The key to Camus is a small growing region in Cognac called Borderies, an area which sits between Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, and Fins Bois. This is the smallest growing region of Cognac and represents only 5% of the total production in the region. Although the area is small, it has a number of different microclimates which impart a variety of characteristics from very floral to very spicy.
Camus has made a fairly large ‘bet’ in this region and is one of the largest land owners in Borderies. One of the ways they got this high concentration was by leveraging property in key Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne areas in exchange for land in Borderies. It’s a fairly bold move to concentrate your land in a region that’s not as well promoted as the two key Champagne areas, and Camus has built their business on bold moves.
Camus is the fifth largest cognac house, but unlike the top four who are owned and managed by major beverage corporations, Camus is still family owned. The business has been passed down from father to son for over five generations. The current head of Camus, Cyril Camus, is fairly young by most cognac standards and became president of Camus in 2004 at the age of 33. Cyril started his work with Camus in 1994 as the company’s Trade Relations Director in Beijing. China has now become one of the biggest dollar volume markets for cognac, and Cyril’s early experience with this market has been key to Camus’s success today.
The centerpiece of Camus’s cognac line is the Borderies XO. This cognac shows off the immense complexity and range of flavor that you can get from the Borderies region. The nose is a combination of nice, light floral notes like violet, and deeper sweet notes like vanilla and hazelnut. The taste is slightly spicy with subtle oak, pastry, vanilla bean, and an orange citrus note. It all leads to a long spicy finish.
With so many cognac houses myopically focused on Grande and Petite Champagne, it’s great to see a cognac house highlight the wonderful flavors that can come from the other growing regions.
Although it’s not currently available in the United States, one of Camus’s most fascinating offerings comes from the unfortunately named growing region Bois Ordinaires, which includes a small island called Ile de Re. Production of grapes on this island has shrunk dramatically over the years as the island has become fashionable vacation hot spot for the French rich and famous (think The Hamptons). The grapes that are grown on Ile de Re are grown in soil that has a similar kind of decayed kelp and organic marine matter as grows in the islands of Scotland, which pick up dramatically different characteristics than the other growing areas of Cognac.
Once distilled, the Ile de Re cognacs are split between Ile de Re Double Matured, which is aged partially on Ile de Re and partially in the heart of Cognac, and Ile de Re Cliffside Cellar, which is aged in a cellar with actual marine exposure. The result is one of the most distinct and unique cognacs we’ve tasted. The cognac is soft and lush, slightly sweet and salty, with a nice long finish. Ile de Re cognac lives somewhere in the world between whisky and cognac, and is simply delightful.
While being one of the larger cognac houses, Camus manages to do things differently and presents a wide spectrum of flavors and aromas that fall outside what people typically think of when they think of cognac.
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