives" much on the blog, but over on the @TimeforWhisky Instagram we've been discussing a few lately, mostly Rums, Cognacs and Armagnacs. 

(For those unfamiliar with the term, a "malternative" is basically a whisky alternative. Generally but not always a spirit, their interest comes in a large part from the significant rise in whisky prices and availability, and whisky drinkers seeking value elsewhere, often landing on Rums, Cognacs and Armagnacs, where some incredible value and amazing spirits can still be found.)

One of the first Cognacs I came across when starting to venture beyond whisky was Vallein Tercinier. I learned of them through Independent Bottler Maltbarn, who bottled a 1986 ("Lot 86") Vallein Tercinier at Cask Strength which I really enjoyed. I then started reading up on the house, and noticed Serge from WhiskyFun had some very, very good things to say, and that a few of the older vintages were said to have a tropical profile (pretty much my holy grail when it comes to whisky profiles). One in particular was referred to as being "between a 1966 Bowmore and a 1972 Caperdonich, only less expensive" which sealed the deal for me...I needed to seek some out.

So off to auction I went, where I picked up a few from the 1960s (and even one from the 1930s!), including this "Lot65" from 1965. I'd heard a few well-regarded people in whisky circles refer to the Lot65 as a "legendary bottle", so hopes were high. 

Lot65 actually comes in three different strengths (two at higher strength with a different label and a green wax stamp), but this is the lower-proof version @ 46% ABV (although believed to still be cask strength). One of the other versions scored a whopping 95 points over on WhiskyFun, whilst this same 46% bottle scored a very respectable 93 points, also on WhiskyFun. High praise indeed.

The bottle didn't last too long (shared with many good friends), but before it was emptied I had the chance to sit down and take some proper notes, and see if the hype was justified.

Cognac Vallein Tercinier "Lot 65" (46% ABV, ~50yo, Cognac, Grand Champagne, France)
Colour: Deep orange gold.

Nose: Instantly tropical - mango, guava, some strawberries and after a little time, passionfruit. There's an underlying red berry fruitiness that tells you this is Cognac rather than whisky, but it takes a backseat to the mango and passionfruit. Red grapes emerge too, as does just the slightest hint of spice after a while.

Palate: Follows the nose, with pineapple, blueberries and cherries dominating. The spice notes return (more of a fruit spice, think fruit cake), and there are some leather notes. Slight hints of tannins show, but nothing excessive, especially considering the 50yo age. Hugely complex with massive depth of flavour.

Finish: Long, spiced apple and mango, with red grapes lingering well after the glass has been emptied.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 94/100. In his tasting, Serge at mentioned "the profile would make me think of some Bowmore from the very same vintage" and I have to agree. A stunning Cognac.



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