Germain Robin blends

Reviews and descriptions about anything other than Cognac/Armagnac can be placed in this forum.
numen
VSOP-Cognac
VSOP-Cognac
Posts: 629
Joined: Fri Jul 27, 2012 1:52 am

Germain Robin blends

Postby numen » Tue Aug 14, 2012 11:03 pm

Well, I did the four single varietals yesterday, and my ordering of them was about the same as before, though the scores were a little different and I forgot exactly how they finished (it had been some time since I had had them). So, why not open up the three blends that I've got and see what's shaking?

G-R 2.0.jpg
G-R 2.0.jpg (116.78 KiB) Viewed 4106 times


First up: The Germain-Robin XO. From my memory, I thought that this was too apple-heavy (presumably from the Pinot Noir), and so on. Was memory right?

Nose: immediately on candied apples, with a twist of granny smith. there's caramel (not the additive), and the oxidative sherry [all from the Pinot Noir]. very trace amounts of cinnamon (soft) and cardomom.

Palate: a bit of a splash! bolder than I remember. The Pinot definitely dominates, but with more grip than the single varietal. [I assume that this is younger than the 17 year old single barrel] I forgot how much I enjoy this. Spirited and a little feisty here. I like it. Seems to be some of the white grape varieties in there, too, with the slight melon/apricot/tangerine.

Finish: Medium length. Bitter apple core with a bit of burned custard with torched turbinado sugar (not a full creme brulee, but the elements piece-meal). Really very enjoyable. Not as unique as the Muscat, but altogether well done. 93 points (Nose: 23, Palate: 24, Finish: 23, Balance: 23)

---

Next I went to the Small Batch no 1. From experience, this was the last bottle that I had from G-R. I recall liking it, but thinking that it was too much in soft/weak realm, and probably strongly shaped my perception of G-R in general. Here we go!

Nose: Like a fruit salad that's heavy on cantaloupe and red apple peels, and then jumbled all together. There aroma is rather light and quiet; I'm really sniffing hard to get something. After some vigorous, wine-glass type stirring, I also get some banana foster. Interesting!

Palate: Distinctly sweeter on entry, and on caramel. Like having the most perfectly smooth and very slightly cooler than room temperature fruit smoothie puress with honeydew and tangerine. Still, at the tip of my tongue (literally, the tip), I can't help shake the feeling that there's some sweet, thickened water.

Finish: Muddle of the fruit, some rind-like bitterness to bring it back from the sweetness. 88/9 points (Nose: 22, Palate: 20/1, Finish: 23, Balance: 23)

---

Finally, Anno Domini 2008. I haven't had any for a while. I remember absolutely going nuts over it, but I also recall it being heavy on the Pinot Noir, and that's been the varietal that suits me least (as a single barrel, at any rate). How does memory stand up?

Nose: caramel (super dense and deliciously high quality), stewing apples for an apple crumble - the notes seem apply, but they're actually subdued a bit and less distinct than the hot, syrupy thick deliciousness that the baking has with all the juices condensing with the baked crust thrown in. cinnamon infused moist baked goods, dripping with that hot syrup from the apple. It's a bit like walking into the kitchen of a top notch bakery, and inhaling deeply before binging on everything in sight. The aroma strength here isn't that 'in your face,' but it has a solid presence.

Palate: See above, but now it's all happening in your mouth.

Finish: What? Over already? I want more! It's a medium finish. I want to drink the bottle. 99 points (Nose: obvious 25, Palate: easy 25, Finish: 24, Balance: 25).

My lesson for me in all this is that it's good to keep tasting my stuff and taking notes from time to time lest some random opinion or view of the spirit has a greater impact on my view than the spirit itself. I still have probably scored down some of the G-R from my first round scoring them, having been rather disappointed by the length and intensity of the finish. The stuff, with the exception maybe of the Anno Domini, is heavy, heavy on the fruit, if not all fruit. The quality is incredible. I think that I remember being a bit down on fruit-only drinks, preferring things that have more than that (spices, woods, etc), which also was a reason why I veered from these for so long. It's nice to sort of re-discover them and their quality. In other news, despite the high fill on that bottle of Anno Domini, I have doubts about it surviving too many more tasting sessions without being incidentally consumed with surprising alacrity.

sailor22
VSOP-Cognac
VSOP-Cognac
Posts: 37
Joined: Sat Aug 11, 2012 11:56 pm

Re: Germain Robin blends

Postby sailor22 » Wed Aug 15, 2012 12:43 pm

Great notes again. Your on a roll!

Interesting point about the fruit heavy character across the board and only the AD is showing that volume of caramel.

I actually cold called GR a few years ago and was able to talk with the Germain half of GR. Nice guy without pretensions or silly salesmanship. He said he didn't think anything he made, with the possible exception of Old Havana (their cigar pairing Brandy) would likely impress a whiskey drinker unless they were willing to accept the fundamental change from barrel flavors to fruit flavors.

numen
VSOP-Cognac
VSOP-Cognac
Posts: 629
Joined: Fri Jul 27, 2012 1:52 am

Re: Germain Robin blends

Postby numen » Wed Aug 15, 2012 9:31 pm

Thanks! Very interesting on the call. What inspired you to contact them? He's definitely right regarding the fruit, though it's still far more fruit centric than, I think, even most cognacs are, which typically have a more spirity quality, and maybe a bit of spice and some amount of wood or something. It's unique and, by and large, I think that you have to be in a mood for the fruit.

I'm not sure why the AD shows the most caramel, but it's not as in the additive (which was overwhelming in a few big-house cognacs) - it's more like the super rich, brown syrupy goodness from some wood. It was more on baked goods caramel than additive. Do you have any theories for it? I'm at a loss. Maybe I'll taste more tonight to see whether I can pinpoint it a little more :mrgreen:

It's a tough life, but somebody's got to, right?

BSinTX
VSOP-Cognac
VSOP-Cognac
Posts: 494
Joined: Tue Jul 26, 2011 2:52 am

Re: Germain Robin blends

Postby BSinTX » Wed Aug 15, 2012 10:30 pm

Thanks for the great tasting notes. The only blends I have tried from G-R are the Coast Road Reserve and the Old Havana. Both were pretty darned good with the Old Havana winning out for me as it is a bit more rough around the edges (the only way I can describe it.) I'll have to ask Jay at the Party Source to see if he can get some other G-R products. They seem to have sold all of the yellow labeled bottles pretty darned quickly.

As G-R hail from France, I wonder if they are adding the usual additives; they aren't making Bourbon, so there is no law to prevent adding caramel or sugar and nothing says they have to state so if they were. I would certainly find it odd as they are the importers of Maison Surrenne who are more than happy to announce their zero additive products. It could have everything to do with using wine good enough for the table to make their products. I make no claims of being able to tell if there are additives simply by the aroma or taste, though I tend to have my own suspicions (coughpierreferrandreservecough.)

numen
VSOP-Cognac
VSOP-Cognac
Posts: 629
Joined: Fri Jul 27, 2012 1:52 am

Re: Germain Robin blends

Postby numen » Wed Aug 15, 2012 10:47 pm

Actually, I was one of the people who snatched up bottles from The Party Source, especially the Muscat, which they were selling at some absurdly low price. :oops:

I think that G-R are rather open about what they add, especially in terms of water and sugar. The Small Batch no. 1 is exceptionally honest. Right on the label:

"Cellared in Limousin oak. Descent to bottling proof with filtered rainwater. Bottled October 5th, 2011. Age of youngest component 17 years.

Blend Tag
Austin Ranch 1990 Pinot Noir brandy 18.9%
Carneros 1994 Pinot Noir brandy 11.1%
Hildreth Ranch 1983 Colombard brandy 67.0%
Faibles brandy distilled in 1987 2.0%
invert sugar 1.0%"

In terms of additives, they clearly do add water and sugar, though, to most, water isn't an additive (just to soften or bring down the proof). There is sugar, which, though not much, does maybe add a bit to the sweet fruitiness of it.

---

I do find it rather interesting that the light fruit/floral dominant style of G-R is also pretty similar to what's in MS. Different fruits are apparent, but from the VSOP (Ancienne) to the XO [excepting the Borderies], things were very light fruit. I admit to preferring the dark, stone fruits (prune) for regular tasting.

I've tasted the 1946 and Tonneau no 1, both of which are in a very different realm from the regular line - much more full bodied and muscular. I'd be happy to do either of those for my next notes, though I was also thinking of doing the Bouju Tres Vieux (40%) soon anyway, as I think about stocking up on a few more bottles.

Martell XO is very heavy on the caramel and boise. It was one of my first XOs, and I was stunned how easy it was to detect. Ditto on the highly touted Marie Duffau armagnac. In that vein, does the taste bother you, or can you enjoy a drink even when the additives are obvious? I found the Martell still very good - the caramel seemed to be in the supporting role. In the Marie Duffau, it was much more dominant. Though I liked the Martell, I don't think that I'd get it again.

sailor22
VSOP-Cognac
VSOP-Cognac
Posts: 37
Joined: Sat Aug 11, 2012 11:56 pm

Re: Germain Robin blends

Postby sailor22 » Thu Aug 16, 2012 2:01 am

Isn't G-R a California product? I don't think it is from France.

As an interesting footnote the Robin half is from an old Coganc producing family if I'm not mistaken. Nicholas Faith in his book "Cognac" says the French Robin family had some difficulties after WWll and stopped producing in France.

I'll have to ask Jay at the Party Source to see if he can get some other G-R products. They seem to have sold all of the yellow labeled bottles pretty darned quickly.


I have read that they stopped bottling Old Havana in 2001. There is a new release (they said they found a barrel that had been overlooked) so this new release is about 6 or 7 years older than the original. Naturally it's more expensive. If Jay can get a couple of bottles of the new juice at a decent price I would be interested.

numen
VSOP-Cognac
VSOP-Cognac
Posts: 629
Joined: Fri Jul 27, 2012 1:52 am

Re: Germain Robin blends

Postby numen » Thu Aug 16, 2012 2:23 am

Yep, it's a California product, which is why they can use some of the various grapes (otherwise prohibited by BNIC). They make it in the style of cognac, but it's American brandy. The Robin half of the equation left a few years ago, I think, and they brought in a new cellarmaster to the operation.

BSinTX
VSOP-Cognac
VSOP-Cognac
Posts: 494
Joined: Tue Jul 26, 2011 2:52 am

Re: Germain Robin blends

Postby BSinTX » Thu Aug 16, 2012 3:04 am

You are correct, G-R is produced in California. What I meant was that one of them comes from and supposedly was raised in Cognac production (I am going according to a website posting a long while back.) I think it's great that they came out here to produce what they couldn't make in Cognac.

My problem with additives is that I am not being informed of their use. I will gladly claim complete ignorance when it comes to the mindset of Cognac producers, but if I am going to pay upwords of $100 per bottle, I expect the quality to be superior to that of VS (not just older.) I can care less what they add to VS; I don't touch the stuff and at the low price, I am okay with some sugar to reduce the kerosene taste, I am okay with a little (or a lot) of caramel to reduce the "bottle of urine" color, or boise to pretend that it was aged in a barrel that should have otherwise been burned for heat several years back. Because of my ignorance, I don't know if adding some sugar water is typical for a 20yo bottling or whether it's done due to the incompetence of the cellar master. I am grateful that the folks at G-R have the integrity to list everything including the sugar used in their products. This makes me a more informed consumer.

As it goes for tasting additives, I can only think of two or three times where it was quite noticeable or it seemed that way.

sailor22
VSOP-Cognac
VSOP-Cognac
Posts: 37
Joined: Sat Aug 11, 2012 11:56 pm

Re: Germain Robin blends

Postby sailor22 » Thu Aug 16, 2012 1:23 pm

I think we are a little spoiled here in the US because Bourbon is so transparent and specific about what is in the bottle. When you look at something like Rum.... well, there are no rules about disclosure and going by taste they seem to put any damn thing they want into the juice.

Adding Sugar is apparently the traditional way to "round out" the flavors when Cognac of different ages are blended together. There is supposedly a limit to how much they can add but to my mind any is too much.

The art and magic I will pay big $ for should be about creating the spirit with the distillation and the barrel... not about mixing a cocktail to put in a bottle. I wish more Cognac manufacturers would get the message.

The addition of Caramel coloring is a marketing tool used by Cognac and Scotch mfgrs. in markets where dark spirits are thought to be more desirable. My reading reveals that in Victorian times the British market was by far the largest for Cognac producers and the English preferred light uncolored Brandy. So the Cognac shipped to England wasn't colored and the spirits shipped to other markets were. Apparently Cognac shipped to the Asian market in the 70's and 80's was colored even more than the Cognac shipped to the US.

BSinTX
VSOP-Cognac
VSOP-Cognac
Posts: 494
Joined: Tue Jul 26, 2011 2:52 am

Re: Germain Robin blends

Postby BSinTX » Thu Aug 16, 2012 4:20 pm

Glad to know there are folks out there who notice the same thing. I agree about being spoiled with regards to Bourbon; if it says Bourbon on the bottle, no sugar or colorant have been added.

Maybe I will make a call someday to G-R and pose these questions. Going by their website, they like to talk shop. I'd prefer to do this while sipping on one of their products (customer has a question rather than some guy on the phone.)

It kind of a shame they stopped producing the Old Havana; the rustic nature made it go well with a cigar (which I will attest I have never had a Borderies Cognac that did.)

I don't want to sound like I am beating a dead horse, but there are Cognac makers who are all too proud to denounce the use of additives and I applaud this effort. Nothing wrong with offering me quality the big four cannot.


Return to “Brandy Reviews and descriptions”