Volume 2, Issue 2 — February, 2007
In This Issue
Feb 14: Valentine's Day
Feb 20–Mar 27: Introduction to Wine Part 1 at the Atlanta Wine School
Feb 24: Oakhurst Wine Crawl
To learn more about AsomBroso and their tequilas, please visit www.asombrosotequila.com.
Wine Club Selections
Size: 7.5 x 52
While Valentine’s day typically invokes images of flowers, champagne and fine wine such as the Shark’s Chardonnay, this month’s feature product will tempt you to try something a little different. A tequila aged in French oaken barrels that were previously used to age vintage Bordeaux wine.
Along those lines, our wine consultant and spirit enthusiast Robert Thomas further explores the realm of the so-called “Super Wines,” otherwise known as brandy and cognac. These rather strong wines can be quite pleasant, Robert opines, if treated and chosen with the correct reverence.
Finally, we explore the age-old question of what makes a hand-rolled cigar more expensive. Is it just labor or a more complex combination of factors?
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Kindred Spirits: Brandy, Cognac, Armagnac, and Calvados
Brandy is made all over the world from Armenia to South America, Germany and France. And while French cognac is the most famous worldwide, there are many other tempting alternatives to explore for those venturing into this world of "super wines" for the first time.
Germany, France, and the United States are known for un-aged fruit brandies in flavors such as kirsch (cherry), framboise (raspberry), poire (pear), pomme (apple), and prunelle (blue plum). These brandies are made from whole fruit, resulting in a robust fruit aroma.
These “eau de vies," or waters of life, are un-aged and still fiery. But they make for pleasant additions to coffee. When combined with cream and sugar, the fruit flavor is preserved and the brandy is more approachable.
When Brandy Grows Up
The cognac is graded on an age system, starting with the youngest VS (very special) to "Imperial" grades of the oldest XOs (extra olds).
If you like a young, fruity, fiery cognac, or are planning to mix the cognac then choose a VS. If you like something mellow, most people gravitate toward a VSOP. The XOs, while very smooth and nice, are by far the most expensive with a starting cost of about $100 a bottle and going up into the thousands!
In the U.S., the most common and reliable brands of cognac include the houses of Remy Martin, Hennesey, Martell and Courvoisier. More difficult to find—but well worth the search—are the independent, small houses of France such as Maison Prunier.
But cognac is not the only brandy produced in France.
Like cognac, armagnac is a French grape brandy. But unlike cognac, armagnac is distilled only once rather than twice and is aged in black oak barrels rather than white oak.
Armagnac also tends to be less frequently blended, giving it an earthier, heartier style than the smoother lighter style of cognac.
The last great aged brandy of France is calvados from Normandy. This is apple country, and this brandy is made from apples rather than grapes.
According to legend, the Vikings drank calvados as long as 1000 years ago. It is distilled twice like cognac, yielding a smooth sipping brandy.
Combined, these brandies will always ensure France a place in the pantheon of great brandies. But in the end, all brandies are kindred spirits… robust distillations full of character.
Totalmente a Mano: It’s Not Just About Prestige
While premium cigars, or cigars filled with long-leaf tobacco, account for the majority of cigars exported to the U.S., there are distinctions that go beyond the grade of tobacco. Among those distinctions are whether the cigar was hand-rolled or machine-rolled, along with the skill of the cigar maker.
No Substitute For Experience
As a result, a more skilled roller will use their instincts to combine different parts of the tobacco plant in the filler to create a more complex flavor and aroma. Their skill in picking the tobacco is especially significant in that a truly premium cigar might be made using leaves from 20 plants, marrying flavors from different types of leaves in search of harmony. The different leaves blending together account for the more complex flavor.
And while the most expensive cigars are made from a single year's outstanding crop, there is another reason for the premium price on hand-rolled cigars.
Don’t Fray On Me
But this aged tobacco requires special handling, such as a the care provided by an expert roller. Therefore, a hand-rolled cigar is also likely to be aged for a longer period than a machine-rolled cigar.
Picking The Best
Among those are the Aurtro Fuente “Ashtons” and Romeo and Julieta “Toros.” The rolling of these upper-end cigars is often supervised by a family member and is judged for quality prior to release.
But as with most things, you will be charged for the extra service. After all, this is one field where man still beats machine.
Recipe: Classic Brandy Sidecar
Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass (preferably sugar-rimmed). Garnish with a strip or twist of lemon rind.
Recipe: The Valentine
Combine ingredients in a highball or cocktail galss, stir, and serve.
Entrances from Lawrenceville Hwy and from Dekalb Industrial Blvd.
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Fri-Sat: 10:00 am – 11:45 pm
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1789 Lawrenceville Highway, Decatur, Georgia 30033 | Phone: 404-633-8242 | www.decaturspirits.com