A trip to Pierre Ferrand Cognac house

After spending a few days conferring on how to persuade women to drink Cognac and touring the big Cognac houses, I was more than happy to spend some time at a smaller Cognac maker, getting down to the nitty-gritty of how the spirit is actually distilled.

I had met Alexandre Gabriel, president and owner of Cognac Ferrand, on one of his visits to New York, and liked a number of his products, so I was happy to learn that I’d been invited to spend a little quality time at his family’s distillery before heading back home.  Here are a few snaps from that visit.

imageIn the distillery, we sampled the Cognac in virtually every stage, including the relatively undesirable “heads” and “tails,” as well as the desirable “heart” (Coeur) of the spirit. It’s crystal clear at this point; barrel aging is what provides the amber color.

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A view of the chateau from the outside.

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Inside the warehouse where the Cognac ages. Note the colorful mold growing on the floor and the cobwebs and dust on top of the barrels; we didn’t see much of either in the larger Cognac houses. This was very old school.
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This is bartender Willy Shine — it’s a little hard to see, but he’s holding an apparatus used to extract Cognac from the barrels for sampling. It’s akin to a large eyedropper; in whiskey language they call this a “whiskey thief” or a “valinch.” I’m sorry to say I don’t recall what the Cognac folks call this device.
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My glass of Cognac, fresh from the barrel. I swear it tastes better this way; it was like liquid butterscotch.
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After the Cognac barrels are emptied, Ferrand then re-fills those barrels with other spirits, a technique known as “cask-finishing.” Here, the barrel has been refilled with rum from Trinidad. This one also was particularly delicious.
imageBack inside the chateau. This is Alexandre Gabriel, treating Willy and me to a sampling of some of his extremely old and rare Cognac collection. Really, a remarkable way to end the visit to Cognac.

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4 Comments

Filed under On the road, Uncategorized

4 responses to “A trip to Pierre Ferrand Cognac house

  1. Ooh, it was by sure a nice trip. Wish i could have once the same opportunity to visit some smaller cognac houses.

    I think that they offer more quality for less money, in comparison to the ‘Big Brothers’ of cognac. Is it your impression the same?
    Greetings from Italy. :)

    • karanewman

      This trip was a rare privilege, no doubt. Hmmm…do smaller cognac makers offer better value than the big guys? Sometimes. I know many of the super expensive, ultra “luxe” cognacs mean you’re paying for fancy packaging, like a Baccarat decanter, not what’s inside the bottle. But many of the big houses also have access to old and rare vintages that the smaller houses haven’t yet had the opportunity to cultivate. So I think it’s a pick-and-choose situation.

  2. I agree with you; but i was thinking at an ‘average’ quality range, say from 25 to 50yo cognac, not at top-end bottles; in my experience, and carefully choosing (you are right), i found that the ‘boilleurs de cru’ are always far better then the big companies, both in taste and price. At least their cognacs have greater personality, due to less extensive blending, practice which i find a lowering of quality.
    Of course the targets of the Big Four are completely different from the small growers, so there’s room for everyone.
    Anyway there are some well known small cognac houses which stand out for quality and can compete with the greater ones in offering rare&old cognacs; but we enter then in the amateur field leaving the drinker’s side; i guess you could experience this at Ferrand’s.

    Thank you for sharing this deep interest in cognac. :)

  3. As I was reading your article, I was thinking about the Plantation Rum Grande Reserve in my cabinet. I read on about the cognac wondering, “I wonder if she’s going to say anything about their rum…” Bravo for its inclusion. The used barrels really add depth to their rum line.

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