When’s the last time you called for a cognac-based cocktail or had it with food? The specific style of brandy has earned a stiff reputation for being a drink for older gents, being limned by bitter notes that younger audiences may not savour.
All that’s about to change as far as leading brand Martell is concerned. They’ve put the stopper on production of the flagship VSOP Medallion, and are introducing the VSOP Aged in Red Barrels, a drink crafted for the tastes of its youthful drinkers.
By simply using barrels that are three to eight years of age for the ageing process (as opposed to young barrels, which impart some bitterness) – Martell have redefined the flagship with a mellower, smoother liquid that goes down well with food and dessert, and is easy drinking on its own or on the rocks.
We put that into practice (on our own volition) at a tasting at Empress@ACM, spooning the new formula liberally into our noodles and later, the restaurant’s excellent pandan creme brulee. With some Medallion on hand as well, comparison is easy. The rounder profile of the Aged in Red Barrels allows for more harmony in the pairing, with the tail end of pandan’s vanilla notes segueing nicely into the soft Red finish. There is marked discordance when repeating the act with the Medallion. Expect hints of apricot and peach in the mild drink – we wouldn’t even recommend rocks, as the amber liquid seems well-balanced enough right out the bottle.
Can we call the new blend ‘Red’ for brevity? Definitely, says House of Martell Cellar Master Christophe Valtaud. “That’s what I call it,” he chuckles. He adds that the full “Aged in Red Barrels” was more a consequence of legal requirement than any marketing spiel.
Cognac vs Brandy
Brandy is the general term applied to distilled spirits from fermented fruit juice – any fruit is eligible. This is why you can have apple and peach brandy – but never apple cognac (sacre bleu!). This does mean cognac is a type of brandy, of course.
Cognac refers to spirits distilled specifically from wine. Also, the production must hail from the Cognac region in southwestern France, which is revered for superior terroir. This, among other stringent regulations.
Being the man behind the momentous decision to retire the established Medallion (a product born in 1960) – we quiz him: what’s the best cocktail to pop some Red in? After some mulling, he references a spritz as his top pick, and invites our readers to lean on the Martell cocktail recipe page. We’ve got license to reproduce a couple:
Recipe 1: Plum Spritz
- 35ml Martell VSOP cognac
- 35ml Choya Plum wine or sake
- Soda to top VSOP
- Orange slice for garnish
Build ingredients over cubed ice in a rocks glass. Stir and garnish with an orange slice.
Recipe 2: Sidecar
- 20ml Martell cognac
- 10ml lemon juice
- 10ml triple sec
- 1 orange peel
Put a few ice cubes into the shaker and add the Martell cognac, lemon juice and triple sec. Shake the ingredients together and pour into a cocktail strainer glass. Squeeze the orange peel over the cocktail.
Cocktail images: Martell.