Lots of Brandy

Brandyfest was AWESOME! Thank you so much to everyone who attended. We sold out both groups and it was exactly the right amount of chaos—no more than we could handle, no less than what we needed to make things interesting. I got to Bar Agricole early to set up the patio.

Eric Johnson got behind the stick and started whipping up insane cocktails using only Bar Agricole exclusive French spirits.

They had two people shucking oysters the entire time. These guys worked their butts off. I mean, it was "all you can eat" oysters!! I think most people at their $75 worth of the ticket price. 

And then it got nuts!

We also debuted EIGHT new K&L Exclusive brandies last night and they were all incredibly well-received. I drove back down 101 South last night with a huge smile on my face and a feeling of complete satisfaction. Well done everyone!

Oh, and here are the new exclusives:

2000 Chateau de Pellehaut 14 Year Old K&L Exclusive Folle Blanche Vintage Tenareze Armagnac $49.99 - While Bas-Armagnac gets all the press, and the Haut-Armagnac gets completely ignored, the Tenareze region of Armagnac is quietly producing some of the best brandies in the world. Much like the Borderies region in Cognac, the Tenareze brandies seem to have more fruit and a bit more life than the more classic  Armagnac style. We visited Chateau Pellehaut on our first day in Armagnac last January and were completely overwelmed by the quality of spirit.  Using only new or first fill barrels for the beginning years of maturation, the Armagnacs have richness, weight, and spice.

1996 Chateau de Pellehaut 18 Year Old K&L Exclusive Vintage Tenareze Armagnac $59.99 - IT'S BACK! And it's a whole year older. Chateau Pellehaut has been one of our top direct imports for the past year here at K&L. We've visited the Tenereze producer twice over the past few years, always finding something new to bring home for our brandy fans. Big, spicy, woody flavor explodes right off the bat from this 17 year old, 50.4% brandy. This is another crossover Armagnac, the one you'll want to buy if you like Bourbon and think Armagnac might be something you want to try. The raisiny fruit aspect of the Folle Blanche comes in on the finish, but this is all about the concentration of the wood and the spice. $60 for all this punch. And someone actually emailed me last week to say that most Armagnac was a rip-off! Come on, man!

1994 Chateau de Pellehaut 20 Year Old K&L Exclusive Folle Blanche Vintage Tenareze Armagnac  $69.99 - The 1994 is only two years older than the 1996, which is also distilled from Folle Blanche, but the differences are distinct and clear. The 1994 is less driven by the oak and has more of the fruit character at the forefront--that little flurry of spice and floral nature that Folle Blanche tends to bring to the party. Again, the quality to price ratio is off the charts. No one can top Pellehaut in the bang for your buck category.

1978 Chateau de Pellehaut 36 Year Old K&L Exclusive Ugni Blanc Vintage Tenareze Armagnac $99.99 - This 100% Ugni Blanc-distilled Armagnac is rich with the wood of 36 years in barrel. Black tea, cocoa, herbaceous notes of dried leaves and wood, with a flurry of spice on the finish. This is incredible for the money. Simply stunning.

Michel Forgeron K&L Exclusive VS Cognac $39.99 - You'd think the French would stay true to their own products, but the truth is that France consumes far more whisky than they do brandy. In fact, France consumes more whisky than the UK or the US. Hard to believe, right? But true. That being the case, you'd think it was just a matter of time before cask strength, single barrel, and age statement labeling infiltrated the world of French brandy. You'd be right to think that, because it's beginning to happen. Michel Forgeron is already selling vintage-dated, cask strength, single barrel releases in his gift shop. Even though there are some fantastically-descript expressions available from Forgeron, we're going to begin with small steps and hold true to the VS, VSOP, and XO formula for now. However, seeing that his basic line ranges from 45% to 50% in ABV, you're in for a real treat with these Cognacs. They're bold, woody, spicy, and much more lively that the ubiquitous expressions that strive for "smooth" and "no burn." Michel Forgeron also said one of the coolest things to us when we asked him why other producers weren't looking to bring Cognac into the next generation: "Most Cognac producers don't even drink Cognac," he said with a snarl. "They do it because they were born into it. They don't even like Cognac, most of them." The VS is the most delicate of Michel's expressions, but it showcases a tremendous concentration of fruit with a supple, smooth character. Beautiful vanilla on the finish.

Michel Forgeron K&L Exclusive VSOP Cognac $59.99 -  The VSOP is bumped up to 43% and has more new oak and barrel spice without sacrificing purity of fruit. It's gorgeous balanced and it pops in all the right places. A blend of 10-15 year old brandies.

Michel Forgeron K&L Exclusive XO Cognac $99.99 - At 45%, the XO is a marriage of vintages from 82 to 93 and a tremendous Cognac with lots of barrel spice and richness from oak. This isn't caramel, vanilla, and dessert-like. It's bold, spicy, rich, and dry on the finish with deep concentration.

1996 Giboin K&L Exclusive Fin Bois Vintage Cognac - It's one thing to have heard that Grand Champagne fruit makes for "better" Cognac, but it's an entirely different thing to actually know that through your own tasting experiences. If Grand Champagne is the best then why bother with anything else, right? But how do you know it's the best? Have you ever tasted Petit Champagne or Borderies expressions? When's the last time you even saw a Cognac from the Borderies at your local shop? And what about the other three satellite regions: the Bon Bois, Fins Bois, and Bois Ordinaires? Have you ever tasted anything from those inferior terrains to compare against the pre-ordained superiority of Grand Champagne Cognac? Giboin's estate is a classic Cognac millieu: gigantic country house, scattered papers and books, that smell that reminds you of your grandparents, and wooden antique furniture. It's the romantic ideal and a helluva place to go Cognac spelunking. The fact that we were so far outside the realm of "normal" Cognac producers sent an adventurous tingle through our spines. We found a lovely 1996 vintage expression that went down almost too easily. A simple, easy, to-the-point Cognac with lovely richness, but with a less-refined and more robust "Fin Bois" character. There's a weight and a boldness that the Grand Champagne brandies lack, but that's what makes the Giboin so interesting. We definitely need to spend more time in these outer satellites, searching for Cognac like this.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll