Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Cognac Review: Rémy Martin VSOP Revisited

Looking back, Rémy Martin VSOP was the earliest cognac I looked at as a sipping spirit. While I haven't gained a ton of experience since then, it is the kind of thing that I'd like to return to to see how my own palate has changed.

As Josh aptly put it, this is the Johnnie Walker Black Label of cognacs. While Rémy is not on the same level as Hennessy, it sits squarely among the second tier of producers along with Courvoisier and Martell. This gives it the depth of stock needed to produce something with broad appeal and consistency.

Rémy Martin VSOP

Nose: big notes of apple and pear, grapefruit, lemon, and orange, mild grape, vanilla, and oak in the background, vague floral and vegetal notes, a little caramel. After dilution it becomes a little muted and less complex, but more vanilla and grape come out, plus something soapy.

Taste: sweet caramel with some grapefruit bitterness up front, a little oak and something floral starting around the middle, then even more mixed citrus going into the finish. After dilution the grapefruit retreats, it's a little sweeter and more oak-y with some berries around the middle, but the flavors become more muddled.

Finish: grapefruit peel with a citric tang, mild oak, caramel and grape roundness, long but not particularly strong

The nose is absolutely the winner here. If you're looking for a fruit-forward cognac, Rémy Martin has you covered. The turn towards more bittersweet notes in the palate and finish gives it something of a moreish quality if you alternate between sniffing and sipping. While not overly punchy at 40%, it still manages a respectable weight throughout. Overall this is heads and tails above the VS cognacs I tried a few weeks ago and might even edge out Pierre Ferrand Ambre in my estimation. Especially if you're just getting into the category, you could do far worse than this.

With all of that said, I still feel like this is a slightly over-engineered product. While technically flaw-less, I have to wonder what it would be like if the spirit was given a little more room to shine. While I do appreciate the lack of intrusive oak in this expression, which is a pleasant change of pace in a mass-market spirit, but it's lost something of the edge that I think it could have had. The Dudognon I tried a while might be close since it also has a strong fruit and citrus profile but isn't tampered with in the way this one is.

In a Sidecar the nose is pleasantly balanced between the cognac and orange liqueur, with some floral notes and just a bit of lemon and baking spices. The sip begins with moderate sweetness, once again balanced between the cognac and the orange liqueur, rounded with some nice thickness from the lemon juice around the middle, then a sharper and more tart fade out into the finish along with some less pleasant bitterness. The finish continues, with light bitterness.

While this is pleasant enough, Rémy doesn't have quite enough heft to stand up on its own. Different proportions might do the trick, but I wanted to be more consistent about my recipe when comparing different cognacs. However, I stand by my original assessment of it that this is a fine cognac for mixing, even if it's a bit on the expensive side.

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