When it comes to being passionate about spirits, it’s hard to find a cognac house more excited about a wider range of spirits than Pierre Ferrand. Pierre Ferrand fought furiously for years to get permission from the French Government to be able to use their cognac stills to produce gin. The result of this long struggle is Citadel Gin.
Citadel Gin is named after Citadel Dunkirk. As the story goes, during the great famines of the late 1600’s and early 1700’s, Louis XIV banned the distillation of grain or anything that could be used as a food source (grapes were not included in that ban as they spoiled faster than grain and were permitted to be distilled). One exception to this grain distillation ban was given to the Citadel in Dunkirk. It was from this Citadel in 1775 that the original recipe for Citadel Gin originated, containing 19 different herbs and botanicals.
Unearthing interesting historical documents, recipes, stories, and spirits is a passion for Alexandre Gabriel, owner and president of Cognac Ferrand. It’s embodied in one of the companies newest products, 1840 Cognac, a higher proof mixing cognac based on a recipe from the 1840’s. Alexandre Gabriel is serious about his spirits and goes to great lengths to research and discover rare and amazing spirits. This passion also extends to a line of aged rums, bought from around the world, and aged in cognac barrels.
Although Pierre Ferrand’s passion expands beyond cognac, it’s cognac that’s the true passion and what makes up the core of Pierre Ferrand’s business. Situated on 250 acres of Grande Champagne grapes, Pierre Ferrand specializes in single estate cognac. Like some of their competitors, Pierre Ferrand has done away with the standard designation for labeling their cognacs, instead opting for their own tiered approach, including Ambre (features cognacs in the 8-10 year old range), Reserve (20 year old age range) , Espirit Des Dieux (25 years in age) and Selection Des Anges (cognac 30-55 years in age).
Pierre Ferrand also produces a line of extremely limited and old cognacs, including the Ancestrale release, which sells for $800 and is limited to only 500 bottles a year, and Collection Privee, which has single vintage cognacs dating all the way back to 1914. The Ancestrale release is the signature of the cellar master and while I was at Pierre Ferrand I had the opportunity to taste the Ancestrale from 2011 (which was blended by outgoing cellar master Frederic Gilbert) and a 2012 work in process from the new cellar master Christian Guerin. Tasting the two side by side was one of the more eye-opening experiences I’ve had with cognac and showed the amazingly diverse style of cognac blenders.
Frederic Gilbert’s 2011 Ancestrale is bold and deep, with a deep nose of raisin and iris. The taste follows the nose with deep raisin and iris, and adding rancio, orange, ginger, pepper, and vanilla to the mix with a long dry finish. The 2012 work in progress blend from Christian Guerin is a symphony of balance with more spice in the mid palate and a breathtaking interplay between fruit, floral, and spice. “My temperament is more playful,” comments Guerin as I swirl his work in progress in my glass. It’s hard to think of a spirit that speaks more clearly about the sensibilities of the person who created it than this.
In addition to Pierre Ferrand’s main line of cognacs, they also produce a line of cognac under the Cognac Landy brand which are more traditionally labeled. Their XO Cognac won the San Francisco World Spirits Competition for the best overal brandy.
Pierre Ferrand is extremely active in promoting cognac in the US market. It was actually Pierre Ferrand VP for North America, Guillaume Lamy, who first opened my eyes to the world of cognac, who passionately encouraged me to look beyond the cognac stereotypes and see some of the exciting things happening in this space.
Between Alexandre Gabriel’s passion for spirits and Christian Guerin’s exquisite craftsmanship, we expect great things from Pierre Ferrand.
Here are photos from our trip to Cognac Pierre Ferrand:
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