Monday, March 2, 2020

Cognac Review: Park XO Traditional Réserve

This is something of the odd one out in this lineup since it appears that the expression has been reformulated since this tasting set was released. What was a blend of multiple crus has been reworked into 100% Grande Champagne. Which is all to say that this may not be representative of what you can find now.

This expression uses grapes from four different regions - Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Fin Bois, and Borderies, filled into 400 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 Traditional Réserve

Nose: big polished oak notes, maple syrup, fresh cut grass, a little plastic, mushrooms, vanilla, grape in the background, pink bubblegum, a touch of something floral. After adding a few drops of water the oak becomes even stronger while the other aromas (except for some maple syrup and honey) are largely washed out.

Taste: big grape sweetness with oak tannins underneath, fades out into cedar, bittersweet polished oak, and grape. After dilution the oak becomes stronger but also sweeter, producing an even more uniform progression of flavors through the palate.

Finish: grape sweetness, moderately tannic oak

This is disappointing in exactly the way I would have expected. Once you get above $100, a lot of producers construct their blends around what customers believe an older, more expensive spirit should taste like rather than what it could be. This is basically sweet with a lot of oak, which could be obtained from an entry-level armagnac for a third the price. I still have two more XO expressions to go, but after this I'm not getting my hopes up since it appears they spent even more time in smaller new oak casks.

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