Looking for some new Cognacs to try. I like to sample the small producers and usually gravitate toward the softer styles. I don't like heavy oak or sweet tasting Cognac. I have a bottle of Axel Gay that I'm enjoying. Chalfonte is another good one. Value is preferable but is not going to limit my purchase. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Not knowing what you've already tried, I'd say that some producers to look for would include (in random order):
Maison Surrenne -- http://www.surrenne.com/
Léopold Gourmel -- http://www.leopold-gourmel.com/
Hine Cognac (the best, IMHO, of the "majors")-- http://www.hinecognac.com/
Delamain -- http://le-cognac.com/delamain/intro.html
Logis de la Mothe -- http://logisdelamothe.com/
Pierre Ferrand -- http://www.pierreferrandcognac.com/en/
Château Montifaud -- http://chateau-montifaud.com/
. . . among many others.
Jason has a good list there. Unfortunately, there's a tradeoff between "softness" and "oaky" flavors - if you don't want heavy oak, the Cognac will be "sweeter".
You might try Pierre Ferrand's new 1840, which is less oaky and has an attractive roughness to it. Or jump ship and look at Germain Robin out of Mendocino - their spirits are very round and soft.
I've just recently procured a bottle of the Peirre Ferrand's 1840 for my bar, and I have to say that it is a great cognac to mix with. Once the alcohol in it is tamed, it has a beautiful oaky honey taste. I've been making my Vieux Carre with them.
1 oz Rye (Preferably Templeton, but Bulleit works well)
1 oz Pierre Ferrands 1840
1 oz Carpano Antica
1 Barspoon Benedictine
2 dashes Angostura
2 dashes Peychauds
Stirred, strained into a chilled coupe, garnished with a lemon peel with the oils expressed into the drink.
It's beautiful and a great change in pace if you are used to drinking manhattans.
I definitely second Delamain - one of the best value XO cognacs around and certainly "softer". Cheaper, try Landy VSOP for around $30 or Kelt VSOP for around $40.
Although a bit on the sweeter side, Grand Marnier came out with Quintessence last Nov. It's amazing, founders family reserves from their private stock. It features a 1906 & 1955 cognac w/a double parfum on the exotic orange, making it more subtle. They only produced 2,000 bottles worldwide(1,000 to the US). Although a bottle might set you back, try finding the nearest Bar or Upscale restaurant, which would offer it by the ounce. A must try!
Great start! As far as what I have already tried, not too many. Price range? Under a $100. The local shops usually have a limited selection that tends to be dominated by the bigger names.
Here is a good question. Which of the big brands are worth trying? Which should be avoided?
Thanks for all the input so far. CC
None of them are to be AVOIDED . . . each house, large or small, has its own distinctive "house style," and if you like that style, you'll probably like more than one Cognac from their line; if you don't like that style, you probably won't like *any* for their brandies. In other words, it's a style preference. So, for example, I don't like the house style of Courvoisier, and so I avoid *all* of their brandies, regardless of their respective quality/age/price. On the other hand, many people swear by it (or used to).
For me -- and remember, this is MY taste, and thus highly subjective -- of the four behemoths that dominate the Cognac market, I prefer Martell and then Hennessy, and Rémy if I must, and I avoid Courvoisier. but ask someone else, and they will rate these four houses in a different order. There is no "right" or "wrong." It's all personal taste.
From among the "main houses," my preference is for Hine, as I said above.
Where in New York State are you located?
Maybe 'avoid' is not the correct word.
You are a good diplomat. You're right, it is a personal taste which needs to develop.
I live in eastern Suffolk County. There are fine shops in the area. Shelf space is being dedicated to bourbon these days. There are many I would like to try. Aged rum is making a market push also.