Saturday 14 August 2021

New Australian independent bottler "Old Master Spirits" & their 1957 Cognac [Tasted #531 & #532]

Instagram can a wonderful place for whisky lovers. Sure, there's content galore, but more than that, it's a place for like-minded fans to meet, share stories / thoughts / tasting notes, and in many cases develop real-world connections.

I'd been following David (@whisky.nerd) on Instagram for a while, occasionally chatting here and there, recognising a similar appreciation for whisky as myself (especially those from Japan, Scotland and Australia), when he noticed that I'd recently posted about Cognac, and its growing interest from whisky lovers. David mentioned he was bottling a few Cognacs independently for the Aussie market, and would I be interested in reviewing them?

(Well of course!)

Old Master Spirits is the result, and their launch bottlings aren't your every day Cognacs, with both a 1957 (63yo) and 1984 (36yo) to be released next month. 

The Cognacs (the 1957 a Fins Bois, the 1984 a Grande Champagne) come from Jean Luc Pasquet who act as both a distillery/producer, and negociant (and saviour of old, rare Cognac casks from the hands of blenders). These two bottlings come from JLP in their latter capacity, and thanks to Old Master Spirits' desire to share the stories of not only the Cognacs but the people behind them, there's some great detail behind each one.

We know for example the 1957 was distilled by Jean Aubineau (who is still alive and releasing incredibly rare Cognac today) and the 1974 by Claude Hillaire, who together with his wife Arlette, took over his father's vineyards in the 1970s and now see their grandchildren continuing to tend to the vines and produce Cognac in Angeac-Champagne. 

There's more about each cognac on the Old Master Spirits website.- worth a read for anyone who might be interested.

Unlike whisky, Cognac over a certain age can be transferred from cask to glass demijohns, and can legally continue to "age" from then until bottling (for example, a 1900-distilled Cognac transferred from cask into demijohn in 1980, and bottled in 2000, could legally be called a 100yo Cognac, despite "only" spending 80 years in oak). 

I asked Deni Kay, co-owner of Old Master Spirits about this, and he mentioned both their Cognacs had spent their entire life in oak casks prior to bottling - noting it was an important factor for them. 

Also unlike whisky, Cognac can (and very often does) contain additives other than caramel colouring, including sugar and Boisé (a goo made by boiling wood chips....yes really). Plenty of commercial, big-name Cognacs will contain these, but enthusiast cognacs, often bottled as single casks, generally remain unadulterated. It goes without saying that these two Cognacs fall into the latter camp, having been bottled with no added colour/sugar/additives, at natural cask strength, without chill filtration and from single casks.

It's not hard to see that the team behind Old Master Spirits are true dedicated whisky / spirits lovers.

So, provenance, age, purity and branding, tick (not to mention extra kudos for starting a new independent bottler label in Australia), but how's the liquid? 

Let's find out....

Old Master Spirits 1957 Fins Bois Cognac Jean Luc Pasquet (47.6% ABV, 63yo, Saint Simeux, France, $429AUD)
Colour: Firey orange-gold.

Nose: Earthy stone fruits at first, with creme caramel and sweet toffee chews. With time things become more tropical - pineapple, green grapes and mango. There's a slightly grassy note, and after a while a slight sea saltiness. A very complex and enjoyable nose.

Palate: All the fruit from the nose carries through to the palate, with mature citrus fruit as well. There's an "old malt whisky" like note of wood polish and vintage cigars, though the oak is very much in balance and not overpowering - impressive considering the Cognac spent 63 years in it.

Finish: Pineapple and guava, peaches and a lingering sweetness.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. A very well-made, complex and delicious Cognac, with none of those "acetone" notes I've found on some Cognacs (even some near this age).

Old Master Spirits 1984 Grande Champagne Cognac Jean Luc Pasquet (53.8% ABV, 36yo, Angeac-Champagne, France, $229AUD)
Colour: Golden-orange copper.

Nose: Fruit-driven, with strawberries and cream, slight citrus spice, red jelly babies and hints of mint.

Palate: Sweeter than the 1957, with more confectionary notes - fairy floss ("cotton candy" for our American readers), pink jelly beans, and some slight wood polish notes. Raspberries follow, with 

Finish: Mint at first, then sweet oak, ripe apples, pears and a residual strawberry sweetness.

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 91/100. Not as complex as the 1957, but far from simple and absolutely delicious. A great contrast to the 1957.

(It should be noted that whilst Old Master Spirits provided generous samples of both Cognacs for this review, I enjoyed them so much I've ordered a bottle of each.)

Both Cognacs are being released on 1st Sept (7pm AEST) via Old Master Spirits' website, and due to the very limited quantity, are being released in 500mL bottle format (70 bottles of the 1957, 168 bottles of the 1984). Sign up to their mailing list for 24 hour presale access here.


No comments:

Post a Comment