First up is a cognac I discovered at The Cognac Show 2019. For around £70+ in the UK [and far less on the mainland], I had to buy a bottle.
Guillon-Painturaud Vieille Reserve  Ob. Grande Champagne 40% WLP89
Age-wise, we are talking around 20 years.
Initially disappointed by the weakness and thin body and thinking I’d got carried away at the Cognac Show, it wasn’t long before I was under the spell of the Vieille Reserve once again. The bottle was 4/5ths gone before I started taking down some notes. I’ve got sympathy for those asking the cognac industry to embrace 46% abv as standard, as is now widespread for whisky – hell if G&M can do it – but I’m also beginning to understand & appreciate the subtlety that comes from softer cognac, the philosophy behind it and how it compliments food far better, much like how sake is considered. Anyways, just thoughts off the top of my head. On the other hand, there are many times when the abv minimum is a crying shame.
- N: Given the [abv] subtlety, I don’t recommend whisky or rum before this. Take it as an aperitif and be patient. You’ll need to coax it. Initially, I experience a soft Springbank-ness about it but leave it in the glass for 30 minutes and its positively brimming with energy and a sweet wax-ish < fattiness. From a basket of fruits to juices [sweet redcurrant and a myriad of others], various refined & natural sugars, warehouse & wine cellar hues, wafts of baguettes, [almost] smoked nut oils [peanut & cashew this time], and slight fauna shades, this smells as you’d imagine cognac would and should – utterly welcoming, congenial and thoroughly pleasing. Great stuff!
- T: As for all that softness on he nose, on the palate its annoyingly soft [40%] on first contact [every time], but it only takes a few sips before I’m fully engaged once again. What’s in store [for the faithful], is a super-soft-sweet dream for those who may think they don’t have a sweet tooth and the most gently concentrated fruit-sweet oaked sugars that grace the palate. Thankfully the minimum abv level doesn’t prevent the song & dance and sip after sip it delivers joy after joy to the relatively unanesthetized senses. Also of note are those vanillins, a world apart from the well-charred sledgehammer-bourbon cask flavour compounds found in whisk[e]y. With a medium~compact travel, we pick up the story with liquorice on the turn,…
- F: ,… into cherry Bakewell, sweet blackberry confectionary, repeated elderflower hints, soil, dried oregano, grasses – all-sweet and > > fresh,…. A long finish with lovely form played out at an ideal pace.
- C: An utterly moreish & accessible everyday drinker that I couldn’t stop drinking. BFYB dessert Island stuff for its pure pleasure. I’m clearly going to need a few more bottles. Same score as before.
Scores 89 points
It seems I’ve had a 20cl bottle of this before, but revisits are never a bad thing.
- N: A slight butyric and light aspirin note to start, but this lifts to leave a slightly rubbery dry-fruity & soft aromatic/medicinal & biscuit/sponge profile. As it opens out, some caramel shows alongside thick fruit juices and subtle yet complex bitter > sweet floral wood oils.
- T: A medicinal bitter > savoury~sweet, fresh arrival with a touch more aspirin action that I sometimes get from well-aged rums – yet it’s very mild and hardly distracting. Moves along past a relaxed wood-fresh, bitter herbal/foliage profile with a light floral complexion.
- F: Sweetish wild berries with savoury > sweet caramel moving to a dandelion & daisy bitterness. The mildly medicinal-fresh, caramelised fruits hang around till the end.
- C: Decent cognac, but the younger Reserve de la Famille and the older Grande Champagne [to follow], trump it significantly.
Scores 83 points
- N: Estimated at 80-100 years of age, this is by no means an overly oaky situation thanks to ageing in glass and inert cask. It is a gloriously comforting, succulent and fruity nose with only a touch of that grainy-biscuit-y > aspirin-fresh note found in the mere 60-70yo Fins Bois. Keynotes include melon, mint, eucalyptus, spelt sponge, cedarwood, linseed oil. a hint of crushed peanuts, bastard files, a well worn soft leather purse, cigar leaf…..
- T: A far more together arrival than the Fins Bois, being fruitier, darker and slightly less bitter. Compared to the Fins Bois, the freshness comes through later. Most notable is the overall balance of flavours, the composition and the soft chewy-fresh & silky mouthfeel with a desirable squidgy dryness.
- F: It’s the fruits & dryish berries that talk here, the bitter floral aspect from the Fins Bois less apparent. A touch of honeyed melon juice > caramel, dry vanilla > molasses, and more of that soft wood-freshness complete the picture. With an elongated freshness at the death, after all those decades, this one is still incredibly vibrant yet composed.
- C: Deliciously drinkable and desirable cognac, up there with the younger [40-50yo] Reserve de la Famille. Neither expression suffers too badly from being bottled at 40%, and given the original price, it’s excusable.
Scores 88 points