Frapin Château Fontpinot XO (41%, Grande Champagne, Single Vineyard)

You know what they say, with a good Cigar you need a good Cognac. Cigar? Check! Cognac? Check! We’ll have another Frapin, and with a name like Château Fontpinot XO Single Vineyard Cognac, who am I to pick something different. Earlier I reviewed another Frapin, the VSOP, and was all but impressed with it. The nose was great, but the taste, and especially the finish were big let-downs. Lets give Frapin another chance and move on up to this XO. You know you’ve hit the jackpot when you find out this isn’t bottled at 40% ABV, but at a mind-blowing 41% ABV. Surely this will do the trick? As you know, XO must be at least 6 years old, but this XO is blended with liquids, 18 to 20 years old, part of this, a finish for 6 months in new oak casks.

Frapin Chateau Fontpinot XOColor: Copper gold.

Nose: Nice and strong aroma. Fruity, but it also has quite some depth to it. This isn’t closed at all, it leaps out of the glass to entice you. Spicy. Wet and funky cinnamon. Leather and breaths of fresh air. Nice woody notes and a plethora of fruity notes. Mostly apple and some cherries. It’s almost like standing at the green grocers. Quite some wood, with only a mere hint of licorice (and some tar). Floral and leafy notes appear as well as some vanilla. Give it even more time to breath and the smell of a nice and luxury fresh cologne appears. Well this one has it all. Give it lots of time, because the nose shows a lot of development. Put it in your glass, aireate it for a while and then cover it up with a lid. Leave it for a while and then sniff it again, Stellar!

Taste: Starts sugary sweet, and a bit thin. Next the fruity notes release themselves on my tongue. Some tannins and woody notes stay behind when the liquid is making its way down, warming me. Chewy unripe walnut bitterness. The darker brooding notes from the nose are even bigger in the taste. Funky cinnamon again, combined with brown sugar. I’m not sure the taste is as complex as the nose, but I’m not complaining. The walnut bitterness (not a lot of it, so you can sit back again) stays behind, as well as some mint from old wood. Apply notes are here too. It’s definitely a Cognac, but it has some traits of a good Calvados. This is definitely a better blend with more age behind its belt compared to the VSOP, which also has a hideous looking bottle, but let not get distracted now. Ugly bottle, that VSOP has. There I said it again.

So we have a good nose, and we do have a nice entry and a good body. The weak point is again the finish. It gets more rustic and organic, but that is not the problem. The problem is the balance of the finish. It starts to unravel a bit. Not every aroma stays well-integrated. The finish is also a bit simple, but hey, we’ve come a long way compared to the VSOP. This one I do like, and I didn’t even get to try it with a Cigar yet. Not perfect but very enjoyable nevertheless.

Points: 85

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Cognac Week – Day 5: Martell XO (40%, Circa 2006)

Cognac Week LogoSo the Château Montifaud XO turned out to be 30yo and was really no dud even though it was “only” a Petite Champagne. Let’s break out some, at least great looking, XO from a big brand: Martell, one of the oldest houses that still exists. Martell was Founded in 1715 by Jean Martell. Jean was born in 1694 and hailed from the Island of Jersey, the largest channel island off the coast of Normandy. In the thirteenth century Jersey was lost to the Kings of England. Jean Martell died in 1753. The business was continued by his wife and later by his sons. The first Martell VSOP was created in 1831 and in 1912 Cordon Bleu saw the light of day. In contrast, this XO was only recently created in 2005!

The bottle looks like it was inspired by an entire museum of art. But the bottle shouldn’t be the reason we buy a Cognac now do we? No, we care about what’s inside. Inside is XO Cognac created from eaux de vie aged between 10 and 35 years old. The eaux de vie come from the Borderies, Grande Champagne but also Petite Champagne and Fins Bois. The Borderies is the most prestigious region, followed by Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Fins Bois, Bons Bois and finally Bois Ordinaires and Bois Communs. The “lesser” the region, the bigger its size.

Martell XOColor: Dark orange brown.

Nose: Nice and beefy. Very fruity, but not as soft and smooth as I expected (again). Vanilla and cherries. Thick aroma. Sandalwood, toasted bread and laurel licorice. When smelled vigorously a small hint of dry elephant dung (never been to a zoo?) combined with licorice. Perfumy (woody notes from an eau de toilette) and very elegant. Dont drink this without at least a smoking jacket.

Taste: Thick and syrupy. Sugar water sweet, but much lighter than expected. Not very complex. A quick second sip, already shows some more. Paint and slightly acidic fruit. Syrupy feel with cherries and plain Sugar and burnt caramel. But all is happening in the beginning, so when we get to the finish, not al lot is happening anymore.

It actually tastes like a good cognac, alas one that has lost its stride a bit. Made on autopilot. Sure it has old elements, and sure it has a dark color. Sure it is nicely packaged. Not very practical though on my lectern. Just a shame this has a pretty weak finish, if you ask me. Its instant gratification, but nothing more durable. Good, very nice nose again, but actually I’m a bit disappointed. I wonder how the price of this compares to the Château Montifaud XO.

Points: 83

Cognac Week – Day 4: Château Montifaud XO (40%, OB, 1981/2011)

Cognac Week LogoJust like I promised yesterday, Today we’ll return to Château Montifaud, and this time we will have a look at their XO expression. (Extra Old). By law an XO should be at least 6yo, but again we see that Montifaud age their Cognacs longer than necessary. This XO is 30yo! In 2016 however law will be changed, and an XO should be 10yo, but I don’t think Montifaud will age their 30yo XO Cognac even longer, now the law will change. Just like the VS, this is made with grapes from the Petite Champagne region. It maybe a “lesser” region than the Grande Champagne Region, but Montifaud will know what to do with these “inferior” grapes, if the VS is anything to go by.

Chateau Montifaud XOColor: Orange copper gold (ever so slightly lighter than the VS.)

Nose: Winey and with some added acidity, which smells as “age”. Deeper and more brooding. Old bottle effect and powdery. It’s different from the VS which already had a beautiful nose. This XO is really a fantastic Spirit to smell. It’s so nice, that I completely forgot to take notes when I was nosing this!

Taste: Winey and sweet. It’s even more winey than the VS and lacks the licorice, its younger brother has. Honey and green apple skins. Fragile old age. This one has more depth, (but not as much as I’ve come to expect from a 30yo Cognac). It does have much more staying power compared to the VS The finish has a well hidden burnt wood note that’s hardly there. When that dissipates it shows a slightly translucent acidic note that also quickly dissipates. The sweetness is less of a honey quality and more of plain sugar, and it’s always present. If the sweetness would be more refined, it would have been an even better Cognac.

Coming from a Whisk(e)y background, I find these Cognacs to be very…lovely and light. Even these old blended stuff of 25yo like the Jean Fillioux, and this 30yo Montifaud come across as a bit too simple in the taste, and I do believe the lowest possible ABV. for a Cognac is hurting the wealth of aroma’s these kinds of Cognac should have. So age isn’t everything when you start adding a lot of water. In fact I don’t want to write about this again. With this one I want to sit back and enjoy.

Points: 86

A.H.Riise X.O. Reserve Christmas Rum (40%, 875 bottles, 2013, Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands)

Albert Heinrich Riise was born on the 11th of September 1810 on the Danish Island Ærø. In 1932 he graduated as a pharmacist in Copenhagen. In 1838 he followed his dream to work as a pharmacist in the Danish West Indies in St. Thomas. In 1842 he married Henriette Marie Worm (1821-1889) on St. Croix. The couple had 13 children. I guessed he felt at home in the Carribean! In 1843 he had his own pharmacy which he turned into a succesful business. Being an excellent pharmacist Riise used Caribbean plants and herbs for the manufacture of pharmaceutical alcohols and cosmetics. He especially was succesful in selling Riises Bay Rum, yes you guessed it, a perfume! He also started distilling Rum and bitters as medicine. Way to go Albert. In 1868 an epidemic broke out of cholera, yellow fever and smallpox. No Rum would cure that, so the family decided to go to Denmark for a year, but in the end never returned to live on St. Thomas. Albert passed away in 1882 and his wife Henriette followed him in 1889.

A.H. Riise X.O. Reserve Christmas Rum has aged up to 20 years, and was finished in PX Sherry casks. Each bottle comes from a single cask.

A.H.Riise X.O. Reserve Christmas Rum (40%, Saint Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands)Color: Brown with an amber hue.

Nose: Nice Demerara type of Rum nose with notes of cloves in (partly dried) orange skin and cinnamon. Old wood, speculoos cookies and very festive smelling. Its like visiting and old distillery museum where a lot is done with spirits and spices or a bakery museum where all the spices are stored for making cookies. Vanilla, hot butter and fruity acidity. Very aromatic. Also hints of ginger, cardamom, dust and nutmeg. Very nostalgic, appetizing and tasty. Based on the nose alone a must-have so lets see if it also tastes as good…

Taste: Thick and sweet. Syrupy. Sugared red fruits. White pepper and some wood. Fresh cookie dough. The orange skins are present too, but without the cloves. Noticeable is the finish in PX casks. Not the longest of finishes, but warming and just right. The part that stays on the longest is the fruity acidity, but wait…the cloves return for the finish, excellent!

The nose alone puts me in a melancholic mood and puts me in a bakery or Jenever distillery where spices and botanicals are used for the spirit. It makes me feel like it’s the 1930’s again (or so I imagine, since I wasn’t born yet in the 1930’s). The nose is very nice and suits the Christmas name they use for this Limited Edition. The taste is somewhat simpler and the finish shows that 40% ABV was  a little too light for this kind of rum. On the website the claim is made, or maybe that’s just how I read it, that the typical aroma’s come from the PX casks that were used for the finish and not by added spices, so it should not be a spiced Rum. In the end that’s not entirely important, since it is a very nice Christmas Rum, and even if it was spiced, isn’t Christmas a time to forgive? Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Merry Christmas everybody!

Points: 87

La Mauny XO Vieux Rhum Agricole (40%, Martinique)

After the J.M XO Rhum Agricole, why not compare it with another XO Rhum Agricole from the same island. This time an offering from La Mauny of which I already reviewed the entry-level 1749. This XO is just like the J.M 6 years old (and probably older), but has a lower ABV. This one is 40%.

La Mauny XOColor: Dark orange gold.

Nose: Woody and spicy. Higher in esters than the J.M. This one is fatter and thicker and has some traits of Jamaican high ester Rum. Aromatic with sweet spices. Again a (dry) wood driven Rhum Agricole. Fruits in this one are of the tangerine kind, mixed with some creamy vanilla. Plain sugar with a hint of gravy. Quite some cloves and tiny hints of fireplace, coal and tar. Licorice and cloves, that’s it! Absolutely wonderful nose. Just like the J.M, this has a note of floral soap, just not roses this time. Mocha and milk chocolate. Give it some time and it grows on you. It is shy to let its aroma’s go. This has been reduced too much and should have been higher in ABV. At La Mauny they must think that if they rise the ABV, people get scared and will stop buying their product?

Taste: Sweet black tea. Syrupy. Red fruits like raspberry. Very soft. Nice wood, but its presence is very faint. Much less wood in the taste than in the nose or as in the J.M. Quite fruity with nice wood (pencil shavings), but a wee bit too smooth and light at 40% ABV. Amber sweetness with sugared and dry roasted almonds.

Just try the J.M and you’ll know this is reduced too much. A shame, because you can taste and especially smell the quality in this one. Again a very easily drinkable XO Rhum Agricole though. Both have nice and complex noses. The taste is a bit less complex, but still very drinkable. This La Mauny is somewhat sweeter. If I was forced to pick only one I’d go for the J.M. Nevertheless, both are nice, and both show that there is a lot more to be gained from Rhum Agricole.

Points: 84

J.M XO Très Vieux Rhum Agricole (45%, Bourbon Cask Matured, Martinique)

Today I was working in the garden. Preparations have to be made for the coming summer. Getting rid of weed, clean the BBQ, plant some new flowers and so on. Evenings are still cold, so now I’m sitting inside and I notice my arms are quite red. Must be a hole in the ozone layer or something, because I can’t remember getting sunburned so quickly. Another place on earth I would get easily sunburned is not Scotland, but Martinique. Yes it’s Rhum Agricole time! Rhum Agricole is the French word for Cane Juice Rum, as opposed to Rum made from molasses. Tonight we’ll be having J.M XO. Looks cryptic doesn’t it? The XO (as for Extra Old, or Très Vieux in french) is a Rhum Agricole, which has been aged for a minimum of 6 years in re-charred Bourbon barrels.

J.M XOColor: Full orange gold.

Nose: Woody, spicy and floral. Right up is un-ripe banana. Very aromatic and dry. Lots of spices. Hints of gingerbread and cookie dough. Old soap (roses) and polished furniture. The nose is wood driven, but it is never overpowered by wood. Also the charred oak is noticeable, but again, not overpowering. Notes of an old wooden shop or a church. Even hints of incense is there.

Taste: More of the same. Wood at first, with a bit of mint, but that dissipates quickly. A short sweetish film, that also passes by quickly, leaving a nice and fruity aftertaste. Hints of tree sap, mocha, coffee with milk and milk chocolate. Tiny hint of an Industrial complex and motor oil (which is nice). Next an even tinier note of passion fruit and even less still: anise. Tasty. This is not a sweet Rum, it is rather dry and well made. The only beef I can have with this Rhum is that even for an XO it is quite light and seems to lack a bit of depth or complexity if you prefer. Dangerously drinkable.

I have to admit, since the day of Douglas Laing’s Old and Rare series (Platinum) I am a sucker for dumpy bottles made with green glass. The rest of the labels and packaging are also very appealing. Having said that, of course that is not as important as the Rhum inside the bottle. I like sugar cane Rum. With its relative dryness, it matches with Single Malt Whisky. Nothing wrong with sweet Rum obviously, but the dry style is a welcoming addition to the drink. This dryer style, can showcase its finesse and elegance some more.

Points: 85

Ron Millonario XO Reserva Especial (40%, Peru)

Rum, Rhum, Ron all words for the same beverage. The fact that there are so many ways to describe this drink shows us that Rum is made all over the world. But then again, which drink isn’t? Whisky is made all over the world now and so is Wine. This particular Rum, or Ron in this case wasn’t made on a small Caribbean island, but in the northern part of Peru, South America. Ron Millonario have a website, but somehow it only shows their 15yo Solera Reserva Especial. This Super Premium XO Reserva Especial is nowhere to be found. The  Millonario Rums are made by slow distillation of sugar cane molasses, using three old Scottish column stills. The distillery has its own coopers that make casks from American and Slavonian! oak. The 15yo Rum is made with four stage Solera system. Chip Dykstra mentiones that for the XO a fifth stage may be introduced, lifting the age by 3 to 6 extra years over the 15yo mentioned above. Mind you, in Rum, 15yo means that the oldest Rum is 15yo, whereas in Whisky 15yo means that the youngest Whisky is 15 years old.

The XO is limited to 6000 bottles per annum.

Ron Millonario XO Reserva EspecialColor: Copper Brown

Nose: Sweet, floral and quite light. The rum also brings a small hint of acetone and dry wood. Dry powdered raspberry sweets, which also resemble not quite ripe cherries. Toffee, old vanilla and wood again. It doesn’t promise heavy sweetness. Tiny hints of young Cuban tobacco and cookie dough and wet brown sugar, which still doesn’t make this Rum smell “sweet”. Very interesting smell, but not a powerhouse.

Taste: Well balanced stuff, this is (Yoda). Seems a bit light at 40% ABV though, but still has a lot going for it. Very sweet (honey) and well made. Small hints of licorice that goes extremely well with the honey I mentioned earlier. It has quite some staying power and the finish sometimes resembles a cognac. Very smooth stuff. Elegant.

The profile seems to be a bit middle of the road for me, but the view from the middle is quite spectacular. The sweetness is perfect as is the balance. The only thing wrong with it is that it’s quite expensive, but hey, most Whiskies cost (a lot) more than this, so I guess buying this it would be money well spent. Recommended!

Points: 85