Let’s get one thing straight — this cognac isn’t Ludacris’ swill (no offense, Luda. Loved you in Hustle and Flow). But see, next year the Camus family will mark their 150th year of producing cognacs. They’ve been doing it for five generations. So the distinction between this and, say, this, is obvious. Produced exclusively in the Borderies region (with the exception of Cyril Camus’ recent experiments with the Bois Ordinaires on the Île de Ré), the venerable family’s cognacs are a true testament to the French craft. And the Borderies XO expression is no exception.
Coming in, I was interested to sample a single growth cognac from the private family reserve. Often, large cognac houses blend the distillate from different crus, terroirs and even vintages in the interest of uniformity of character. But with Borderies XO, the Camus family has created a cognac from a single estate and vintage, resulting in a very unique signature bouquet. That’s not some minor detail. If any of the myriad aspects of creation from the estate’s vines to the bottles were off, it wouldn’t exist. The master distiller would have pulled it, or the cellar master would have blended it with other cognacs to mask its flaws. Essentially, when you pour Borderies XO, what you’re drinking is the result of a handful of men with lifetimes of experience telling you that this is the pinnacle of their craft. That’s heady stuff.
And that’s before opening the bottle. So forget about the hype, let’s talk about the spirit. To be honest, I was frustrated at first. I’m somewhat accustomed to spirits being like the typical modern band — four or five members, all playing at full tilt, with a front man and somebody to throw in a solo here and there. But this moves with the coordination of a full orchestra, with each member playing its small role in tandem.
On the nose, I begin to notice a hint of flowers, vanilla beans and some citrusy acidity. I can even smell a little of the aging, but nothing like the fresh-cut and charred American oak barrels we whiskey drinkers are accustomed to. This cognac has been slowly aged in French limousine casks. Each sip is warm and fruity with apples and pears, viscous honey, a bit of vegetal freshness, soft walnuts and a lingering hint of oak. I almost feel wrong for enjoying it so much. Shouldn’t this experience be a bit more, I don’t know, bracing? But then, pleasure is always best with a little guilt.
Look, at almost $150, you’re not going to buy too many bottles of Borderies XO (probably). And when you do, you’re not going to pour it for your buddies while arguing over fantasy football (hopefully). But do yourself a favor when you do get a bottle — don’t waste it on your boss. Set it aside for yourself. Because every once in a while, we all deserve to taste the achievement of a lifetime of hard work.
– 40% Alcohol by Volume