When discussing a bottle of booze like Courvoisier’s L’Essence, one must, almost out of necessity, begin with matters like its scarcity and its cost. So let’s just get that out of the way: the legendary cognac house releases only about 3,000 bottles of it per year, and a 750ml bottle will set you back $3,500. (In other words, enough to stock up with 30 bottles of Courvoisier’s already very good XO expression.)
Spoiler alert: L’Essence is not 30 times better than the XO. So what could possibly justify such a tariff?
As you might have guessed, a lot of age coupled with a little history and some clever packaging. In fact, Courvoisier came up with L’Essence first in 2009 as a special offering to Harrod’s in London, which has been selling its cognac since the 1800s. The centerpiece of the blend comes from especially good stocks of brandy from the 1970s and ’80s. To that, they add an undisclosed amount of rare reserves from the early 1900s, and then re-age the final blend for another two years in oak. Finally, L’Essence is bottled in a Baccarat crystal decanter inspired by a style of ring that Napoleon would give to his soldiers.
The result is a hugely complex nose, with cigar box, aged cheese, toffee, honey and floral notes. Instantly smooth on the tongue, dried fruit dominates, followed by licorice and flowers in a finish that’s pretty close to eternal.
If I have one gripe, it’s one that extends to many cognacs: the proof. With a spirit this old, I’d love to see it bottled at a little closer to barrel strength.
— 40% ABV
CE Rating: ★★★★