This is the second part of our Vallein-Tercinier cognac round-up. Having reviewed some of the most interesting assemblages, this time I will try some of the oldest and rarest cognacs in the house.
Vintage cognac from Petite Champagne, bottled as a Brut de fût at 48,2%.
I’m sure you could trick experienced maltheads into thinking this was a refill sherry single malt on the nose. Some blood orange, apricot jam, hints of leather. Perfect balance with some polished oak. Fruity palate, raisins and fresh plums, but with a light bitter edge (clove, ginger, tangy oak). Some menthol. Very good, very whisky-like, but a little oaky for me. Around € 300.
Vallein-Tercinier L’érotique 1969
Vintage cognac from Grande Champagne, bottled at 47%.
Similar experience, in the sense that you get a really nice fruitiness but also firm spicy oak. A little more vanilla on the nose, some fragrant Szechuan pepper as well, besides de round fruits of course (orange, melon). Compared to 1973 also a bit more tropical notes on the palate (pineapple, mango) and light medicinal touches. Not sure why this is less expensive: around € 230.
Vallein-Tercinier Lot 65
Vintage cognac from Grande Champagne, bottled as a Brut de fût at 47%. As often with these vintages, different bottlings exist. This one was bottled in 2015.
A real eye-opener for me. Not only is this similar to single malt whisky, it is similar to Bowmore from the 1960s or some of the recent 1988-1991 Irish malts. Truckloads of pink grapefruit, tangerine and guava on the nose. Also mint and subtle cigar leaves. Plus excellent beeswax and polished oak. Excellent. On the palate, it goes in the same direction, with more passion fruits this time, a couple of litchis, tangerine and mango. Mixed with verbena and aniseed. Stunning, and there’s virtually no woodiness compared to 73 or 69. Around € 310.
To give you an idea, there’s one cask of the Lot 65 left in the cellars.
Très Vieux Fins Bois
A composition of two casks from 1938 and 1941, from the Fins Bois region (in which the house itself and its primary vineyards are located), bottled as a Brut de fût at 47%.
Interesting nose, on dried yellow flowers, maybe chamomile, herbal notes, ginger and cigar boxes. Worn leather. After some time it folds open with apricot jam and vanilla. Reminds me of the 1973 on the palate. Big fruitiness, lots of apricot jam and mixed fruit salad, including some tropical notes but to a slightly lesser extent. Spicy / herbal notes too (ginger, pepper, menthol) but the whole finds an excellent balance. Quite a stunner. Around € 325.
Vallein-Tercinier Rue 34
Vintage cognac (1934) from Grande Champagne, bottled as a Brut de fût at 42% in 2014.
Very leathery and surprisingly nutty in comparison to the others. Also a sweet and sour note that hints towards Madeira. Raisins, even cherries. Honey. Mint and eucalyptus. A hint of turpentine as well. Quite sour on the palate: sour cherries, passion fruits, grapefruits and lots of pinesap. Bergamots. Deeply infused fruit teas. It’s easy to see where this sour side comes from (80 years in wood) but luckily it’s not a tannic oakiness as such. A special one, a very complex one as well, but if you take the price into account, it’s not my favourite. Around € 600-800.
I’m not planning to score cognac, but obviously I had some personal favourites. Lot 65 is the most exquisite, refined expression, unbeatable when you’re looking for these tropical fruity notes. I love it and I had to buy a bottle. In second place, I would place the Très Vieux Fins Bois, which has a more all-round profile, very close to a good old Speyside whisky. The Millésime 1973 completes my top-3.
These three are definitely on the same level as some of the best single malts. Unfortunately their prices are rising rather quickly (stocks are tiny, really) and if you thought cognac would offer the same experience as whisky for a much lower price, you might be disappointed. However I suggest the already outstanding Hors d’Âge for those on a smaller budget.
As a side note, Vallein Tercinier is an exception, so don’t get too excited. They’re a small shrimp in the cognac industry, with a rare focus on quality over quantity. Hardly any cognac producers are releasing vintages or single casks at cask strength. On the other hand a lot of bigger producers also offer cognacs for several hundreds of euros, in fancy decanters but with far less impressive contents.
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