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Camus’s Family Affair

Jack Bettridge
Posted: September 27, 2013

Camus, the largest of the independent, family-owned Cognac houses, is introducing Camus Family Legacy, a tribute to its five generations of wine-growing and distilling as it reaches its 150th birthday.

Uniting five of the Cognac region's crus (delineated growing areas within the French region), this rich expression is a complex mix of the world-acclaimed class of brandy. Grapes from the crus of Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Bon Bois, Fin Bois and Borderies (the last being the area in which the house is located) are fermented and distilled before blending.

The founder, Jean-Bapiste Camus, was a winemaker and distiller who established a group of producers in 1863 to sell to larger houses. He soon bought out the other makers and created his own Cognac. Subsequent generations shored up the brand by bottling the spirit individually—instead of selling by the cask—and making trade alliances internationally, especially in Russia and England. Camus is now sold widely at duty-free in airports.

The Family Legacy borrows heavily from the wisdom recorded in cellar notebooks by previous master blenders. It is made in an eight-step blending process and bottled at the slightly unusual degree of 40.8 percent alcohol, which the company deems perfect.

A further salute to the brand's legacy is the decanter, which is based on a decades-old bottle that has been redesigned with contemporary touches

(Cigar pairings on next page)

Camus Family Legacy (81.6 proof, or 40.8 alcohol by volume; no age statement; $1,299 per 750-milliliter bottle)

APPEARANCE: A brilliant, coppery, rosy color that you might expect to see in a Bourbon. Big, chunky slow legs.

NOSE: Very complex aroma that starts with a candied note of oranges or tangerines. It transitions to hints of roses and tea, then opens up to walnuts and pistachios. The bouquet closes out with another floral rush, this time oily like an attar.

PALATE: It gives a markedly smooth presentation as it slips onto the palate and then expands into a very rich and fruity hard candy—not a Lifesaver, but the kind of exotic lozenge that comes in a little, decorative tin box—that's solidly tangerine in flavor. The fruits keep coming, with pears and peaches, nectarines and grapefruit, before a soothing blanket of vanilla spreads out across the palate. The table is now set for the next act, which brings nuts and the smallest bit of Stilton cheese.

FINISH: You're not quite sure when it's over as the flavor seems to fade and reappear with nuanced fruitiness and perfume. And just when you'd forgotten about it, out pops at bit of licorice and tarragon.

Trinidad Paradox Toro (6 inches by 54 ring gauge, $7.00, 90 Points, October 2013 Cigar Aficionado). A squarely pressed smoke with a three-seam cap and veiny wrapper. The cigar smokes evenly with woody flavors that include mesquite, hickory and cedar with touches of white pepper and toast. An interesting flavor cohesion happens here. The cigar seems to coat the mouth to accept the Cognac, letting it seep through to the taste buds and gain a savory quality, the one aspect it lacked a bit. The Camus's nutty undertones come to the fore. Then as you return to the Paradox, its woods open up, becoming richer and livelier. An exceptional give-and-take.

Aurora Preferidos Gold (5 inches by 54 ring gauge, $20.00, 90 Points, October 2013 Cigar Aficionado). An attractive perfecto whose even draw delivers a dense, chewy smoke full of heavy wood and coffee balanced by sweet and spicy flavor. The flip side of the above order works best: prepare the palate with the Cognac first and then pour on the smoke, and the cigar will open up with extra helpings of its sweet, nutty character. The cigar's aroma even becomes more pronounced and delicious. The vanilla in the Camus transforms into a delicious crème brûlée. Not the equal of the first pairing, but that's hardly a complaint.

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