American Oak, or when cognac changes oak
The Bache-Gabrielsen house is shaking up its barrels and revolutionising its cognac.
It is not the best known and, as often happens, not the least good. Bache-Gabrielsen Cognac is back on the scene with an innovation, even a revolution: the American Oak! Does all this sound Chinese? Let's start from the beginning.
Cognac is made from wine from the Cognac region that is distilled twice before being aged in barrels to give it the exceptional colour, tannin and aromas that give it the name "alcohol of the gods" and not "bistouille à Bébert". 1905, Thomas Bache-Gabrielsen, a young Norwegian who came to train in cognac with a view to taking over the family cellar, fell in love with spirits, the region and Odette Villard, whom he married a year later. At the same time, he and his partner bought out the Dupuy house, a local cognac brand that has been running smoothly for 50 years. Trade is flourishing. Thomas exports to his native Scandinavia and four generations of Bache-Gabrielsen succeed one another at the helm of the eponymous company.
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If the brand is respectable and respected, it was in 1989 that it took a step forward by recruiting Jean-Philippe Bergier as cellar master. In the middle of his samples, Jean-Philippe assembles, adjusts, rethinks the production in all its details and produces a range of distinguished cognacs that give Bache-Gabrielsen its own identity. The alchemist with a fine nose has an idea: all cognacs have until now been aged exclusively in French oak barrels (sessile or pedunculated) and everyone is happy with them. It is heated with a flame so that the barrel finds its shape but without excess, where, on the other side of the Atlantic, the barrels are literally set on fire to give tannin to the whisky. Because yes, our national oak is rich in tannin, the natural antioxidant that gives the sensation of dryness in the mouth. On the other hand, the American oak (alba oak) is rich in aromas, those taste sensations that connoisseurs evoke and that neophytes pretend to perceive. By staying in American oak barrels, cognac could, in the process, be enriched with these shades of toasted bread and hazelnut.
Jean-Philippe Bergier therefore brought in alba oak and embarked on a double maturation process. The American Oak was born. The first maturation takes place in French oak barrels. The cognac then undergoes a second ageing in barrels made from Alba oak (heated in moderation since the cognac is then filled with the tannin of our good French oaks). The result is dangerously successful since the aromas are there and the moderate length in the mouth means that one could drink more than reason.
Article published by Raphaël Cros in Volubile Magazine, partner of "L'Obs".
Illustrative photo ©tereza_madame_cognac
Source : nouvelobs.com