When I was last in France I had a chance to pop into the Camus Cognac visitors' center. I was familiar with the brand, having met brand owner Cyril Camus last year in San Francisco, and curious to try some of the non-US bottlings on-site. And now I have news to share from another lunch a couple of weeks ago.
These things don't form a narrative, so I'll use the list format to talk about it.
- Camus is the 5th largest cognac house after the "big four" of Hennessy, Martell, Courvoisier, and Remy.
- It has only been on the US market for a couple of years.
- Their specialty is grapes/cognac from the Borderies region, a small region on the border of the Grande Champagne cru. Many of their blends have a hefty amount of Borderies cognac in them, and they have an all-Borderies XO as one of their flagships blends.
- The Borderies soil is rich but more clay than the chalky soil found in Grande/Petite Champagne
- Borderies signature is an aromatic floral quality; particularly violet flowers.
- They distill nearly all of their own brandy, rather than buy pre-distilled brandy from others.
- They also make cognac from grapes grown on the Il De Re, and island off the coast of France that is part of the Bois Ordinaires cru. These blends, unfortunately not in the US yet, have notes of iodine and salt/brine. They age it in large barrels to reduce the wood impact on it. One Il De Re blend is double aged - first on the island, then in casks that are smoky.
- They have just released 8 vintage cognacs on the US market
- One of them is the 1971 vintage. Hardly anything in spirits comes out in this vintage. I keep track because it's my birth year. It's also Cyril Camus' birth year.
- The 1989 vintage has lots of Colombard grapes in it (most coganc grapes are Ugni Blanc, with less and less of Colombard and Folle Blanche as time goes on and everything becomes homogenous). My nose was obsessed with bready vanilla brine notes, as if the world's best hotdog bun merged with cream wafers and you put relish on the bun. (Note: that's not supposed to make sense to anyone but me.)
- The 1971 vintage, of which there are only 30 or so bottles available in the US, is 100% Grande Champagne brandy with more Folle Blanche grapes than typical cognac. I found it entered in a flash of Fruity Pebbles then quickly settled into a brandy with a touch of dill and licorice root notes with a green thin mint finish. (Again, not supposed to mean anything outside of my mouth.)
- The vintages are 1969 ($1250), 1964 ($750), 1970 ($630), 1971 ($590), 1974 ($470), 1980 ($380), 1988 ($320), 1989 ($280)
- But should you want to pay less than several hundred, the VS and VSOP make great mixing/sipping cognacs at closer to thirty bucks a bottle.