Tasting Video #19

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This tasting video was such a delight! My guest was Jennifer Querbes from Brandy Sainte Louise. We were both blown away at how similar my tiny old bottle of DeValcourt 10 Year Old French Brandy tasted to the brandy she’s created! (Spoiler: they were both really delicious.) After a surprising bit of drama in the middle of recording we moved on to taste a half evaporated bottle of Christian Brothers American brandy, which was also surprising in its own way. I hope you enjoy watching this video as much as we did making it!

Prefer to read than watch? Check out the transcript under the video.

TRANSCRIPT

Teaser

Tammy: We’re going to taste yours because I didn’t come all the way to Texas Hill Country not to taste some Brandy Sainte Louise with you.

Jennifer: So excited.

Tammy: But first let’s taste the tiny bottle.

After Opening Credits

Tammy: Hello and welcome to my Tiny Bottles the project where I’m exploring my grandmother’s liquor bottles, one tiny bottle at a time. I’m your host, Tammy Coxen, and my guest today is Jennifer Querbes. Jennifer, tell the people about yourself.

Jennifer: Hi. I’m the founder and owner and importer of Brandy Sainte Louise.

Tammy: She didn’t show you her bottle yet, but it is a beautiful bottle.

Jennifer: Thank you so much, it’s an honor to be here with you.

Tammy: It is a delight.

Tammy: So, I first encountered Jennifer when I heard her on a podcast. I think it was the Speakeasy Podcast. And then as I was researching this bottle of De Valcourt French brandy, it’s a 1988 to 2003 is the range I’ve been able to come up with for this one, but it is a negociant brandy. And as I was researching it I was like well what exactly do they mean when they talk about negociants? And I was searching that term online and your name popped up, and your brandy popped up, and I remembered you from the podcast, and I thought “aha that is who I’m going to ask to taste this little bottle with me!”

Jennifer: I’m so again, I’m so honored and I’m really excited about this. Thank you so much.

Tammy: So what do we mean when we mean negociant? What does that term mean anyway?

Jennifer: Basically, that is how Cognac houses and a lot of wineries really were traditionally. structured. You didn’t – they didn’t – make all their products from “seed to bottle” the way some try to do now. But, you go around and you go to the same producers and the families that have been making it for hundreds of years, different brandies or even grape selection. And you’d find the best of the best every single year. So you were negotiating with the different producers, mostly families that have been doing it. The ones that I’ve been, that I use with mine have been doing it for hundreds and hundreds of years, and they just that’s what they do. And everybody’s very specialized.

Tammy: So you have the people who know how to grow the grapes, grow the grapes, people who know how to make the brandy…

Jennifer: And then the cellar master, the blender, right? All very technical. And so that’s really how it was traditionally done. So all I did was follow tradition.

Tammy: Excellent. Well, we’re going to taste yours because I didn’t come all the way to Texas Hill Country not to taste some Brandy Sainte Louise with you. But let’s first taste the tiny bottle. So aged 10 years. We don’t know where in France it came from. It’s just a product of France. Who makes Brandy in France?

Jennifer: So there’s three different kinds of classified brandy that you would hear of. That would be Calvados, that’s Apple Brandy from Normandy, and then you have Cognac and then Armagnac in the south-southeast-southwest of France. And then right in between there, is where some of mine comes from. It’s from just outside the Appellation of Origin, the region of Cognac, and it comes from right between there and Armagnac. So that’s why I have to call it French Brandy.

Tammy: Right. Brandy made anywhere else in France could be called brandy, but it can’t have one of those names.

Jennifer: And the word Brandy comes from the Dutch brandywein.

Tammy: Right, burnt wine.

Jennifer: Yes.

Tammy pours sample.

Tammy: All right, well the color on this is gorgeous.

Jennifer: Very nice!

Tammy: It’s actually much darker…

Tammy (emptying the bottle into lovely tasting glasses): i’m going to give you the last bit. I don’t know where it all went. It’s just emptied out really quickly.

Tammy: The bottle’s kind of dirty and this kind of golden color, so I wasn’t quite sure what color to expect from the brandy but actually it is a really gorgeous deep color. Does color tell us anything when we think about Brandy?

Jennifer: Typically, just the age of it, but I mean, it depends. Maybe the toast of the barrels, you can kind of tell? But a lot of times there are additives in there, so you can’t really tell.

Tammy: Right, it’s like rums can be really dark in color and light and flavor and vice versa.

Jennifer: The nose on that is beautiful.

Tammy: It’s warm here in Texas Hill Country. So yeah, getting a huge ton of aromatics right off the bat with this. Where sometimes I find other brandies that I’ve opened take a little time to open up after they come out of the bottle, but this one has a lot of nose going on. Any particular notes?

Jennifer: Well at first I got a little bit of floral, slightly floral, but sort of like a jasmine floral, not like roses.

Tammy: Yeah, I can see that.

Jennifer: And it’s got like a little bit of a hint of leather..

Tammy: Yeah it’s 10 years aged, so it’s had some time.

Jennifer: Yeah, I love that. There’s some notes that are very similar (gestures to Brandy Sainte Louise bottle). It’ll be interesting.

Tammy: I’m excited.

Jennnifer: What do you smell?

Tammy: You know, I get this thing that I just think of as brandy smell, right? It’s kind of like it’s a little bit…

Jennifer: Grapes.

Tammy: Grapes!

Jennifer: It actually is a tasting note and olfactory one.

Tammy: It’s like wine on steroids.

Jennifer: Exactly. That’s what it is.

Tammy: And then almost like a little bit of caramel. And that might just be like the color, that you know I expect to find caramel there.

Tammy: All right, well I’m going to go in. Are you going to go in? Let’s do it. (clinking glasses) Cheers!

They sip, and Tammy can’t help but smile.

Tammy: Okay, what do you think? I mean you’ve tasted probably a lot more brandy than I have…

Jennifer: Well that was just the first sip (goes in for another one). They say for brand you should…

Tammy: Yeah, it’s like Scotch, they say you should take three sips.

Tammy takes another sip too.

Tammy: The finish is really interesting. Wow.

Jennifer: It’s a very long, beautiful finish.

Tammy: Amazing finish.

Tammy: At the beginning, I got this really like beautiful bright fruit kind of right off the bat. And then in the middle, I’m getting this thing that I think of as old bottle taste.

Jennifer: Okay.

Tammy: There’s, to me, just this kind of…

Jennifer: Like a little bit spicy on my mid palate, I get a little bit spice.

Tammy: Okay. I kind of get this like, kind of slightly dusty is the way I describe it.

Jennifer: Yeah, I love that.

Tammy: But then that finish!

Jennifer: It’s long.

Tammy: It’s super long and kind of sharp, right? Like making my mouth water back here. (Tammy points to the very back of her jaw in front of her ears)

Jennifer: Yeah.

Jennifer: It’s really… this is crazy. I’ve never tasted something so similar to (gestures to Brandy Sainte Louise bottle)

Tammy: No way.

Jennifer: Yeah, this is crazy. I love it. You know, there’s a lot of really fine Cognacs out there, sometimes 50 years old, but the finish… you know they’re delicate and they’re lovely, but you try it and it just “poof” goes away. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just different, you know. This is still going.

Tammy: This is crazy.

Jennifer: I love a long finish, just that kind of the richness.

Tammy: Right, and it’s like, I’m here, pay attention to me. Keep paying attention to me. Yeah, I love the opening and I love the finish, there’s something in the middle that I’m not…

Jennifer: There’s some currant… something in the beginning with the smell now that it’s opening up a little bit.

Tammy: Alright, well, we shouldn’t drink it all because we have some compare and contrast to do.

Jennifer: Yes.

Tammy: So tell me a little bit more about Brandy Sainte Louise. Where do you get it from? How old is it? How’s it made? Except unless they’re trade secrets.

Jennifer: I like to be as transparent as possible. I worked with bartenders, many of whom you know, throughout the country. I’ve been in the industry a really long time working for other brands and there was a hole in the market for this.

Jennifer: There wasn’t anything since Phylloxera, since, you know, Prohibition, really all of those. Even the Sazerac in New Orleans has been replaced with bourbon or rye, you know, and so… But about two-thirds of historic cocktails pre-phylloxera, pre-world wars, pre-prohibition were brandy-based originally. I mean French 75’s? Why would they have a gin in there?

Tammy: We’re gonna fight about that. I think the original drink called the French 75 was made with gin. I’ll fight you about it. But it’s delicious made with brandy.

Jennifer: We’ll talk about that after!

Tammy: And certainly, in the earliest days, when you go back to the original Old Fashioned cocktail, the drink at the time called just cocktail… probably what they were using was most likely cognac and then maybe rum and then genever.

Jennifer: Exactly.

Tammy: Because those were high quality imported products, as opposed to American whiskey, which could be a little dodgy at the time.

Jennifer: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Tammy: And Mint Juleps. The first mint julep was definitely Cognac. It was a reliable age spirit.

Jennifer: Then we couldn’t get it. So I founded this in May 2018. So it’s been almost 6 years, next month, I can’t believe it.

Tammy: And where’s the name come from?

Jennifer: My grandmother was Louise. So that’s another thing that we bonded about.

Tammy: Grandma connection!

Jennifer: Her favorite cocktail was a Sazerac. She’s from New Orleans. I have a lot of family there in Louisiana. So that was really inspiring to me. And then I just sort of did a tribute to women that weren’t able to own their own spirit brands. She always felt like she never accomplished anything. But she did! And she was very loved and she raised 3 amazing children.

Tammy: That is an accomplishment.

Jennifer: So I just did it in honor of her. Do you want to hear about the blend a bit?

As Jennifer begins to pour the Brandy Sainte Louise a huge gust of wind comes through, flipping the camera upside down. Thankfully Jennifer’s friend Phil was assisting and grabbed it before it fell over, but it makes for a very dramatic camera shot before Tammy comes back on screen.

Tammy: Eek!

Jennifer: Wind!

Tammy: OK, we’re going to pause. Hold on, let’s just pause.

Short break to reset

Tammy: So, we just had a HUGE wind gust. It almost had the camera flying our awesome helper today stopped that from happening. So thank you, Phil.

Tammy: All right, you were just about to pour me a sample.

Jennnifer: So about 10% of it is Ugni Blanc from the Grand Champagne region within the region of Cognac, which is different than the actual Champagne region where the wine is produced. But about 10% of it is that. Then the vast majority is also Ugni Blanc and it comes from just outside the AOC. They have to draw the boundaries somewhere.

Tammy: Right.

Jennifer: So the border is just this little road. (pointing to one side) This is French Brandy. (pointing to the other side) This is Cognac.

Tammy: I know, it’s so funny you have all those wine making regions where like literally across the street you can’t call yourself Burgundy or whatever anymore.

Jennifer: Yeah. So it’s the same production, same terroir as Cognac, but at a fraction of the price. So that’s why I was able to get it to this price point, with this quality.

Tammy: Smells great. I will say when you’re saying the tiny bottle really reminds you of it, it does have that same kind of floral nose right up front.

Jennifer: Fruity and floral. Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Jennifer: This is amazing. This is the most similar I’ve ever tried of any product.

Tammy: That’s wild.

Jennifer: This one, I will say (pointing at tiny bottle) that one’s 40%. This is 43%

Tammy: So hotter. That makes sense.

Jennifer: And that was intentional, because Cognac typically gets overpowered in cocktails. And also isn’t cost effective to put into cocktails. That’s why I created it. I tell people that after they’ve tried it, because when I tell people that I created it for cocktails, they’re like, they expected the quality to be poor.

Tammy: No, and that’s what I say about cocktails, I always tell people don’t put something in a cocktail that you wouldn’t drink on its own. Especially when you’re talking about fairly simple cocktails, you know, like a Sidecar. There’s not a lot else going on there.

Tammy: So, this is delicious. It definitely doesn’t have the dusty thing.

Jennifer: That’s really interesting.

Tammy: But, it does have a lot of that same fruit flavor, that aroma, and also a really nice long finish. It’s hitting me differently. It’s not way back there. It’s like the sides of my tongue instead of like the back of my head? I don’t know?

Jennifer: I know exactly what you mean. I forgot what they call it. Back palate?

Jennifer: It’s sort of, and then the finish is sort of more in the middle of my palate.

Tammy: Yeah.

Jennifer: But they’re both really good.

Tammy: They’re both really good. This is delightful.

Tammy: I have had Brandy Sainte Louise, I think, mixed into a cocktail once. Maybe a couple times – maybe I had it at a bar and I didn’t know. But it hasn’t been readily available in states that I’ve lived in. So that’s part of why I was excited to come here and taste it with you.

Jennifer: Thank you.

Tasting again.

Tammy: There it is! That fruity finish very much reminds me of it, right?

Jennifer: Very similar, right?

Tammy: That is really, that’s really delicious.

Jennifer: Negociant is where it’s at.

Tammy: It is! Anything else you want to tell us about Brandy Sainte Louise?

Jennifer: This label was an Armagnac label from 1837 that I customized. I really wanted the packaging to correlate with the liquid.

Jennifer: And I guess, can I talk about what’s the next step for it? I’m about to launch next week in New York with Frederick Wildman as the brandy that’s paired with Chartreuse.

Tammy: That’s awesome.

Jennifer: Big news.

Tammy: Can you put some pressure on the monks to get more Chartreuse in the market?

Jennifer: I’ll try. I’ll do my best.

Tammy: I appreciate that. I was actually in Voiron at Chartreuse, at the visitor center. And we were getting a guided tour and the guide was speaking French and I had a translation app going and I have, translated on my phone – “The Americans always want more, but the monks, they are impervious.”

Jennifer: Ha! That’s excellent.

Tammy: All right, well, you are an American brandy maker, and I happen to have an American brandy.

Jennifer: The American brandy.

Tammy: Yes, the American brandy one might say. So, I think that this is going to be a little bit of maybe going from a high, to another high, to a low.

Jennifer: I mean, I don’t know.

Tammy: You’re optimistic.

Jennifer: I am optimistic. I’m very curious.

Tammy: So this is Christian Brothers. Pretty much, these days, bottom shelf brandy, but in its day was kind of a big deal. They were one of the first wineries making wine in California and really kind of driving Napa as a wine growing destination, and then got into brandy. And I’d be a lot more optimistic about this bottle if it wasn’t half empty. The evaporation will, however, I think probably concentrated the sweetness. So, all right.

Jennifer: Maybe a little raisiny but…

Tammy opens the bottle and there is an audible “crack” sound.

Tammy: See, it’s totally a sealed bottle, just plastic. (She pours)

Tammy: Have you drunk much Christian Brothers?

Jennifer: Not a whole lot, but their Sacred Bond, a lot of people use that in their well. But they age it in bourbon barrels, so it tastes like bourbon. I don’t know what they were aging this in, probably wine barrels back then?

Tammy: Well, this is not that old. This is like, this has got a government warning label, so it’s after 1989. So I think because of who made it and where it’s from and everything, I think I dated this between 1989 and 1996. So it’s still like, 40 years old? (Edited to say: Really only 28-35 years old, Tammy can’t do math when she’s drinking brandy)

Tammy: Well, it doesn’t smell bad.

Jennifer: I would definitely drink this.

Tammy: Well, let’s see how it tastes.

They drink

Tammy: Definitely sugars have concentrated. It’s not bad.

Jennifer: It’s not bad.

Tammy: It’s not bad tasting. It still tastes like brandy.

Jennifer: It does!

Tammy: It’s like essence of brandy. If you wanted a brandy concentrate that you were then going to mix with something else?

Jennifer: Yeah, well said.

Tammy: When I tasted one of these old evaporated bottles with Southern Teague, he was like, yeah, if we maybe added some vodka here…

Jennifer: The Bluesberry one, that was amazing!

Tammy: So if we had some vodka maybe we could add the alcohol back in and get a truer picture of it. This is actually better than I expected, that’s always a delight.

Jennifer: I had high hopes. I was optimistic.

Tammy: You were way more optimistic than I was.

Jennifer: I just love brandy!

Tammy: Right, well this was an absolute delight.

Jennifer: Just a pleasure.

Tammy: Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and your expertise and your amazing brandy.

Jennifer: Thank you so much.

Tammy: And you all should look for Brandy Sainte Louise at a liquor store near you. It’ll be available for way more of you soon I hear, so that is exciting.

Jennifer: We’re expanding very quickly.

Tammy: Yeah, that is fantastic.

Jennifer: I’ve been a one-woman show up until now, but we’re about to get some help.

Tammy: So besides people’s local liquor stores, where can they find you?

Jennifer: Online, ricouspirits.com. On Instagram, as @brandystelouise. And at your favorite cocktail bar, yeah, hopefully in the world.

Tammy: Right. Ask your bartenders “Do you stock Brandy Sainte Louise?”

Jennifer: Yes. “And can you please?”

Tammy And of course you can find me at mytinybottles.com or at @mytinybottles on Instagram and Facebook. And you can also follow me at @tammycoxen on Blue Sky. Come on back for more tasting episodes, more bottle picks, more deep dives.

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