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Best value in a "special occasion" cognac

For me, every day is a day to finish a meal with a decent (VSOP level) cognac, but for special occasions I like something better. I've never tasted an XO that I thought was worth the money, but Martell Cordon Bleu, at around $100 a bottle, is an ethereal delight!

I made a great discovery not long ago at my local liquor store - they had a box of 50 ml nips of Cordon Bleu at the counter, where they would usually have a box of nips of the latest trendy peppermint schnapps or some such. I have no idea where they got it (fell off the back of an airplane - first class section?), but at $5 per, it added up to $75 for the equivalent of a standard 750 ml bottle - a super deal! I bought all they had and just smiled when the clerk gave me this look...

I've also heard good things about Delamain Vespers, which is in the same price range.

Any other cognac connoisseurs have a special favorite?

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  1. Good value Remy Martin VSOP

    Favorite AE Dor

    1. I agree with the A.E. Dor; disagree with the Remy Martin.

      Delamain is very good, but also very different than the Martell, which is sweeter and darker due to the addition of boise and caramel. That said, among the "Big Four" (Couvoisier, Hennessey, Martell and Remy Martin), Martell has always been my favorite. Among the smaller "names" ("smaller majors"?), it's Delamain and Hine. But I have always found I could do better with the "tiny" (or at least "unknown") producers.

      You may want to check out the Cognacs by Maison Surrenne (see http://www.caddellwilliams.com/maison... ). These are the most stunning Cognacs I've found since Leopold Gourmel first appeared in the States, and start at $32 -- going all the way up to $2,000. Their Ancienne Distillerie 100% petite champagne is my new "house" Cognac, replacing Hine V.S.O.P.

      Speaking of Leopold Gourmel, these Cognacs are still absolutely stunning . . . just a lot more expensive that they used to be. Just do a Google search on Leopold Gourmel, and you should have no trouble finding them near where you live. (For some reason, I cannot get into Gourmel's website, or I'd link it here.


      Logis de la Mothe is another producer that is worth seeking out.

      1 Reply
      1. A value cognac that you can find at 45-50 is Kelt VSOP and their XO at the $120
        in my 35 years of drinking fine cognac is paramount to all others...................

        1. Does at have to a "true" Cognac? i.e., from Cognac? The Germain-Robin Alembics from California are astonishing and affordable (although my favorite from them is about $100, but compares to some $500+ Cognacs I have tasted).

          1 Reply
          1. re: Carrie 218

            Absolutely! Germain-Robin makes superb alambic brandies, and are indeed very close to the character and complexity one traditionally finds in Cognacs. It is the only domestic brandy I buy, and definitely deserves a place among my bottles of Cognac, Armagnac, Brandy de Jerez and Calvados . . . .

          2. Normandin-Mercier

            Only available through Chadderdon. At every price point it is the best.

            Martell CB is excellent, I agree. The Martell XO Supreme is even better, and worth the difference in price. (Martell is easily the best of the 4 major houses, imo.)

            1 Reply
            1. re: whiner

              As my 21st birthday present to myself, I bought a bottle of Martell Extra.

            2. Take a look at the lineup of Pierre Ferrand also.

              1. I have always liked the Pierre Ferrand cognacs too. The Selection de Anges and Abel are quite good as well as some of their vintages.

                The Daniel Bouju Royal and the Tres Vieux are different being cask strength and more intense in flavor.

                However, if you are looking at $100-200 range, some of the best buys in brandies are in the vintage armagnacs. You have to do your research, but you'll find more character and variation.

                1. I also love Maison Surrenne and Normandin-Mercier. Another great producer is Jean Fillioux. The Tres Vieux, 1983 vintage, and XO are all favorites of mine and all about $100 or less. The younger (cheaper) ones are good, but pretty dry and firey, which may be off-putting to someone used to drinking the sweetened stuff (Remy, Hennessy, Courvoisier, Martell, almost everyone else...).

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: warrenr

                    Paul Giraud Napoleon is also something that should be mentioned as a cost effect high quality product.

                    Over the years, I have noticed that more often than not when a bottle of costly “quality” vintage Wine or Brandy/Cognac are placed on the bar for tasting, that is not what takes place.
                    It is almost laughable when some one at a party holds the bottle of Courvoisier XO for all to see, only to take a big mouthful and choke it down and then proclaim, "that's smooth". Let us not even talk about the adding of flavored soda’s or energy drinks.

                    It is shocking that many people will invest in a bottle of Cognac to the tune of several hundred dollars, and not have a clue as to how to taste it correctly! The term “XO” is thrown around as if it is an indicator of quality, it is not! The term has been so bastardized that you can now go to any local drug store, and see that every producer of Brandy has the letter’s “XO” boldly emblazoned on the front of their bottle.

                    I think it is unwise for any beginner (novice) to purchase Brandy/Cognac that is too complex in character, as their palate simply is not trained to detect to subtleties that the grading experts laud about in their rating systems.
                    Like anything else, start out slowly and work your way up.
                    I hope I was not too much off point in my statements???


                    1. re: Tone

                      I've tried the Louis XII and every cognac since has been dissapointing.

                      1. re: AZBconcierge

                        I've tried Louis XIII and was disappointed every time.

                        It's all a matter of personal preference, one's own likes and dislikes.

                        1. re: zin1953

                          I'm with Zin on that one -- XIII did nothing for me considering its cost...

                          1. re: Carrie 218

                            Martell offers their Cordon Bleu in "regular" glass and in a Baccarrat decanter -- so, at least, you *know* how much you're paying for the Cognac and how much you're paying for the bottle. So, too, do producers like Leopold Gourmel and Etter (a Swiss producer of great eaux-de-vie). But most of the high-end Cognac houses *only* offer their "top-of-the-line" brandies (such as Remy Martin and Louis XIII) in crystal decanters. How much of the money one pays is for the bottle and how much is for its contents remains elusive at best.

                            1. re: zin1953

                              True, but at the top level (<$1000) no matter what the bottle costs it's a small fraction of the total. Cordon Bleu at $100 in a standard bottle is still my best hard-to-beat value.

                              1. re: BobB

                                Respectfully, I would disagree.

                                I could not *quickly* find comparison pricing within the U.S., but one can buy a bottle of Martell Cordon Bleu in the U.K. for £90. But the same sized bottle of Martell Cordon Bleu, if packaged in Baccarat, retails in the U.K. for £699!

                                Round numbers for the sake of discussion: the "premium" for buying this particular Cognac in crystal is $1,180 . . .

                                Remy Martin Louis XIII *only* comes in Baccarat and retails for anywhere from $1,499 to $1,799 in the U.S., according to a Google search. How much is the Cognac? My guess -- anywhere from 50% of the price, at best, to less than 33% at worst.

                        2. re: AZBconcierge

                          Some credentialed Cognac “tasters” would probably agree with Louis XII being rated as a very good Cognac, but not all!
                          I have consumed about 2 ounces of this vintage blending, and while very good, I have had what I thought was better. Delamain Reserve De LA Famille Grande & Germain Robin XO are better in my estimation, but then again I have had more of these blends in my collection to taste.
                          I like to judge for myself what is a good Cognac; as opposed to purchasing what the critics “say” are good Cognacs. Unfortunately, many reviews are paid for their reviews, either directly or indirectly.
                          On many occasion I have seen responses to products by consumers that were less than genuine, because the consumer felt compelled to agree with everyone else (especially if they made a purchase).
                          I sincerely hope that every Cognac drinker/taster finds their undisputed personal favorite, regardless of the cost or packaging.

                          1. re: Tone

                            >>> I sincerely hope that every Cognac drinker/taster finds their undisputed personal favorite, regardless of the cost or packaging. <<<

                            Never were truer words spoken. I hope people do that about EVERYTHING, whether it's a high-end Cognac that's being discussed, a moderately-priced wine, or that restaurant that is getting lots of "buzz."

                    2. Delamain "Vesper" is quite good, though for that general price range (low 100s) my top cognac would probably be the Tesseron "Lot 76". I got some love for Filloux as well, though.

                      That said... all those who've been glowing about Germain-Robin are absolutely right. The quality for price is unsurpassed. If you can get your hands on the single barrel "100% Colombard" it's a taste of Cognac history - made from the grapes they USED to make Cognac out of before the phylloxera epidemic forced them to switch to Ugni Blanc (which is kind of a crap grape, to tell the truth...) The only other way to taste a Colombard Cognac is to buy something that's been a barrel since before... it'll cost you a lot, let's just say. The 100% Pinot Noir G-R is also spectacular, and both retailed in the 100-140 range. I found the Colombard easily in league with the Delamain "Tres Venerable" (hands down one of my favorites) which I paid $230 or so for.