Cognac

Review: Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Gran Reserva Presidente

Joya de Nicaragua Antaño Gran Reserva Presidente celebrates the 50th anniversary of the TAA, the Tobacconist Association of America, with this exclusive release. Made of Nicaraguan tobacco aged 5 years, this 6 3/4 x 50 pressed cigar is an extension of the Antaño Gran Reserva brand.

This stick is full of wood spice and leather, with very slight hints of candied fruit. It’s a wonderfully balanced cigar that leads to a satisfying, hour-long smoke. Full bodied but not overpowering. I decided to pair it with Hennessy XO and I never looked back. The cognac’s big caramel and fruity palate complemented the cigar’s wood beautifully and brought out more of those leather notes.

This cigar is available to TAA members at $12.50 per stick and available in three other sizes: Robusto Grande Box-Pressed (5 1/2 x 52), Belicoso (6 x 54), and Gran Consul (4 3/4 x60).

Thanks to Joya de Nicaragua for the samples. As always, all thoughts and opinions are are my own.

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Hennessy Master Blender’s Selection No. 1 Cognac Review

I thought it would be a great idea to follow up a review of the 2017 release with a look at the first one.  Released in 2016, Hennessy’s Master Blender’s Selection No.1 was the initial release on the new experimental line. Each year’s blend is designed to only be made once, so once it is gone, it’s gone for good.  Former Master Blender Yann Fillioux crafted this blend from 80 to 100 eaux-de-vie aged in both young and old French oak casks.  He had the freedom to create a cognac without worrying about availability of stocks necessary for a continuous mass market product.  This means Fillioux could work with low volume stocks of eaux-de-vie if he so desired.  No limits except for his imagination.

The aromatic nose features hints of vanilla, toffee, orange peel and floral top notes.  Taste-wise, the cognac is both bold and elegant, with toffee, sweet fruits, oak spice and a slight nuttiness.  At a “cask strength” of 43% abv, this blend delivers a rather rich tasting experience.  The finish leaves notes of sweet fruits and some oak spice.

Having tasted both blends in this US-exclusive line from Hennessy, I quite enjoyed what they’re doing.  It’s a thrill to taste what skilled blenders can create when unrestrained.  This is a one-time blend worthy of your attention, much like the 2017 release.  Nicely done.  8/10

Hennessy.com
Thanks to Hennessy for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Hennessy Master Blender’s Selection No. 2 Cognac Review

Maintaining consistency within a product might be a challenge for any large spirits company.  On the other side of the spectrum, the ability to create a one-time, limited release can prove to be just plain fun.  These limited releases also mean producers don’t have to necessarily handcuff themselves to a particular recipe.  They don’t have to worry about whether they have enough components to consistently make the product over and over.  They have the freedom to just play around and create.

For the world’s largest cognac producer Hennessy, the end result of playing around is their Master Blender’s Selection (MBS) line.  Introduced in 2016, the experimental cognacs are exclusive to the US market.  Former Hennessy Master Blender Yann Fillioux created the line to feature certain eaux de vie in ways the company’s strong core lineup can’t.  Each year’s release is different and won’t be replicated.  One and done.

The second release in the series, MBS No. 2 is a blend of eaux de vie aged at least 10 years.  The first 18 months of which were in young French oak casks before being transferred to older casks.  Those young casks impart lots of spice.  Hennessy Master of Distillation Olivier Paultes told me in an interview at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail that this particular blend contains a lot of Petit Champagne, giving this cognac some elegance.

This blend is very aromatic.  The nose features hints of dried fruit, baking spices, vanilla and floral top notes.  Brown sugar hits the tongue upon entry, followed by rich and spicy cinnamon cake, vanilla, anise, and citrus zest.  Slightly drying oak tannins appear soon after leading into a fruity and rather peppery finish.  Think black peppercorn.  The finish lingers for a good while.  I don’t remember ever tasting a Hennessy cognac as spicy as this one.  

With its richness of baking spices, Hennessy Master Blender’s Selection No. 2 is autumn in a glass.  I’m glad a company as big as Hennessy isn’t resting on its laurels.  Experimentation is a wonderful way of showcasing different flavors, through the use of different cru to cask management during maturation.  To borrow Monsieur Paultes’ words, this blend is bold yet still retains a lovely elegance.  Beautifully crafted and thoroughly enjoyable. 8/10

Hennessy.com

Thanks to Hennessy for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.