Independent bottling isn’t just for whiskey and rum, La Maison & Velier is bringing the idea to fine brandies from Cognac, all bottled under the Through the Grapevine label. Each of the six Cognacs in this line are designed to showcase smaller producers, a few of which I’ve never even heard of before.
We received small samples of six very different Cognacs in the current lineup, and you don’t have to tell me twice to tuck in to them. Thoughts follow.
Through the Grapevine Merlet Lot 84 Borderies – A classic expression of the Borderies region, thick with fruit but bursting with floral notes on the nose. Honey and chocolate notes meander toward a finish that evokes apricot and peach notes, fragrant with jasmine on top. Probably the most straightforward brandy in this lineup, but that focus is wholly on point. The higher abv really drives it all home. 100.4 proof. A / $236
Through the Grapevine Maxime Trijol Vintage 2003 Fins Bois – Vintage Cognac is almost unheard of, and this Fins Bois (a “lesser” region) oddity provides some indication why. It’s a bit blunt, with a heavy rancio quality that wouldn’t be out of place in a funky rum. A note of dried florals and some forest floor emerge which somewhat muddies the underlying fruit, rendering the finish a touch gamy and green. Something of an Armagnac-like departure. 86.6 proof. B / $156
Through the Grapevine Fradon Lot 70 Petite Champagne – Hugely floral, with aggressive lavender and lilac notes that come across as boldly perfumed. There’s fruit in there somewhere — a citrus base that folds in vanilla and baking spice — but the flowers are tough to shake. That said, it’s easy to keep returning to — even if it makes me want to do the laundry. 93.2 proof. B+ / $178
Through the Grapevine Camus Ile de Re 11 Years Old Bois Ordinaires – A Camus bottling from grapes grown on the Ile de Re island, off the coast of France, overproof and with an age statement? I’m listening. Despite the surprisingly youthful, almost yellow color, this emerges immediately as quite a gorgeous little brandy, the perfect mix of florals and fruit, chocolate and cream. Again, a higher proof helps this Cognac pack more of a punch, helping honeyed notes of toasted nuts, breakfast cereal, and a pinch of green herbs come into focus. The tasting notes call this finish “greedy,” which is the best thing I’ve ever heard and totally accurate. 98 proof. A / $430
Through the Grapevine Francois Voyer Lot 89/92 Grande Champagne – Rugged and hearty, coming across as more in the Borderies style. The smoldering nose evolves and reveals itself to be lush with fruit on the palate, almost candylike at times, with heavy notes of apricot, baked apples, and a slight tropical bent. Spicy but not at all floral, it’s a simpler brandy that takes a departure from the linen-driven notes you tend to find in Grande Champagne. 87 proof. A- / $233
Through the Grapevine Jean-Luc Pasquet Single Cask 95 Grande Champagne – Let’s wrap things up not just with a single vintage, but with a single cask release. Surprisingly fully realized, this Cognac offers a best-of exploration of Grande Champagne, with a raisiny, perfumed attack that leads to notes of incense, flamed orange peel, and a fun brown banana note on the finish. Plenty of raciness to keep things lively — this is the highest abv Cognac in the mix — culminating in a hint of minty evergreen. Fun. 103.2 proof. A- / $160