K&L Best of 2010 Awards: Brandy

Cognac, Armagnac, brandy, what-have-you!  If it's grape-based and barrel-aged, then it all falls into this category and here are our picks for Brandy of the Year 2010.

David D picks: Marie & Fils 58 Year Old Single Barrel Cask Strength Cognac - I can't remember if I've EVER been excited about Cognac, a spirit that seems destined to be forever limited to "smooth."  Then Nic Palazzi walked in and said, "Try this."  Being a big bourbon fan, Palazzi wanted to bottle his Cognac like the American whiskies he tasted after moving to New York.  The result is a Frenchman who gets the American palate - we want it unadulterated! This is all from 1951 and it's all one barrel!  Only 257 world-wide.  Easily the best of the year for me.

David OG picks: Chateau de Laubade Extra Bas-Armagnac - The most critically-acclaimed brandy of the year was also a hit with David OG.  The depth of flavor had just about everyone who tasted it spellbound: rancio notes intermingled with sweet, fat, dripping textures of dried fruits flavors.  A benchmark Armagnac for those who appreciate it, or an eye-opener for those who don't.

In other news today, I got to taste with Val and JVS again this morning as we went through some of the new Signatory bottlings.

From what I tasted, I thought the 1997 Clynelish was a sure standout, full of everything that makes it one of my favorite distilleries - wax, citrus fruits, and oily notes - but this one has a tropical/banana creaminess that really drew me in.  I look forward to offering it along side the classic 14.  The 16 year old Bladnoch also warmed me up as I look to constantly expand our Lowland selections beyond Auchentoshan, Glenkinchie, and the occasional defunct Rosebank bottling.  This one had plenty of heather and a light, floral disposition.  A perfect addition to the shelf.  I also cleaned CVI out of their 19 year old Caol Ila Murray McDavid.  I got a good price so instead of the old price ($129.99) I'm able to bring it down to $105.99.  A great deal that I am sipping the rest of right now as I type!

Before we were done, being the nice guy he is, Val pulled out a sample of 1981 Brora Signatory Cask Strength - a whisky now long gone, but that I had really wanted to try.  I've been on a Brora kick lately because I love Clynelish so much and Brora has all the goods with a pinch of smoke.  I was so grateful to get a small taste of this: swirling stone fruits, salty oil and butter, peat in the background, but really hanging back, and a bit of heat on the finish as I didn't proof it down enough.  Very, very good.  Now that I've tasted two Broras in my lifetime, I'm definitely convinced that I love it.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll