The 2020 World Cognac Awards had an unexpected winner this year. A Cognac developed for a Japanese restaurant in Germany has scooped the top prize.
Quick disclaimer: I was on the judging panel for the awards, but the tasting was done completely blind and I didn’t know what I was judging.
It seems like an unlikely choice, and not just because it was selected for a European Japanese restaurant. The Cognac is produced by Domaine du Chêne, which has been in business since the mid-19th century. These days, it makes Cognac from grapes grown and harvested in the Bons Bois region, which is generally considered to be less prestigious compared to the more prominent Grand Champagne and Petit Champagne areas. (For context, there’s 6 different Cognac ‘regions’, each one possessing qualities in the soil which lead to specific flavors in the Cognac that is then produced.)
The WCA’s official notes for it declare: “On the nose, caramelised pear and banana, along with tropical fruit, chai tea and nutmeg.”
As it came from a single cask, there were only 540 bottles available, first released December of last year.
However, the Jean Doussoux wasn’t the only winner at the World Cognac Awards. Here’s the other Cognacs who claimed the first prize of their respective categories.
Best Superior Quality Cognac – Cognac Gautier: XO Pinar del Rio
Producing Cognac since 1755, Gautier’s Pinar del Rio is named after a valley in Cuba where the best tobacco leaves are harvested for cigars. The connection with Cuba goes deeper than the name, though. It was co-created with Cuban cigar master blender Don Alejandro Robaina for a Cognac that is tailor-made to be enjoyed with a cigar. The Cognac itself is a blend drawn from Gautier’s ‘paradise cellars’, where Gautier’s oldest liquid is stored. It also previously won ‘Best Cognac’ at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Best VSOP Cognac – ABK6 VSOP
This is not the first time the ABK6 has graced the World Cognac Awards. It previously won ‘Best VSOP’ in 2017, and won the whole competition in 2014. ABK6 is one of the Cognac brands of Domaines Francis Abecassis, which owns 220 hectares of vineyards from which it produces its spirits. The WCA notes that this is ‘A very good example of cognac. The flavours are comforting, especially the orange notes and woodiness.’
Best VS Cognac – Dobbé Cognac VS
Another historic Cognac house in operation since 1787, this is the entry level Cognac from Dobbé. The current owner, Michel Dobbé, is descended from the original founder. This VS is described as tasting like ‘…light raisin, spiced tea and oak on the tongue, balanced by a nice dryness and without too much sweetness.’
Best Bottle Design – Ferrand Cognac Selection Des Anges
An ornately decorated bottle featuring an elaborate cork, this Cognac’s name directly translates as ‘The Angels’ Selection’, a play on words related to the ‘Angel’s Share’, which is the alcohol that evaporates during maturation of the liquid in the cask.