Cognac for Scotch DrinkersBy Anna Archibald
Perhaps more so than any other spirit, Scotch whisky has an army of diehard fans around the world. Indeed, there may not be many spirits that would inspire scotch stans to venture outside their drink of choice. But cognac’s rich history and provenance, as well as the rich flavors it often exhibits, make it a fantastic alternative. Though France’s national spirit is made from a base of grape wine, thanks to a number of factors—from spending time in oak barrels to aging near the ocean—it can take on characteristics reminiscent of whisky, particularly Scotch single malt whiskies. So if you’re looking to expand your palate, we’re suggesting some cognac for scotch drinkers. There’s something at each price point even the most ardent whisky lover can appreciate.
According to the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac, the U.S. is the world’s biggest consumer of cognac. In fact we Americans far outpace France and even surpass emerging markets like China. For that reason, we’re able to find smaller brands Stateside alongside the likes of Hennessy and Courvoisier. That includes L’Oceanique from Augier, which is one in a trio of expressions from the recently resurrected brand.
Made on an estate that’s been producing eau-de-vie since 1643, L’Oceanique uses ugni blanc grapes—the standard in Cognac. The grapes hail from the Island of Oléron, technically from the Bois Ordinaires appellation in Cognac. The influence from the Atlantic Ocean lends a saltiness to the cognac that’s reminiscent of some coastal Scotch whiskies. Though pale in color, this cognac for scotch drinkers displays big flavors of salted plum, spices and a hint of caramel.
With a price on par with many blended scotch brands, Hine Rare VSOP is a bottle that you should have no trouble tracking down. And when you do, be sure to pick one up for your home bar. It’s made with ugni blanc wine from two appellations within Cognac: 60% from Grande Champagne and 40% from Petite Champagne. That makes this VSOP a Fine Champagne Cognac.
Before being bottled at 40% ABV, this cognac is blended using spirit that’s aged for anywhere from six to 12 years. Its oak, vanilla and baking spice flavors call to mind its similarities to whiskey, while floral and dried fruit notes offer something new and exciting.
As pleasing to the eye as it is to the palate, this beautifully bottled Hennessy XO has been on the market for more than a century. First launched in 1870, today it incorporates 100 eaux-de-vie into its blend aged between 10 to 30 years. Hennessy claims that this is the first cognac to adopt the name “XO,” hence why its full name is Hennessy The Original XO.
With a slight sweetness and a spicy twinge to match, this cognac is an easy addition to the home bar. Pour a dram or mix it into an Old Fashioned on chilly nights. This cognac for scotch drinkers provides for a touch of warmth flecked with candied fruit flavors.
No whisky lover would go amiss trying any one of the cognacs in Frapin’s lineup. But their Cigar Blend is particularly suited to a Scotch whisky drinker’s palate. Frapin ages the eaux-de-vie in its Cigar Blend—which are all made from grapes grown in Grande Champagne and then distilled on its lees—for a minimum of 20 years in a humid cellar. This causes more alcohol than water to evaporate from the barrels and creates a complex, silky flavor.
Though you certainly don’t need a cigar to enjoy it to its fullest, its vanilla, spice and dried fruit flavors would complement a cigar nicely.
Since its debut in 1912, Martell Cordon Bleu has successfully stood out as a showstopper in the brand’s core range. Technically an XO—meaning it comprises spirits aged for no fewer than 10 years—Cordon Bleu is made with a blend of 10 to 25 year-old eaux-de-vie. This accounts for the oak notes you’ll find on the palate. It’s made from grapes grown in four of Cognac’s appellations, though the majority in this blend are from Borderies.
This cognac makes a wonderful accompaniment to food and is just as lovely enjoyed on its own. It’s as big on the nose as it is on the palate, with notes of cinnamon, raisins and cocoa.
Thirsty for more cognac for scotch drinkers?