The tasting room at Harrods Wine cellar has been turned into a ‘unique re-imagining’ of the Courvoisier cellar in Jarnac. The “Alchimie de Courvoisier” experience is about the journey one takes with Courvoisier, from the planting of vines through to the tasting from the glass. The walls around the room were lined with the Eaux de Vie that are used to create Courvoisier, unique pieces of art work that have historical merit in themselves and in the history of Courvoisier, and some of the historic bottles and tools used to make cognac.
The Alchimie de Courvoisier experience starts with a cocktail – the St Helena welcome Cocktail, which is a mix of fresh cucumber juice and celery bitters, lemon juice, champagne syrup and a good measure of Courvoisier XO. Topped with a garnish of frozen white grapes on a gold skewer. this is a cognac cocktail designed especially by Nathan Merriman of London’s The Ivy, and was a lot lighter cocktail than you might imagine. It was also a great way to start hearing about Courvoisier; sipping a Courvoisier cocktail and listening.
Rebecca Asseline, the Brand Ambassador for Courvoisier and master blender master blender Patrice Pinet talked about what Courvoisier stood for, its history, challenges and of its leadership role. What came across was not just the quality of the cognac, but the passion the producers and proponent have for it. Rebecca simply oozed a real enthusiasm for the cognac and made it a pleasure to listen to.
Courvoisier take meticulous care and attention at every stage of the process, from grape to bottle, to ensure they produce the most aromatic cognac in the world. This is because around 75% of what we taste is actually what we smell. Le Nez de Courvoisier is a fully immersive experience programme, encompassing additional elements from taste to sound to create a tantalising, multi-sensory experience for connoisseurs and new cognac fans alike.
As we enjoyed ‘Le Nez de Courvoisier’ we learnt more about the traditional processes and long timescales involved in making Courvoisier, as well as changes to both vine care and production that improve the consistency of the cognac.
Le Nez de Courvoisier paired three different foods with Courvoisier XO to demonstrate the complexity of the Cognac. First brill sashimi marinated in vanilla and mint, then venison loin with chocolate and thyme jus and finally a tiny blood orange and French lavender cake. With each dish a sip of cognac was taken, and the combination brought out a flavor that was almost hidden until the two combined. The venison revealed a darker peppery meat taste that was really good and just what you want.
Whilst you may think of Courvoisier as an after dinner drink, The Nez experience gets you to think of how you can use the different cognacs to open up whole new food experiences. It gave us much to think on.
Finally we sampled the Courvoisier Succession J.S. – a prestigious blend created to commemorate the bicentenary of the crowning of Napoleon as Emperor of France.
Only 2,500 bottles have been produced, and the Cognac is presented in a beautifully handcrafted wooden scale replica of Napoleon’s War Chest, retailing for £3,500.
According to the notes we were given ‘Succession is a blend of the most refined cognacs from one of the finest Grande Champagne cru suppliers, which were offered exclusively to the Courvoisier house specifically for this particular blend and in testament to their long-standing relationship’.
So how did it taste? Well we spent a few minutes just enjoying the nose; taking in all the aromas and subtle nuances that appear. You can start to enjoy this long before the first sip. But the first sip is heavenly, unexpectedly good even when you knew it would be good. Smooth, silky, golden, long, warm and I haven’t even started to get to the taste. In this case words can fail you. You just know you have something perfect in your glass.
Also on display, we had a chance to look at the worlds oldest known Courvoisier vintage, from 1789. Kept in an air conditional clear glass case, just as if a museum piece, was the bottle. Currently on sale for £95,000 through Harrods, and already some interest, representatives of the seller who were on hand said they would be sad to see it go.
L’Atelier de Courvoisier is at the Tasting Room in the Wine Shop on the lower ground floor of Harrods from Wednesday 5th to Sunday 9th December 2012.
If you are interested in learning more about Alchimie de Courvoisier or Le Nez, Patrice Pinet is hosting a live question and answer session at noon on 7th December 2012. You can tweet your questions to him using the hashtag #CourvoisierMasterBlender and tag @cognac_expert or follow the conversation at Cognac-Expert