Believe it or not, Laird’s has been distilling American brandy for ten generations (since 1780). Forgive me if I’m spoiling this review early on, but their straight apple brandies might be the best-kept secret in spirits. Here’s the first of two recently acquired expressions.
Pour: Laird’s Tenth Generation Apple Brandy (BiB)
Age: 5 years
Nose: apple butter toast, caramel, cherry Pop Tart
Taste: apple jelly, sweet oak char, warm zesty spice
Finish: moderate length w/ brown sugar, glazed apple, hints of cinnamon
Overall: Vibrant and refreshing without the expected youthfulness. Picture the sweet and spicy balance of a 5-year Kentucky straight rye whiskey, but with a noteworthy apple presence. Laird’s has crafted a winner, and I can’t recommend it enough.
Rating: Apple of my eye.
At $50, I’m a fan of Delord’s 15-year Armagnac (and purchase it semi-regularly). When I stumbled upon the 25-year for $20 more, I had to bite. I can only assume the additional maturity will translate to additional complexity. If not, I’ve paid more for far younger spirits.
Pour: Delord Bas-Armagnac X.O. 25
Age: 25 years
Color: deep rosy copper
Nose: medicinal grape, molasses, dark chocolate cherry
Taste: boozy grape jam, dense sweet oak, hints of leather
Finish: moderate length w/ fruity toasted caramel, tobacco, earthy spice
Overall: Delicious. For 25 years, it’s not quite as robust as I’d imagined, but no complaints. It’s definitely a notch above the 15-year Delord, particularly the finish. The slowly diminishing earthy spice is subtly elegant and worth the price of admission.
Special thanks to two internet friends for making this tasting possible. I’ve been wanting to try Copper & Kings American Brandy for some time now. After hearing about Kentucky brandy finished in an ex Russell’s Reserve barrel … Well, you know I had to get my hands on that!
Pour: Copper & Kings Crafted (ex Russell’s Reserve finish)
Age: not stated
Color: light amber
Nose: medicinal grape, pear, canned peaches
Taste: fruit cocktail, frosted pastry w/ jam, apple butter
Finish: long w/ preserved fruit, fig, peppery spice, hints of oak
Overall: As is, Copper & Kings finished in a Turkey barrel is quite delicious. That being said, I do find it more enjoyable diluted to about 90 proof. It brings out the sweetness and rounds out the medicinal qualities. Whatever floats your boat, right?
Rating: Kentucky hugs.
I’ve heard great things about the Aficionados’ 1996 Grosperrin Bas-Armagnac for months now. Thanks to a generous sample from a friend – curiously timed perfectly for my brandy series – I can finally see what the fuss is about. (I have a feeling I’ll be spending some money soon.)
Pour: Grosperrin Bas-Armagnac 1996 (Aficionados)
Age: 24 years
Color: dense rosy copper
Nose: blueberry pancakes, maple syrup, grape jam
Taste: ripe plum, fruity molasses, caramel/candy apple
Finish: long w/ robust sweet oak, textured spice, leather
Overall: Ridiculously delicious. There’s more character in this 24-year brandy than most whiskeys double its $88 retail price (yes, that includes “the good stuff”). Complexity, depth, layered fruit and spice with an outstanding finish … Well done, Aficionados.
An extremely popular and widely available spirit from a well-known brand … Is Hennessy’s Very Special Cognac a brandy worthy of a whiskey enthusiast’s consideration? Pop culture would lead you to believe so, but I have my doubts.
Pour: Hennessy V.S. Cognac
Age: not stated (at least 2 years)
Color: dark amber
Nose: boozy punch, fruitcake
Taste: raisin bread, honey-glazed orange
Finish: moderately short w/ bread pudding, grape liqueur
Overall: While Hennessy V.S. meets the definition of Cognac, it drinks like a liqueur – sweet, syrupy, and completely lacking in spice. One could sip it neat and potentially appreciate it, but personally, I find it best suited for cocktails and cooking.
I thought I’d dedicate the next few posts to brandy. It should be noted that I’m not an expert and my experience with the category in general is limited. Take it (or leave it) as a whiskey fan’s perspective.
I probably passed this bottle by a dozen times, but a few days ago curiosity caught the best of me. Besides, $50 for any spirit aged 15 years doesn’t strike me as unreasonable (even if only 80 proof). Will Delord’s Bas-Armagnac X.O. taste as fancy as its label? Nous verrons.
Pour: Delord Bas-Armagnac X.O. 15
Age: 15 years
Color: rosy amber
Nose: chocolate raisins, plum, sliced almonds
Taste: gentle grape, berry preserves, jelly pastry
Finish: moderate length w/ medicinal grape, oak, leather
Overall: For a moderately priced French brandy, Delord X.O. does a fine job. I wouldn’t call it robust or complex, but there’s certainly enough character to enjoy neat. Better Armagnacs can be found, though you’ll likely pay more to acquire them.