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Issue 94 - The Auld Alliance

Whisky Magazine Issue 94
March 2011


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The Auld Alliance

Dave looks at the links between the two nation's spirits of choice

There's always been a bit of a thing between Scotch and Cognac. It seems to have started with the French spirit's (temporary) cessation of production in the 1870s thanks to the ravages of phylloxera which helped give Scotch blends an entree to the global stage.

Rumours the vine louse was smuggled into the region in a Highlander's sporran is nothing more than sheer speculation.

They let us in now though, in fact they are hugely welcoming which is how I found myself at midnight in one of Remy Martin's chill cellars cradling some Cognac freshly drawn from a cask.

It was up to 98 years old, part of the assemblage for the firm's prestige cuvee, Louis XIII.

One sip was enough to produce a telescoping effect as memories, captured in wood and in brain fused together; the aroma of wax and mushroom, of animal pelts, of lost summers and ripened autumn fruits, and the undertow of war and peace, the endless cycle of seasons, lives and deaths.

Mention Cognac to most whisky firms these days and it is quickly dismissed. The days when being “Cognac-like' was the highest praise a single malt could be granted have long gone. Yet are there still lessons which can be learned?

At the moment, both markets are behaving similarly: seeing a shift to premium, growing in ‘new' markets (though it should be noted Cognac is putting in better figures than whisky in the US). Scotch should already have learned that it's dangerous to concentrate on one market and it hopefully won't fall into the same...

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