My dad left behind 3 bottles of cognac. Martell Madaillon VSOP. They seem to be in good condition although left for 30 to 40 years. Are they still good? If so, what are some ways to enjoy them?
That’s a mid-1980s bottle of Martell you have there. It’s a V.S.O.P. grade cognac, which is the second lowest grade of Martell cognac (after V.S.) and it was produced in pretty vast numbers, as Martell is one of the 4 biggest cognac houses. This bottle most probably came from Duty Free market in Asia.
When it comes to drinking cognac there is not one prescribed approach. Enjoy your Martell, your way. You can serve it dry /neat, with ice or diluted with a little water. With a meal or degustation. As a long drink or cocktail, in a mixed drink, with tea, or even drop by drop. The choice is yours, and yours alone.
Cognac’s versatility is part of its charm and when enjoying your cognac, it pays to keep the following front of mind:
If you don’t have the right glass shape, you might only smell the alcohol rather than the aromas. Whereas if the glass is narrow and not very open, you might only sense the aromas without the alcohol sensation.
During the aperitif, the cognac is usually consumed neat, but adding a drop of water reveals more fruity, floral and spicy aromas and makes the tasting experience smoother.
To enjoy cognac neat, a ‘taster’s ISO glass’ is suggested, as its long and narrow tulip shape helps capture the richness of the cognac and less the alcohol. When adding a drop of water, the taster’s glass is also recommended.
The ‘cognac snifter glass’ (balloon shape) is suggested for a traditional tasting moment, after dinner as a digestive, where it is served neat and you hold the glass in your palm to pass body temperature to the cognac.
Cognac on ice is served in a large tumbler glass, with room for two ice cubes. Adding ice cubes will dilute the cognac and reduce the alcohol percentage, which reveals these aromas while making the taste more refreshing. The goal is that the ice cubes melt slowly, revealing new aromas at each step.
Cognac can even be consumed frozen, which makes the liquid very viscous and gives an experience that is almost velvety in the mouth. This pairs particularly well with seafood: oysters, lobster, or sushi.
For a simple long drink as an aperitif, the cognac can be consumed with tonic or ginger ale. This brings out notes of fresh fruit, even liquorice, in a VSOP. This is how cognac is normally enjoyed by the locals in the Cognac area as an apéritif.