This is our final New Arrival of the Week of 2022 and we’ve got something a little unusual to say au revoir. Or perhaps that should be sayonara because what we’ve got here is a Cognac finished in Japanese oak. It’s Cognac Park Borderies Mizunara.
We tend to think of Cognac as one of the most conservative of spirits. It’s based on the hierarchy of vineyards from Grand Champagne at the top to Bons Bois and Bois Ordinaires somewhere near the bottom. Who can forget James Bond turning his nose up at the Cognac served to him by M in Goldfinger? “I’d say it was a 30-year-old fine and indifferently blended, sir. With an overdose of bon bois.” There’s a hierarchy of age too, going from VS which is aged for a minimum of two years up to XO (10 years) and beyond. The packaging tends to emphasise tradition and continuity. Compare that with whisky which seems to constantly try to chase the youthful consumer, see Ardbeg or the recent fantasy-tinged Diageo Special Releases.
Innovation in Cognac
And yet there are producers doing innovative things in the region. We’ve written before about Alexandre Gabriel at Pierre Ferrand ageing his Cognac in ex-wine casks like Banyuls and Sauternes – which is, according to Gabriel, how things were done in the past. Then there’s Bache-Gabrielsen which upset the Cognac cognoscenti with the release of its bourbon-esque American oak bottling. Very non-trad but superb for mixing. Well, we’ve got another one that is firmly in the experimental camp, it’s Cognac Park Borderies Mizunara and as you might guess from the name, it’s spent some time in super fashionable Japanese oak.
Park is one of the brands belonging to Distillerie Tessendier & Fils, a family-owned Cognac house that dates back to the 1880s. The house doesn’t just make Cognac but cellar masters and brothers, Jérôme and Lilian Tessendier, also buy, age, and blend rum. We’ve just got a whole load of excellent spirits from this excellent producer.
Introducing Park Borderies Mizunara
Our New Arrival is made from ugni blanc grapes grown exclusively in the clay soil vineyards of the Borderies. After Grand and Petite Champagne, this cru contains some of the best vineyards in Cognac but it is so small that you don’t see them that often. There’s just 4,000 hectares of vines compared with 30,000 in the whole Champagne cru. The soils are chalky clay with limestone and sandstone and are said to produce a distinctly nutty style of Cognac.
This is a young example, aged for a total of four years, mainly in traditional French oak but the last six months of the maturation takes place in Japanese mizunara oak casks. It’s important to note that these are not ex-whisky casks, which would be illegal in Cognac, but new or very new Japanese oak. While whisky producers can age in Cognac casks, it cannot be done the other way around. Martell does produce a bourbon cask brandy called Martell Blue Swift but it’s marketed as a spirit drink rather than a Cognac.
But back to Park Borderies Mizunara. The time in spicy Japanese oak accentuates the nuttiness of the Borderies style to produce a Cognac that while it is a little bit unusual, isn’t going to upset the Cognac traditionalist in your life. If you’re looking for a great mixing Cognac, then look no further, or just sip it neat after a meal.
Cognac Park Borderies Mizunarac is available from Master of Malt.
Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt
Orchard blossom opens the way for floral grapes and hints of violet sweeties. Honeyed plums and roasted hazelnut arrive bringing notes of praline alongside softly nutty oak.