Second and last producers of my small summer trip to Cognac: Michel Forgeron. I discovered this cognac on the website of a french cognac shop: it stroke me because they don't give a damn about 40%, stuff started at 43% minimum to go as high as 59% cask strength vintage bottles. I thought I had to go ask that guy about the 40% magic number...
And so I did, and happy I was !!! This could easily become my favourite cognac brand. And imo it is something american drinkers should absolutely taste. First things first: when you get there, it's a very simple but warm welcome in a family environment. Michel Forgeron called his son Chirstophe to guide us through a marathon tasting session. We have to choose between tasting from the bottles or directly getting our spirit form the barrels: barrels of course, so let's go to the main cellar (this makes me believe that there is no chill filtering on most of their cognacs, except maybe the VS that needs to be mixed). The tasting session will last 90 minutes, between talking and drinking: here there's no choosing, you came to taste, you taste the whole range !
I honestly can't remember the nuances of every expressions, but their cognac is extremely tasty, somewhat "fat", with hints of pastries, butter, and fascinating variations around lemony stuffs for the Vieille Réserve, for example. The only 40% cognac is their VS, one of the finest VS that I tried, a bit minty and very pale. The VSOP's better but still a bit young (10-12 years), it gets all qualitatively better with the Napoleon (both at 43%). The XO (25 years) was really not bad but I was struck by the Vieille Réserve, a blend of 30 to 40YO, quite lively and that lemon caracteristic that I need to investigate a bit more These expressions come at a very welcome 45%, I'm starting to find it a very nice ABV for brandy. The last (somewhat smaller) tank in line for the blendings contained a superb Hors d'Age, a 40 to 50YO cognac at 50% ABV, it just gave him a nice fire on the tongue that would completely disappear for the finish, you can't help but notice the power of that stuff and it remains very well composed all along. Mr Forgeron told me he would advise to sip it at around 13-14 degrees Celsius in order to have the alcohol a bit more under control on the nose. I didn't open my bottle of Bouju Très Vieux Brut de Fut yet, but this one was a serious competitor (same age and ABV), something to try for sure.
After this nice incursion into the "blending tanks", we had the chance to sip directly into some of the barrels to have a go at their "vintage" line: they can't label it vintage since for cognac the rules are EXTREMELY constraining, you can only call it a vintage if the barrel has remained sealed for the whole time, meaning no change of barrel whatsoever. Explaining thus why many call their vintages "Lot XX" where XX is the year of distillation (here they used the names Barrique XX). We started with a taste of a 1975 barrel, I believe the favourite of our guide, understandably so... Super smooth for his 52%, wide palet but at this point you'll forgive me, my tongue was not able to be more precise (and I'm not even an expert to begin with ), I'd say something fruitier than the rest, quite fresh... After which, we finished with a 1989 at 59% (real power that I believe could be quite nice with a good cigar) and an 84 with a nice personality that really seduced me. I'd have gotten myself a bottle but he didn't have any more bottle ready I took myself a 50cl bottle of Vieille Réserve and a 20cl of Hors d'Age (I just had to !).
Good thing is: the prices are very affordable (relative to the average for cognac of course). The XO is around 50€, the Vieille Réserve at 70€ and the Hors d'Age at 136€. Vintages are sold in 50cl beautiful bottles starting at 55€ for the 89 and 60€ for the 84. The whole website has translation in english and Christophe Forgeron worked in the USA so I believe he's quite able to communicate in english. They ship to Europe easily, even on other continents except for difficult places like the USA (seems the US customs are particulary difficult to penetrate, and they don't have an official exporter to the States). Other good news for me: the guy's coming to Milan at the end of the year for professional reasons and can bring me a bottle of 1984 cask strength vintage
During the visit we talked about a lot of things. First thing, asking about the ubiquitous 40% ABV spirits, the answer was short and sharp: "It's the legal minimum...". And given that producers are taxed 22€ per liter of pure alcohol produced, they have a tendency to maximize the volumes (plus growing demand from China and stuff). Talking about the big houses I got pretty much the same comment as with Mr Peyrot (same opinion about their XOs...) but he didn't believe that small producers would disappear on the long term: here everybody sells a part of the production to the big four, and independent small producers are better for them because they work harder than their own 40-hours-a-week employees would if the vines were theirs...
He also said they had to struggle to change the views of french customers on cognac and how it could be drunk. There seems to be a trend to go back to cask strengths stuff anyway, given that there are many whisky consumers in France that are used to drinking cask strengths bottlings (they just have to convince them to buy a bit of cognac instead ). I also forgot: the cepage used is ugni-blanc; they started to plant folle blanche (4 hectares long term on their 25 hectares domain) experimenting a bit but they don't sell anything including FB right now. It's actually very difficult to experiment as much as they'd like to (and in a consistent way) when you don't have a LOT of volume.
Overall feeling: awesome products, I'll be back for more, awesome people, I like to support this kind of producer and I hope they will always be around ! And looking a bit around, it's true that you can actually find cask strength cognacs and experimentations here and there: except the well known Bouju, there's Grosperrin (but really too expensive for me), Vallein Tercinier, Michel Forgeron... And a few old bottles like Francois Peyrot Héritage for example, it makes for nice investigations, so let's not complain too much people
Here you can talk about the experiences with the different brands and/or types of Cognac.
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- Tasting session, blends from VS to Hors d'Age
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- The shop
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- Big tanks for making the blends.
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