Thursday, August 23, 2007

Last Night's Tipple

One of the virtues of most whiskey (and whisky) is that labeling is very straight-forward. Most (but not all) of the better versions will have an age statement on the label, and that age statement reflects the age of the youngest spirit that goes into the blend. Now, age doesn't tell the whole story, of course. Different spirits in different locations and different barrels age differently. But it is better than nothing.

Leave it to the French to make things difficult. Most (but not all) of the big-name Cognacs and Armagnacs use a system of labeling that tells the consumer next to nothing. In this system, there are three grades: VS (Very Special), which must contain brandies at least 3 years old; VSOP (Very Special Old Pale), which must contain brandies at least 5 years old; and XO (extra old), which must contain brandies at least 6 years old. Wouldn't it be simpler and more communicative just to use the same system that the Canadians and the Americans and the Scottish and the Irish use for age labeling? Of course it would, but that's not the French way.
Cerbois is one of the more readily-available Armagnacs on the market, at least around here. I don't claim to know much about brandy in general or Armagnac in particular, but I have noticed that every Armagnac that I've tried has this interesting almost-burnt-toast aroma going on. It's not present in any Cognacs or other brandies that I've tried. I actually like it, but it is unusual. As for the rest, well, it smells and tastes like brandy. I enjoyed it, but there is a reason that I typically drink whiskey instead of brandy.

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