View Full Version : Hennessey Paradis
This is a top-classed cognac. I tasted it at an LCBO tasting counter for a few dollars a "shot" (maybe 1/2 an ounce). This retails here at almost $500 per bottle.
It was, needless to say, extremely good. The flavors were so well-knitted one could hardly make out any elements but the overall effect was of ethereal very fine spirit. Oddly, it reminded me of some very good aged single malts I've had, that may be the effect in both of predominant oak. The mouth feel was very soft with the traditional cognac grapiness well-buried and something new emerging in the whole.
But having tried my hand at straight whiskey blending (and all cognacs are complex blends, or almost all) I am convinced a straight whiskey blend could be fashioned which is as good.
In France they have hundreds if not more cognacs to age and blend - here we have far less straight whiskeys since there are so few extant producers and none that are (really) artisanal. Still, even with the 9 or 10 we have, they produce enough variety that a luxury blend of straight whiskeys could be done, and it would be as good as Paradis.
Who will be the first to do it? Ideal for one of the whiskey merchants to consider..
Wow this is an exciting thought. I wonder if they would publish the recipe? Maybe we could get Rachel Ray to do a "blending in only 30 minutes" TV program.
I don't know the name Rachel Ray, who is she?
Unable to afford a bottle of Paradis, I was lucky enough to have a "few" pours of this at last year's Philadelphia Whiskey Fest. I agree that it is very fine cognac.
It was good but straight whiskey can be as good.
There are many examples of drinks that, in my opinion, are as good as Paradis in the sense that they are blended very well and have a soft mouthfeel with complex, pleasing flavors. In this class I include Gosling's Gold, Havana Club Anejo Rum, and St-Remy XO French Brandy (not Remy Martin but the French brandy of somewhat similar name).
Each of these costs about 5% of what Paradis costs.
I feel I can blend spirits that come close to what Paradis achieves but make no mistake, the French experts in Cognac know exactly what they are doing. They set the highest standard in the world for quality spirits. They have been at it for a long, long time, and it shows. But they have no monopoly (on the concept of blending) and they can be equaled.
If you took, say, the Van Blankle type of bourbon and added 20-40 more bourbons and some straight ryes in the right proportion, I think you could come up with something as good as Paradis and it would taste like whiskey not Cognac. At the top end of age, we could use some of the Vintage series of KBF or some of the fine HH well-aged products. For the middle, bourbons like ETL, Booker's, Russell's Reserve, and then maybe go back for some Louisville Old Charter, some NDOT, some Benchmark from the 70's, and so on. It can be done. Then too you don't need to create a Paradis-level drink, even a blend of straight bourbons of between 6-15 years old could be extremely good. You wouldn't want the Paradis price point anyway (too rarified), go with something almost as good and charge say $50 for it.
I haven't mentioned scotch whisky but, at a different price point, there are some very good scotch blends out there and in fact the blending of scotch, like the mingling, batching and (I propose) blending of bourbons and ryes made by different companies, arguably is in its infancy. The French, that is, have some 200 years more experience than the British and Americans at creating complex blends of great character and subtlety...
This idea has a lot of merit. It is a way to produce a genuine and genuinely unique American whiskey product without the trouble of distilling and aging the whiskey yourself. The start up would be expensive, in that you would need some number of barrels to actually get started, but you would be talking about a cost in the hundreds-of-thousands of dollars rather than millions.
Blending is the essence of cognac-making and there the art has reached its pinnacle. There are a lot of fine blended whiskeys, though none made in the USA, but the cognacs, I think, are more sophisticated. Someone last night told me that, in Cognac, they don't really understand why singles (in Scotland) and straights (in the USA) are so popular, since they have no interest in "straight" cognac. I'm not even sure there is such a thing.
It also might be interesting to create a new business on line and in plain sight (going off line when necessary).
Damn, I saw it for $190 at the Duty Free in San Juan a month ago!
Maybe I should have grabbed one!
Someone last night told me that, in Cognac, they don't really understand why singles (in Scotland) and straights (in the USA) are so popular, since they have no interest in "straight" cognac. I'm not even sure there is such a thing.
Go a little further south in France, and you'll find vintage-dated Armagnacs from single vineyards. I doubt there are any single-barrel bottlings, though it might happen.
There are some vintage-dated cognacs and armagnacs but not that many, the traditional model of these drinks is to be highly blended.
"Van Blankle" (which of course is single barrel Old Rip Van Winkle 12 year old bourbon, from S-W) strikes me as a good base from which to start but many other bases could be envisioned. The Elmer T. Lee type of whiskey is another. Possibly ORVW 12 year old whiskey from Bernheim would be suitable. You need a whiskey with a good single character, one that is well-flavoured but would take in other flavours as a seasoning. This is how I would do it, but maybe it would make sense to combine equal amounts of many straight whiskeys.
There are some unblended cognacs. I one I own is Brillet XO. I really enjoy it. There is also Hardy Perfection. 6K a bottle!
Yes, I've got one called Cuvee 20 by Lheraud, in fact this one is single barrel and unblended. It is interesting to try cognac in this form. It actually produces a more apt comparison to single barrel and small batch bourbon that the typical blended cognac. As good as it is though, I find the Cuvee 20 not in the same class as the best XO brandies I have tried.
Unfortunately, the going price for the vatted American whiskey we made at Mount Vernon is still $250 a bottle, but it is a good example of a vatting of different whiskeys in more-or-less equal quantities. In that case, many of the components were very well aged and that is a characteristic that comes across strongly. There is a quality to it, though, that is similar to cognac and hard to describe.
My sense is that the way you would go about it, as a business proposition, would be to acquire barrels of the best whiskey you can find and, through experimentation, make the best blend you can from the components available to you, bottle that, then repeat the process.
One thing that is done in Cognac, that may or may not be useful for this project, is to have in the mix some really ancient barrels -- fifty years and up -- which are used very sparingly.
Was the Paradis from the Bayview tasting tower?
No, it was at Queen's Quay.
Thanks! I may drop by whan I have a minute...
One way to start this might be to do it with one company, such as Buffalo Trace. You persuade them to sell you partial barrels on the following basis, that you use for your "pool" barrels that are scheduled to be dumped anyway.
(By "you" I mean anyone who would seek to undertake such an endeavor, not exclusively Gary.)
They would draw samples for you from the pool barrels and give you some period of time to come up with your best blend, say 60 days. Once you settle on a profile, you scale it up into an order: e.g., 16 gallons of barrel #1234, 9 gallons of barrel #5678, 2.5 gallons of barrel #9123, etc.
Since they're dumping the barrels anyway, selling partial barrels is viable. When the barrel has been staged for dumping, they extract your order first, then dump it. This way, you can order however much you think you can sell, not necessarily in one-barrel increments. That means you need a lot less capital to get started. You'll ultimately have to pay more per unit for the whiskey, but you'll have a larger pool and you won't have inventory carrying cost.
Ultimately, I think a person who goes into this will want to buy barrel stock to age it. Also, do we know what the optimal "marrying" period is? I know when blends of this sort are made on a production scale, they are usually returned to wood after blending for, I believe, a month or two up to maybe a year. But do we know what's ideal?
We also need a name. Probably "Vatted American Whiskey." We cannot and do not want to use the term "Blended American Whiskey." The whiskey we made at Mount Vernon from whiskey donated by the DISCUS members was called "Vatted American Whiskey."
One reason they used that was because some of the contents, e.g., Jack Daniels, were not bourbon. An all bourbon blend could be called "straight bourbon," but you might want to call it "vatted Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey," so as to highlight the difference.
You would then have to name each blend, or at least give them alpha-numeric designations.
"Gillman's 07b12 Vatted American Whiskey." (i.e., the blend created on February 12, 2007) If a blend becomes particularly popular, then maybe it gets a more fanciful name. "Gillman's 'Toronto Spring' Vatted American Whiskey."
Maybe, as a brilliant promotional idea, Buffalo Trace will fund the whole thing, following the model above, and invite Gary as its first "guest vatter," to put out a limited edition vatting to see how it flies. This is something that an independent bottler could do, himself or for a customer, but it also is something a distillery could do.
On the one hand, most brands are "vatted straight bourbons," and we already have "master vatters," we just call them "master distillers." On the other hand, this is a way to give the product more variety and personality without necessarily opening more distilleries.
Very interesting and pertinent thoughts, Chuck, thanks.
Certainly an "intra-distillery" vatting could be very good but as you say, it inherently would not be that different from the distillery's regular bourbon offerings. However in practice, "mixing and matching" could probably come up with some interesting vattings - especially when combining wheat- and rye-recipe bourbons, or bourbons and ryes, which probably is not done at present.
If we include using some non-bourbon (albeit the result is not bourbon), this adds another potential dimension.
these days you'll find several cognacs that are single vineyard or single barrel, even cask strength! one of the main reasons being that cognac's main competitor is scotch single malt. another one being that the big cognac houses aren't able to get rid of their produce and need to think differently in order to reach new consumers
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