Malternative Belgium is the company of Pieter Knapen. In 2016 he started bottling and distributing cognac, sherry and other malternatives (see this). The project was put on hold for a while but now he has made a restart, entirely focusing on cognac.
The first bottling is quite a heavy-hitter: Cognac Borderies ‘Avant 1925’. It was sourced from a French family, descendants of René Rivières who produced cognac since the early 20th century. We don’t know when it was distilled exactly, but in any case this particular cask was mentioned in heritage documents from 1925. The cognac certainly predates it with a couple of years. In 1981 it was transferred to a demijohn until bottling in February 2020.
Borderies may not be the most famous region for cognac, but as Pieter says the really old examples can show a glorious fruity side.
This is #1 Le début. Pieter’s objective is to continue along these lines, also bringing younger and more affordable expressions, but never under 30 years of age and always from small producers.
Héritage de René Rivière cognac ‘Avant 1925’ Borderies (49%, Malternative 2020, 66 btl.)
Nose: superb elegance. There are apples, apricots and orange peels, hints of honeysuckle and subtle floral notes (elderflower perhaps, and old roses). Fruit tea. Wax candles. Rubbed mint leaves and verbena. Soft spice and sandalwood. A subtle dusty note too, I like that. Excellent.
Mouth: wow, really. Similar fruity notes (apricots, mirabelles, apples), then eucalyptus and mint. The third wave is slightly tropical (passion fruits, pink grapefruit). The oak is firmer now, it’s quite punchy after so many years, with some resinous notes, rancio and peppery touches, but never loosing the balance and impeccable freshness.
Finish: long, with some citrus, apple peel, delicate tannins and cinnamon.
What a (re-)start! A glorious expression of Borderies, with an exquisite profile and balance. Around € 400, not cheap but quite fair considering the age, I think. It can be ordered from the Malternative web shop. You can also get a sample beforehand.