Friday, March 23, 2018

Cognac Review: Pierre Ferrand Ambre

Unlike many cognac houses, Maison Ferrand doesn't use the standard VS/VSOP/XO designations for their expressions. Ambre sits around the same price point as most VSOPs from other cognac houses, so that seems like the best way to evaluate it.

This cognac is bottled at 40% with coloring (and other 'enhancements') and probably chill filtration.

Pierre Ferrand Ambre

Nose: classic cognac notes of fresh grapes, apples/pears, and raisins, floral overtones, gentle oak in the background, vanilla/caramel, clean laundry, molasses, orange peel. After adding a few drops of water the grape and molasses notes become stronger and more rounded and the orange peel turns into lemon.

Taste: sweet grapes and caramel throughout, light floral overtones in the middle, becomes slightly bittersweet near the back with oak tannins. After dilution it becomes thicker, sweeter, and flatter, but the flaws at the back mostly disappear

Finish: a little bit off - slightly sour and musty/dusty grapes and caramel

After quite enjoying their older Réserve, I had fairly high hopes for this cognac. But as a sipping spirit it never really came together for me because the palate never lived up to the aromas. Much like mass market blends, it feels like the spirit has been smothered in an effort to create something with broad appeal. It's a perfectly fine choice for making cocktails, but their 1840 release is going to be an even better choice if you're looking to mix. Still, let's see how it does.

Vieux Carré

1 oz rye whiskey
1 oz cognac
1 oz sweet vermouth
1/2 tsp Bénédictine
2 dashes Angostura bitters
2 dashes Peychaud's bitters

Combine all ingredients, stir with ice for fifteen seconds, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The nose is driven by grape notes from the cognac and vermouth, with vanilla from the vermouth and rye, plus herbal notes from the Bénédictine. The sip begins with grape sweetness balanced by oak tannins, runs through creamy vanilla in the middle, and fades out through increasing bitterness at the back.

This is easily one of my favorite Manhattan variations because the small tweaks create a much more complex drink. The fairly wet recipe with a touch of liqueur is brought back into balance with an extra doses of bitters. Unless you use a high proof cognac like Louis Royer Force 53, the end result is going to be softer than a traditional Manhattan. Pierre Ferrand Ambre does a respectable job here, which is helped by the fact that the bitters cover up its deficiencies in the finish.

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