Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Cognac Review: Park XO Cigar Blend

Cigar blends are one of those slightly anachronistic features of the spirits industry that still appear from place to place. While the pairing has been around for centuries, smoking is falling out of fashion and outright banned in many public places including bars.

This expression uses grapes from Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne, filled into 350 L fresh lightly toasted barrels for twelve months, transferred to used casks, then blended and bottled at 40%, probably with various adjustments and chill filtration. The L13 bottling code on the neck makes me assume that this was put together in 2013, which would be consistent with how slowly specialty bottles move in Oregon.

Cognac Park XO Cigar Blend

Nose: delicate mixed fruit over restrained toasted oak, rich berries, almost sherried grape notes, creamy vanilla, orange peel. After adding a few drops of water it initially shifts closer to the XO Traditional with maple syrup, more overt oak, and sweet grape notes, then the vanilla and berries come back with some floral notes emerging after some time in the glass.

Taste: big grape sweetness throughout, fades into mildly tannic toasted oak with some citrus peel at the back. After dilution the up front sweetness becomes almost piercing, some mixed berries emerge around the middle, while the oak is diminished but becomes more polished and tannic.

Finish: sweet grape notes, mild oak, mixed citrus peel

Contrary to my expectations the oak in this expression is much more restrained, letting the fruitier notes shine through. It may be this is part of the design - if this is going to be complimented by the smoke of a cigar, there is less need for the bass notes of oak. The aromas are fairly engaging, though I found the flavors overly simple. While that still makes it better than the XO Traditional to me, there's absolutely no way I can see this justifying its price tag. It's entirely possible that there's a lot of older eau de vie in here, but I'm just not getting the complexity I would expect at nearly $200.

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