Posted: Feb 18, 2019
For the uninitiated, the Last Drop is a company well worth exploring. Its name doubles as a raison d'etre, established as it was to discover and bottle extraordinarily rare casks, and it has succeeded in unearthing plenty of 'last drops' of spirit since inception.
Of all the achievements to date, though, the most recent takes some beating, particularly for me as a huge fan of Cognac.
This, Last Drop's 14th release, is a 1925 Hors d'Âge Grande Champagne Cognac, a spirit laid down in a barrel and forgotten for nearly 80 years.
Through a series of fortuitous encounters and conversations, the Last Drop team was invited to taste the spirit and quickly identified it as essential addition to its list.
Why the barrel lay undiscovered is a fascinating tale, having been discovered at the Cabanne et Fils distillery in the heart of the Grande Champagne region, hidden behind a wall.
Legend has it the wall was hastily built by the family to protect the best of the distillery's collection from the encroaching Germans during the war.
The Last Drop was established to discover and bottle extraordinarily rare casks
Alexis Cabanne originally tripped over the treasure trove during renovations, and as the the sixth-generation owner of the family distillery, which dates back to the late 17th , he was well placed to recognise the quality. Last Drop got word of the find and then agreed to produce a mere 182 bottles as part of an incredibly rare and limited release.
I was lucky enough to snoop around the site of the find and, more importantly, taste the spirit and it truly is a surprising success.
While Cognac tends to use less active wood, such a lengthy and unmonitored maturation should by rights leave this spirit over-oaked. But there is an abundant sweetness to counter-assertive dry tannins and it brings beautiful balance - possibly because the spirit was resting in a ex-Pineau des Charentes cask.
Meanwhile the grape varietals distilled for the eau de vies are not recorded, but Folle Blanche, Ugni Blanc, Colombard and even a little Muscat are likely.
Alas, the exact components that delivered such a dramatic spirit will remain a mystery and it's unlikely to be repeated, but the magic mustered in creation and maturation has landed a lovely and truly luxurious liquid.
The fact that the eau de vie was laid down in the same year the Great Gatsby was published, or work on Mount Rushmore began and indeed the first edition of The New Yorker was released, helps its history come alive. But as evocative and vital as these dates are, the most stunning aspect of this spirit is its taste.
As ever, a trip to Cognac was a reminder of the incredible history behind the spirit. Beyond the 1925 Cognac, Last Drop also took me to Logis de Forge à Mouthiers-sur-Boëme, original home of Bernard Sazerac de Forge, the founder of the Sazerac Cognacs.
As if the story of the Last Drop wasn't enough, this experience added further reminders of Cognac's epic history.
Family descendent Pamela de Montleau is now an archivist and historian for Sazerac, the family-owned American spirits company, and she guided me through the extraordinary history of the family, before I was treated to a fine French feed and wonderfully warm hospitality from her parents Ghislain and Martine.
The Sazerac de Forge family has an incredible heritage as paper producers and iron forgers, having created the cannons Benjamin Franklin transported back for the American Revolution.
And there is its link to Cognac of course, the distillery having exported its world-beating spirit to American and New Orleans in the 19th century where it was used in the original Sazerac cocktails - the cocktail that gave the Sazerac company its name.
The Last Drop Grande Champagne Cognac
The Last Drop's 14th release is a 1925 Hors d'Âge Grande Champagne Cognac, a spirit laid down in a barrel and forgotten for nearly 80 years
From there we visited Segonzac and Cognac house Domaine Breuil de Sogonzac, recently acquired by the Sazerac family, who have restored a set of splendid antique 19th century pot-stills, now distilling new eau de vie for future release.
There were yet more jaw-dropping insights as we tasted, through a beautiful spirit that has been acquired and is being matured by the distillery and helping to inspire future projects here.
Currently in a state of renovation, the Domaine Breuil de Sogonzac is very much operational and cognac expert and general distillery manager Clive Carpenter, who also helped on the Last Drop 1925 find, revealed how he is taking an innovative approach to future eau de vies, using a wider selection of grapes. In the coming years we can expect some outstanding creations from here.
From Last Drop, to the future drop then, a truly fascinating trip. For those interested in investing in the Last Drop Cognac, the release has an RRP of £3,950 and UK stockists can be found here.
But beyond the jaw dropping 1925 release, the trip reminded me that for all its epic heritage and the glorious reserves of beautifully aged spirit, there is also much to look forward to in Cognac.
By Oliver Gill
February 16, 2019
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