Louis Royer has recently sent me an impressive line of Cognacs, including a line of three
Kosher Cognacs, their special 53% alcohol VSOP, and their evanescent 32-year-old single
cask offering (in a very small bottle indeed). Begun by Louis Royer in 1853, the house still
has major Royer family input, although it is now an affiliate of the Suntory Group. Cellar
Master Laurent Robin has the admirable option of dipping into Cognacs from Royer
distilleries in each of the five major production zones. It is not surprising that these blends
show both character and individuality.
It may be most fitting to start at the top. The Louis Royer 32-year-old Single Cask Grande
Champagne Cognac will set you back from $450 to $600 depending on your bargaining
power, but the prospect of still having that money and not having this liquid delight is grim
indeed. Here is a Cognac of deep copper and amber hue. Single notes do not do justice to this
masterpiece, but I did write several down: orange marmalade, toffee, nutmeg, clove, fruitcake,
peanut brittle, and brioche. On the palate these combine with extremely subtle oak richness
and a gentle rancio fullness, roasted hazelnut, walnut and coffee bean. The Cognac is
extremely soft on initial attack, soft through a lengthy mid-palate, and the finish is eternal.
Single cask Cognac has idiosyncratic character, and I can only imagine how 32 years could
affect the product of the next cask over. Matchless.
The Louis Royer Préférence VSOP (watch those acute accents) is a fine piece
of work, at about $50 or less, a tenth the price of the single cask Cognac. Comparing the two
is senseless, since these are different beverages for different purposes. I love the deep amber
color. This Cognac is nicely constructed, bringing rich aromatic notes of butterscotch, licorice,
dried fruit and ripe apple. In the mouth the initial attack is pleasingly soft. Decidedly dry
through mid-palate and finish, the palate shows citrus rind, dried leaves, nutmeg and a touch
of clove. This is quite different in style from the other VSOPs (all from large houses) I have
in my cabinet. If I have to distill the difference in a word, that word is savory.
The Louis Royer XO Cognac will run you $160 or so. Every home needs an XO to lord it
over the VSOPs. Four of the Cognac regions are represented: Grande and Petite Champagne,
Fins Bois and Borderies. The liquid is deep copper in color, with aromas of toffee, nutmeg,
clove, cinnamon, dried fruit, white flowers, vanilla, sandalwood, and citrus peel. Mouthfeel in
this full-bodied Cognac is rich and engaging. The palate brings dried fruit, fruitcake, mulling
spice, toasted walnut, deep cedar. The wood notes have a final sweet say on the lengthy
finish. Though my aromatic and palate notes are likely to be totally different next tasting, I
am certain that the sensual elegance of this XO will register again.
When Cognac is first distilled, in has an alcoholic strength of just over 70% by volume. Some
of this, the “angel's share,” is reduced by evaporation, but the remainder is
commonly reduced, very slowly, by adding demineralized water, until the market strength of
40% is achieved. Many Cognac professionals consider this a shame, since they generally
agree that the aromatics and flavor of a Fine Champagne Cognac is optimal at the 53% level.
The house of Louis Royer apparently decided, “why not?” They pack the
Cognac bottle in a unique perforated metal canister, a metal label firmly bolted on.
The Louis Royer Force 53 ° Fine Champagne VSOP (about $50) is deep amber in
color. Aromas are fruity and soft: fig. raisin, nutmeg, clove and cinnamon, dried flowers,
fruitcake. The Cognac is soft, mouth-filling, with the sweet edge of dried fruit, prune and
apricot, and the fragrant oil from an orange peel twist. Add water, and this Cognac opens up
into a realm of sweet candied fruit and, I dare say, ripe mandarin orange gelato (to name just
a few of the possibilities, depending on the human brain at the other end). This one, of
course, is perfect for mixing, say for that exquisite Sidecar, Brandy Alexander, or try it with
Champagne for that decadent French 75. The high end Brandy and Soda is of course an
option, if you can find a soda to match this quality. This is the first “53” I
have enjoyed, and I have become an instant fan. (In the interest of full disclosure, however, I
must own up to the fact that the house I grew up in was number 53, so that number has
always been special for me.)
The three Louis Royer Kosher Cognacs have a small OU symbol on the bottle label, though
not on the box, indicating that they are among the 400,000 products certified by the Jewish
Orthodox Union as Kosher. Unlike some other spirits, like bourbon and gin, Cognac needs to
go through a special certification to be considered kosher because it is made from wine.
The Louis Royer Kosher VS is amber-colored. Nose is pronounced, dominated by oak, citrus
and hazelnut, with white floral elements in the background. The attack is smooth, showing red
plums, dried apricot, honey and a slight caramel/vanilla mix that persists on the palate on the
finish. The mid-length finish is quite clean.
The Louis Royer Kosher VSOP is golden brown in color, showing amber highlights. First
aromatic impulse is warm earth, some oak and vanilla, a touch of spice. Medium- to
full-bodied, the Cognac is a bit spirited at first touch but starts to behave once in the mouth.
On the palate the Cognac has a citrus element, dried apricot and nutmeg. The finish takes its
time, bringing more dried apricot, dried fruit and sweet oak. Well produced, with many fine
elements and good complexity for a VSOP.
The Louis Royer Kosher XO is deep copper in color with lighter highlights at the edges as
you swirl it in the glass. Aromas come in dense layers: dried flowers, honey, cinnamon,
nutmeg, clove, vanilla. Medium bodied, mouthfeel is soft and silky. Complex array of fruit
and spices: orange peel, dried apple, honey, warm cinnamon, toasted walnut. Finish is long
and patient, with alternate swirling layers of fruit and spice, delightful butterscotch and mocha
at the end and more vanilla. Polished and nicely flavor balanced, this Cognac still has some
rough, idiosyncratic edges that delight, especially some of the “kernel” aspects
like the toasted walnut. Though sophisticated, this is a Cognac for convivial conversation
rather than meditation.
A superb and full line of Cognacs with character.