Spirits of Distinction
By Franz Scheurer
Hennessy Private Reserve
Cognac is still the most revered symbol of status and virility in the East, but has a bit of an image problem in the West, being perceived as an old man’s drink. Many marketing forays into the mixing and flavouring world have done nothing to change this, but have detracted from the image of superior quality. So it’s with glee that I welcome the Australian release of the centenary celebratory blend: ‘Hennessy Private Reserve’, originally created in 1965. Richard Hennessy (1724-1800) was the first of the Hennessy family distilling cognac and Jean Fillioux (1770-1852) the first master blender joining the great marque. Today, 8 generations later, the Hennessy and the Fillioux family still work together producing superb Cognacs, and this is the first Cognac in a century worthy of both the Hennessy and Fillioux signatures. The flavour profile is modelled after the 1865 release, each bottle is numbered and each batch is checked and tasted. On the nose it is quite floral with some candy notes and on the palate the floral notes are confirmed with crystallized violets, vanilla and soft woody scents reminiscent of a cedar cigar box. This Cognac is not about forceful flavours but rather restraint and an astounding balance with a beautifully harmonious and long finish. The packaging of this Cognac might not be as impressive as the Richard Hennessy or the Louis XIII, but it delivers the goods in any line-up
The Glenlivet French Oak Single Malt
The glen (valley) of the Livet River in Speyside was a remote and law-less area in the early 1800s with hundreds of illicit stills operating. Geographically protected from the excise officers, it offered perfect conditions for whisky making with its abundant barley, peat and an inexhaustible source of good water. In 1824 George Smith took the unpopular step of becoming the first licensed distiller in the glen. The fame of his whisky was such that even King George IV on a visit to Edinburgh asked to be served the Glenlivet, understanding it to be George Smith’s Glenlivet. Many of the other distillers in the valley took advantage of the success of George’s whisky and it took until 1884 for George Smith to secure the name. Now only his whisky can be called the Glenlivet. With the release of the 15 y/o French Oak Single Malt they present a traditionally produced Single Malt whisky, aged in ex Bourbon barrels, but finished in new Limousin oak casks. Bottled at 40% a/vol it has a forward, strong aroma of plum pudding with vanilla overtones and the jammy, orangey notes persist on the palate, integrating heady wood aromas, creating a dry dram with an austere but satisfying mouthfeel. This is an elegant, perfectly balanced whisky worthy of a place in your bar and best served as an aperitif. It’s a dream match with smoked oysters!
The flavoured vodka segment is probably the most successful of any ‘new’ spirits unleashed on the cocktail world in the last 15 years. Absolut released Absolut Citron as far back as 1988 and with their latest addition, Absolut Raspberri they certainly hope to continue the success of this market segment. Bottled in the brand-recognisable shaped bottle, using a bright pink coloured glass, this is a bottle you won’t easily miss. The spirit itself is clear and, although heavily scented, not at all sweet or sticky. This is a clean, fruit-infused spirit perfect for mixers or to drink on its own, instead of an Eau de Vie after a meal. The flavour profile is unmistakably vodka based, with fresh, ripe raspberry flavours and a long, cool, lingering finish. Try it with a raspberry panna cotta.
Lark’s Tasmanian Pepperberry Gin
Lark Distillery is known for its Single Malt, which, according to Jim Murray’s WHISKY BIBLE is “a lovely whisky, superbly made and offering both guile and charisma”. They do, however, make a whole range of other spirits and the one that caught my attention is their Pepperberry Gin. Using native pepper berries to flavour the grain spirit this is a clean, clear drink with a nose of herbs, spices and freshly grated pepper and a touch of eucalypt. On the palate it develops juniper and rose petal flavours with good texture and mouthfeel. The finish is quite short but full of herb-citrus sweetness. This is a great Gin to use in a cocktail where the Gin is the hero, like an old-fashioned Pink Gin.
Appelton Estate Jamaica Rum 21 Years Old
A blend of superior old rums, the youngest in the blend being a 21 year old, this drink will change the perception of rum as a mixer once and for all. Using rums aged in oak for at least 21 years the Master Blender does his magic, then the resulting blend is aged for another year in oak to ‘marry’ the flavours, then bottled at 43% a/vol. On the nose the aromas of vanilla, Demerara sugar and musk are prevalent with hints of heady floral notes. On the palate it reveals roasted nuts, toasted oak and a deeply textured, long orange marmalade finish. This is a superb drink and one of the best rums I’ve ever had the joy of tasting.