Jack Bettridge, Cigar Aficionado's senior features editor and spirits writer, has one rule he lives by when it comes to Cognac: XO or above. Attendees sitting down to the Sunday spirits and cigar pairing got more than their taste of that rule with a special lineup of Cognac that featured Martell Cordon Bleu, Remy Martin XO and Hennessy Paradis Extra.
The Cognacs were paired with two cigars -- a Carlos Toraño Exodus Gold Tubo and a La Flor Dominicana Ligero L300 Oscuro Natural -- and by the time the crowd had settled in after the Roll Your Own cigar contest, there wasn't an extra seat to be found.
"I don't often say this," said Bettridge in opening, "but Vive la France!" A huge round of applause followed and, like every year's spirit tasting at the Las Vegas Big Smoke, it was obvious the crowd was eager to slake their thirst with what Bettridge described as "three of the best Cognacs available."
|Attendees wait to dive into the lineup of Cognac.|
The first Cognac tasted was the Martell Cordon Bleu, which is distilled in the area known as the Borderies and retails for $160. Martell, which was established in 1912, was the first upmarket Cognac and remains the oldest Cognac house in France. This gives the company an advantage in that it has more eau-de-vies, or distilled wines, to blend. Martell is also the first house to use Trancois oak barrels to age its Cognac, rather than the more standard Limousin oak. The result is a delicate, but complex spirit with a nutty nose and savory hazelnut flavors.
|Each spirit was given a careful inspection.|
Last but not least was the Hennessy Paradis Extra. Hennessy owns the largest stock of vintage eau-de-vies and by blending up to a hundred vintages and then further aging them in a cask for another two years so flavors can marry, the company has come up with an exquisite Cognac, which Bettridge likes to describe as "a symphony in your mouth." The nose is floral and perfumy, with hints of walnuts and citrus. On the palate, one tastes light spices, licorice and complex fruit flavors.
|Cigars were part-and-parcel to the tasting.|
As has become tradition, the seminar ended with Bettridge quizzing the audience for the bottles of Cognac that were left over. While only a few people went home with a bottle, most left the seminar with a new appreciation for the wonderfully delicious spirit that Cognac is.
Photos by Camilla Sjodin
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