In the world of wines and spirits one iconic spirit stands out for its glowing amber hue, fruity-floral aromas, and smooth texture: Martell VSOP.
While this signature cognac may conjure up a traditional image of sipping from a glass next to an open fire in a wood-panelled study (and why not enjoy it this way?), a new generation of brandy lovers are falling in love with its many charms.
Whether you are new to cognac or a seasoned drinker, read on for fascinating insights into a classic spirit from a house that has delivered refined and elegant cognacs since 1715.
- Cognac or Brandy?
VSOP cognac is a type of brandy but not all brandies are VSOP cognacs. When you are browsing and shopping for alcohol online in Singapore, you have probably come across the label VSOP and wondered what it meant. What is the difference between other brandies and a legendary name like Martell VSOP? The answer is that this indication means “Very Superior Old Pale” which proves that the brandy has been aged for a minimum of four years in oak and possesses special flavour qualities because of this process (more on that later). The second question could well be why a phrase in English is emblazoned on a distinctly French product? Legend goes it harks back to the days when the British monarchy were some of the greatest fans of this seductive brandy. When they made their orders to the house of Martell, they specifically asked for a Very Superior Old Pale style and over the years this phrase has stuck. All in all, it indicates high quality craftmanship and flavour.
- Cognac Grapes
Cognac is made from grapes and reading the list of varietals is like reading an A to Z of the fruit!
This spirit is the result of distillation of white wine with a minimum of 90% from Ugni Blanc (also known as Trebbiano), Folle Blanche or Colombard. The remaining 10% can be made from Folignan, Jurançon blanc, Meslier St-François, Sélect, Montils or Sémillon.
These varietals each possess aroma, flavour and texture qualities that lend themselves to the quality brandy production that results in the distinct blossomy, fruity notes and silky mouthfeel of Martell VSOP. The fruit must be grown in one of six areas or crus around the town of Cognac on the west coast of France for the golden liquor to be honoured with its namesake label.
- How is it Made?
Cognac is produced from the distillation of a base white wine into “eau-de-vie”. This rich and potent “water of life” is then oak aged for at least four years. This adds the final polish to the spirit’s flavour profile.
What sets Martell VSOP apart are the attentions of its Master Distiller and Cellar Master. First, only sediment-free wine is used to allow the flavour characteristics of the grapes to shine through with purity. Ageing in fine-grain, lightly toasted oak barrels is the next step of the process when the distilled spirit’s colour is gently transformed into its famed amber and its taste deepens with subtle nutty, vanilla notes. Finally, whether it takes two years of 50, the eaux-de-vie emerge from their barrels only when they are ready to be blended in the creation of the balanced VSOP for which Martell is world renowned.
- How Does it taste?
When you buy cognac online, it is a different experience from purchasing in-store. The tasting notes are the only map you have for deciding if it is the type of brandy you want in your glass. Fortunately, Martell have had more than three centuries to get their blends right and Martell VSOP is no exception.
Gentle lime and liquorice on the nose open to crystallised fruit, quince, raisin and plum on the palate all balanced by hazelnutty, oaky notes. Complex, smooth, and rounded, this cognac has an exquisitely lengthy finish for sumptuous savouring.
You can enjoy it on its own, on the rocks or in a cocktail. Speaking of which…
- Martell VSOP Cocktails
When you peruse the shelves of liquor stores in Singapore for Martell VSOP, you are likely thinking of all the different ways you can serve and enjoy it either alone or with friends. This cognac has the smoothness and body to be enjoyed neat yet also the versatility to be a key ingredient in quirky and delicious cocktails.
Why not get the party started with a blend of cognac, champagne, a tad of Angostura bitters and one cube of sugar? Follow up with the Highball with Martell cognac, verbena syrup, lemon bitters and ginger for a fresh and daring cocktail. For the perfect finale to dinner, serve Martell VSOP with a heady mix of gomme, coffee bitters and Branca Mentha. This will wake up sleepy dinner guests for all the right reasons and keep the conversation flowing.
The list goes on and when it comes to making creative cocktails your imagination is the limit. And remember, you can always simply enjoy straight Martell VSOP in that wood-panelled study as well…