Augier, a particularly venerable name in Cognac, has been revived by Pernod Ricard. The striking new range was launched in the UK yesterday, following a Paris launch two weeks ago.
It's likely that Augier was the first cognac house (possibly predating the term 'cognac', in fact), with history dating back to 1643. Skip to the present day, and the house has been relaunched with three excellent and unusual expressions.
Crucially, they focus on terroir, grape and method of distillation. The range goes beyond the usual Ugni Blanc found everywhere in Cognac, also making use of the rare Folle Blanche. Lees are an important factor in distillation, with varying amounts having an effect on the finished product.
They're non-chill filtered, and none are bottled at the default 40% abv found throughout Cognac. Even more tellingly, there's no talk of VSOPs or XOs. The labels, rather, bear all kinds of useful information about each one, including where it comes from, what it's made from, and how it's made — this is cognac for geeks. But it's also cognac for people who want to taste cognac made with different varieties, or with different types of distillation.
They're also for those who want to mix with cognac. At the brand's launch yesterday, after some clay pigeon shooting, bartenders from Hawksmoor, Discount Suit Company and Dandelyan demonstrated just how versatile these spirits are in cocktails.
The first in the range, Le Sauvage, is bottled at 40.8% abv (£45). Distilled with 'reinforced lees' from Ugni Blanc grown in Petite Champagne, this is bold and complex, with sweet stonefruit notes throughout.
Le Singulier (41.7% abv, £55), made from Folle Blanche from Grande Champagne, is a more elegant number, with natural lees distillation giving it a rounded mouthfeel with crème brûlée, nectarine and a slightly oaky note. It had enough character to stand up to a guinea fowl dish at the launch.
Those two are already available in the UK, while the third, L'Océanique, might take a bit longer to arrive. It's the most remarkable of the three, with distinct iodine and sea-salt air notes, not to mention a slight smokiness. If that's sounding more like Islay than Cognac, then that's because, in some respects, it is. That said, there remain some sweeter cognac elements too, from butterscotch to salted caramel.
Augier is the first launch from Pernod Ricard's Authentic Brand Company.