Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Spirit Log: Martell VS, or How to make a post out of uh... verylittle.

Brandy! It’s not as good as whisky is it? It’s not. It’s nice and all, and probably easier on the palate, but that’s why it comes up short when you compare it with a nice whisky. I do like it though, and its status as a must-have spirit in my house remains unthreatened with a view perhaps to one day finding a great one. Is there such thing as a great one? And more importantly, can you get a great one at an affordable price (as you can with wihsky)? That’s what I’m asking this week as I look at a low cost Cognac, Martell VS.

"fine" cognac? Or simply "all right" cognac?
At least, that was the plan as, when I looked at my notes I found I’d made very few. When I cast my mind back and tried to pull impressions from my memory… I hardly remembered drinking this bottle at all. What happened? It’s like some aliens have stolen three months of my life. I can’t remember a single specific instance of drinking it – how did I get through a whole bottle without it leaving a single impression one way or the other?

I do know that there were some pounds off this one (six), making it an overdraft friendly £25. I ruminated at the time that you can’t get a great single malt scotch for £25 as a rule, but that from time to time you can – I’ve picked up the Highland Park 12, Talisker 10 and Glenmorangie 10 at this price point before, so I had been hoping to draw some conclusions as to how this measured up.

Based on previous experience, my expectations were fairly low. Cognac is generally known to be expensive and the ones at the cheaper end of the spectrum thought to be poor – as borne out by the Courvoisier VSOP I bought some time ago, also for £25.

So what else do we know? I remember that the bottle was uninteresting aesthetically, that it was 40% ABV and that I had found from research that it is thought to be aged for between 5 and 7 years. So far, so particularly dull. I did read some good comments from user reviews online but clearly they didn’t inspire any particular impressions from me. Finally, in my simple “like?” column on my geeky spreadsheet, I have entered “yes”. That doesn’t really mean much where brandy is concerned as it’s all kind of all right, isn’t it?

So there you go. I hope you weren’t hoping for some in depth insight. I could make some up, but it wouldn’t be fair either to you or the product. And in the end, I think the lack of an impression it made tells its own story. Drinking the Martell VS has ultimately turned out to be the liquid equivalent of getting home drunk and watching your favourite TV show on the TV recorder, then deleting it… then waking up the next day, thinking “ooh, I’ve got that show to watch… where is it?” You’ve already watched and deleted it. It’s like that.

How is that supposed to help you? Well, if you’re going to buy it, don’t expect much.


  1. Nice post, I agree entirely. I only ever use Cognac for mixing (don’t panic, there’s no Pepsi in sight) usually in a 50/50 mix with either Benedictine or Lovage:


    If you’re after a more memorable French spirit I’d point you in the direction of Calvados, it’s made from apples which are much better suited for alcohol production than grapes!

  2. ooh, "lovage". That's definitely one to try. Thanks very much.

    Calvados is indeed on my radar though I haven't gone so far as to invest in a bottle yet. That day no doubt grows ever closer.

    Just as a spoiler for future posts; I think I might have found a great and reasonably priced brandy. It is actually German, and goes by the name of Asbach Urbrand. More on that in the fullness of time.

    Thanks for visiting and reading, and thanks especially for leaving some interesting comments!