Kudos to last month's guest blogger Lynne Becker. Lynn writes the fabulous blog Libation Laboratory that you really should be reading, if you aren't already! And of course many thanks to Rocky Yeh, Wine World, Pierre Ferrand and Dante's Dogs for making our July meeting so great! ~WM
Until June 1st of this year, the LUPEC ladies would likely not have met at Wine World and Spirits for our monthly event. However, passage of Washington State Initiative 1183 changed that. For the first time in 78 years, liquor sales are no longer exclusive to Washington State liquor stores. Until May 31, Wine World was just that; a giant world of wine. However, starting on the first day of June, spirits were added to their shelves and they became Wine World and Spirits (WW&S). And if you haven’t seen their inventory, you should; it’s impressive. So, July finds LUPEC in the event space at WW&S. Our special guests for the evening were the esteemed Rocky Yeh, Portfolio Ambassador for the Proof Collection and Mr. Guillaume Lamy, Vice President of Cognac Ferrand.
Rocky was preparing the bar as the LUPEC members arrived. More than several bottles of diverse spirits lined the bar. Clearly, there were going to be many opportunities for tastings. Dante’s Dogs had set up shop outside to provide the evening’s nourishment. While LUPEC members found a seat and visited Dante’s for their dog of choice, Rocky mixed our first drink of the evening; the Seattle Southside1. This was a cocktail consisting of Citadelle Gin, Mathilde Poire, lemon, and garnished with pear. It was served on ice with soda water to finish and was a refreshing start to the evening.
Drinks and dogs acquired, Rocky provided the group with information on the recent liquor privatization initiative. Washington State has some of the highest liquor taxes in the country and even greater now with passage of I-1183. However, the upside of I-1183 is a better selection of liquor. I know the first time I walked into WW&S and observed the diversely stocked liquor section; I thought “this is why I-1183 passed.” Rocky suggested that our goal as liquor aficionados should be maximum selection at our local liquor stores. As we’ve all noticed, prices are higher, though this is not completely reflected on the sticker price. At the checkout, you’ll notice liter tax as well as an additional 27% fee over the sticker price. The 27% represents a 10% distributor fee and a 17% retail fee. However, in 2 years the distributor fee will reduce to 5%, saving us some money on our liquid hobby.
Special guest Mr. Guillaume Lamy from Cognac Ferrand spoke of their impressive portfolio of spirits, including Pierre Ferrand 1840 (which just won at TOTC - Tales of the Cocktail Spirited Award winners, Best New Product2) and Pierre Ferrand Ambre, Citadelle Gin, Mathilde Poire Liqueur, Plantation Grand Reserve Rum and Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao, all of which were represented at the LUPEC event.
Mr. Lamy eloquently equated the art of distilling cognac to cooking or baking. In the process he invited us all to Cognac to tour the distillery. I’m quite sure more than one LUPEC member put Cognac on their travel destination wish list after listening to Mr. Lamy speak of the distillery and the region. Personally, I’m ready to leave to be an apprentice at the distillery. Cognac Ferrand is a relatively small operation with 25 people total, 15 of which support the distilling. The Cognac region of France is essentially a huge vineyard with over 5000 grape producers and 300 distilleries. Cognac is not made from Champagne, but originates from wine. Though Pierre Ferrand cognac is called Grand Champagne Cognac, the ‘Champagne’ refers to the region of Cognac and type of soil in which the grapes are grown. Because cognac starts with wine, with a great diversity of age and taste, blending is required to produce cognac, making it a subjective art form. Good cognac should taste like wine; much like espresso is to good coffee.
Cognac Ferrand has a new cognac on the market, the Pierre Ferrand 1840. The LUPEC group was fortunate to have the opportunity to taste this delicious product. At the time of the event, there were very few bottles available in Seattle and only 3 on the shelf at WW&S. Some might have thought a girl-fight would ensue, but the LUPEC ladies are much more civilized than that, especially when Rocky assured us that he had a container landing in Seattle in the next couple of weeks. Even more exciting is the fact that the 1840 was just awarded ‘Best New Product’ at the 2012 Tales of the Cocktail Convention. Cognac Ferrand paired with historian David Wondrich to develop the 1840. Historically, at least a third of all cocktails were made with cognac as a base spirit. In an effort to recreate historically accurate Cognac, many old bottles of cognac were tasted. Unlike wine, Cognac’s high alcohol content prevents further aging upon bottling. Once bottled, Cognac is considered a ‘dead bottle’ and, provided that the bottle was stored correctly, the flavor profile when bottle, even in 1840, is how it will taste today. After working their way through a number of old bottles of Cognac, the tasting team finally tried a bottle from 1840 that was exceptionally good. Two centuries ago, vegetal infusions were often used in the making of cognac. The Ferrand distillers added the old cognac to new distillate to replicate the vegetal infusions and thus creating the award-winning ‘1840’. The LUPEC group had the opportunity to taste both the 1840 cognac as well as the Ambre cognac.
Continuing the collaboration with David Wondrich, Cognac Ferrand decided to rectify the dearth of quality curacaos on the market. Curacao is the original orange liqueur, and is sometimes also referred to as Triple Sec, which is a descriptive of the distillation process. However, that ‘Triple Sec’ you see on the bottom shelf of many liquor stores, is not really a French orange liqueur, but rather a neutral grain spirit with flavorings made in Red Creek, WV (ok, I made up the geography part). Don’t buy it. Cognac Ferrand resurrected a 19th century recipe for their curacao. The method includes “three separate distillations of spices and the ‘sec’ or bitter peels of Curacao oranges blended with brandy and Ferrand Cognac3.” This is a dry curacao with mild sweetness. Rocky used the curacao very successfully in his version of the El Presidente cocktail consisting of Plantation Grand Reserve Rum, Dry Curacao, Dolin Blanc vermouth and grenadine (Rocky used his very own special recipe grenadine; a lingonberry/honey variety). As Rocky pointed out, this cocktail contains no citrus and would be an excellent candidate for aging.
The folks of Cognac Ferrand are a resourceful group, and their portfolio of spirits is representative of this character attribute. The French AOC (appellation d'origine controlee4) strictly controls the wine and other agricultural products in the French Cognac region. One of the regulations allows that cognac distillation can only occur between the months of November and March, leaving the pot stills inactive for the remainder of the year. Cognac Ferrand took advantage of this inactivity by using their copper pot stills to make Citadelle Gin, a London dry-style gin. Continuing the theme of efficiency, the distillery uses their cognac casks to age rum, producing Plantation Grand Reserve Rum.
Our last educational opportunity of the evening was to learn about Cognac Ferrand’s line of fruit liqueurs. [I’ll be honest with you, the quality of my note-taking is inversely proportional to my number of cocktails and taste testing opportunities. And by this time in the evening, our table-top was filled with glasses.] Specifically, Mr. Lamy discussed the Mathilde Poire. This is a relatively sweet (at least 100g sugar per liter as directed by European law), low alcohol content (18%) liqueur with heavy pear notes. Rocky successfully used the Mathilde Poire in the Seattle Southside with which we started the evening.
July found us with a unique opportunity to learn more about I-1183, a huge portfolio of interesting and tasty spirits from Cognac Ferrand and try some great cocktails made by the infamous Rocky Yeh; all in a really lovely event space. And Ladies, Air France will be running big sale this fall, so book your tickets to Cognac. We’ll be needed at Cognac Ferrand starting in November to kick off the distilling season.
1Created by Allen Katz