How many times is cognac mixed with cola or chased down with another beverage? Many casual drinkers find it difficult to savor a liquor served up neat, most likely the result of initially being exposed to inferior brands. It takes patience and a cultivated palate to truly appreciate fine distilled liquors…especially cognac, France’s distilled beverage of choice.
A type of brandy, cognac is crafted according to exacting standards…starting with white grapes harvested in October, distilled by the end of March, and aged in oak casks for varying lengths of time depending on the color and flavor desired. There are many fine brands to choose from but Camus is unique. The last independent family owned distillery with a 150 year heritage, Camus is now forging into the 21st century with 42 year old president Cyril Camus. Long a favorite in Europe and Asia, Camus is making major inroads into the US with their supremely mellow oak-aged cognacs.
I tried a different approach for tasting Camus’s V.S.O.P. (very superior old pale aged for at least 4 years) as well as their Borderies and Elegance X.O. (extra old aged for at least 6 years). Instead of reserving them for a coveted night cap shrouded in exclusivity, I paired them up in the light of day with BBQ ribs. My aim was to elevate the backyard cookout experience into something special. Instead of pounding shots and wincing, I poured a spot and let it sit a few moments allowing the liquor breathe. After a mouthful of spice-rubbed ribs, I splashed a bit on my palate and enjoyed the following flavor experiences:
Borderies XO – a worthy alternative to single-malt scotch, Borderies comes from the smallest and rarest of all cognac
growing areas. I experienced a definitive vanilla undertone in the bouquet. After savoring the ribs, I took a sip and immediately tasted a faint perky oak. The best part is the intensity of this liquor combined with an oak cask influence…artfully crafted fieriness particularly when introduced to the cayenne and cinnamon influences I had in the rib rub.
Elegance XO – Elegant and smooth, this range is aged in barrels that have fewer tannins lessening the oak influence in the final blends. I found its bouquet to be much more floral with a front-row center kick of spiciness. More fiery on the intake with caramel undertones. Artfully prolonged the open flame experience by igniting my entire mouth and tastebuds.
VSOP – the youngest of the 3, this one was surprisingly easy-drinking and tasty. Smooth and aromatic with a rich harmony of sweet fruity notes along with a light touch of oak and vanilla. Extremely tasty both neat and mixed into the Champs Elysees…a thoroughly French cocktail:
.5 oz. Green Chartreuse
1 tsp. Lemon juice
2 drops Angostura bitters
1 oz. Cognac
Shake with cracked ice and strain
Eschew the beer or bourbon and give one of these a try at your next cook-out!
Photos and coverage made possible by participating in a complimentary tasting