Thursday, August 2, 2012

Hennessy Cognac comparative tasting: VS, VSOP, Fine de Cognac and Diptyque

What do you do when you find yourself home alone on a cold winter's night with nothing and nobody to keep you busy?  Why, you pull it all out, of course.  I meant my 4 different varieties of Hennessy cognac - I don't know what you were thinking and don't really want to know ...

I happened to have a VS, VSOP, Fine de Cognac and my remaining Diptyque sitting in my maxi bar at home (no mini-bars in this house!), so I decided to give my Riedel Hennessy Cognac glasses a whirl, and the picture says it all.

Unsurprisingly, the VSOP's deep caramel colour is darker than the VS's glowing caramel hue, probably due to spending longer in the barrel.  The Fine de Cognac, on the other hand, was a pale straw-gold.  The Diptyque was almost similar to the VS in colour, but lighter by a shade or two.

I found the bouquet of the VS and VSOP difficult to distinguish from each other, both biscuity wood and spice, although the VSOP proffered some molasses-caramel notes.

The Fine de Cognac was day to their night - a floral, ephemeral bouquet one which one wouldn't be surprised to find on the neck of a beautiful woman.  Or maybe I'm spending too much time with my liquor ...

The Diptyque on the other hand was the stand-out, and so it should be for friggin' $250 just for a little 500ml bottle (my other bottle - it is a "diptyque" after all - was a casualty of last year's birthday party when someone mixed it with lemonade as a failed cocktail idea, and didn't even finish it - my fault for bringing it out at the end of the party, I guess).  Rich, soft, velvety and almost hinting at turkish delight, with exotic spices binding it all together.

The VS was delicious - all fresh wood and spice with sweet grape undertones, then moving to a more syrupy, sweet finish with warming spices on the back palate.

The VSOP actually sported a stronger, more robust flavour, displaying more wood up front with the spice taking a subtler back seat, and finishing long with an almost minty after-taste.

The Fine de Cognac, on the other hand, came across as a sweeter, flowery, almost syrupy flavour, but with lots of fine underlying spices which come to the fore at the back.  In fact, there were some microseconds that I could have sworn I was tasting a fine Speyside.  Interesting.  My mate Angus the cognac and cigar fiend (known to down a bottle and smoke 5 sticks in one long sitting of poker) reckons it's too sweet.  Well, compared to the others, yes it seems to come across as too sweet, although I suspect that there is more sweetness in the VS and VSOP, but that sweetness is counterbalanced by the strong wood and spice flavours, so you don't really notice it.

The Dyptique was clearly the most refined and flavoursome of the lot.  Well-balanced big up front flavours of velvety, rich wood and spices, with a grapey sweetness that does not overpower the other flavours.  The finish is also more flavoursome than the others, a complex mix of a different aspect of the same flavours I experienced up front, gradually fading into a beautifully complex aftertaste, again reminiscent of a fine whisky.  Very interesting indeed.

So there you have it.  Different styles for different tastes, although it seems that if you're just indulging in casual cognac drinking, you'll quite happily enjoy the VS (and save a shed-load of money in the process).  Of course, if you have time to sit and savour and reflect on the sublimely complex and balanced flavours of the Ditptyque, or just like to indulge in gratuitous wank and have money to burn, then the Diptyque is the one to get.  It also comes with a friend, but unfortunately, I can't remember how that one tasted.

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