The Best Reason to Forgo Dry January

Ferrand Cognac unveils its oldest expression, a limited-edition annual release that honors 10 generations of family craftsmanship and pays tribute to the regal manor house that has resolutely stood watch over the estate since the reign of Napoleon III.

Cognac production is a romantic affair. Sure, chemistry is involved—pressing and fermenting grapes into white wine, then distilling that wine into a concentrated eau de vie … that’s all science. But the careful nurturing of that eau de vie, the selective barrel aging involved—knowing which wooden casks to use and when to use them—and the final blending that, through the marriage of many distinctive cognacs, creates an elegant and sophisticated cuvée? That’s artistry.

Ferrand Cognac recently injected even more romanticism into this process with the release of Légendaire, an annual limited-edition release that will be shared with the world only 500 bottles at a time, at a cost of $2,500 per bottle. To call this exceptional cognac the house’s pinnacle expression may not pay it the proper respect it deserves. Maison Ferrand refers to Légendaire as its “oldest and most extravagant elixir.” That, at least, gets closer to the truth. 

Master blender Alexandre Gabriel took inspiration from the Ferrand family’s 10 generations in cognac making.

The resplendent spirit, a 100% Grande Champagne Premier Cru de Cognac, was created by Ferrand Cognac’s master blender Alexandre Gabriel, pictured above, who looked to the Ferrand family’s 10-generations-long history of cognac making for inspiration. The family’s historic manor, circa 1861, also provided inspiration, as many features and aspects of it have remained unchanged throughout the decades—creaky parquet floors are still boisterous underfoot, while the walls adorned with 19th century wallpaper harken to antiquated eras of pageantry.

Nevertheless, it was the cognac house’s ample reserves that supported Gabriel’s vision to create a rare cognac that paid proper homage to the Ferrand family legacy. As Gabriel explains, those reserves—and the reserves of many esteemed cognac houses in the area—exist today largely because World War II created a troubling period of economic unrest during and immediately after the battles ceased. “People didn’t trust money in the old days,” he says. “People put their money into cognac. They put all their savings in barrels, and that’s why we still have some of these barrels today. They were the savings of that time.”

Components of Légendaire were aged for almost a century in casks.

Over the subsequent decades, those revered cognacs were transferred from barrels to glass demijohns, where they remained preserved and protected within the confines of Ferrand Cognac’s Paradis cellar. From that assemblage of rare cognacs—some almost a century old, having spent almost three-quarters of that time in casks—Gabriel selected the components that would make up Légendaire’s recipe.

The Ferrand estate in France.

Some of those components, when tasted individually, are defined by their richness; others, decades older, are strikingly (and curiously) vibrant with bold ginger-spice notes. “That’s the master blender knowing how to use the right barrel for the right cognac at the right age,” Gabriel says, explaining how a cognac that has spent 70 years in a barrel can retain such brightness.

As for Légendaire, it’s a cognac that is tantalizing for its complexity, delivering notes of port wine, passion fruit, and even tropical aromas on the nose as it rests (and evolves) in the glass. On the palate, hints of clove intermix with the presence of acacia honey and ginger, all of which elegantly segues into decadent fruit and floral notes that are balanced by a touch of spice.

The Légendaire’s bottle and box are works of art.

Such depth of flavor and aroma requires patience, which is why Gabriel encourages imbibers to linger over a glass of well-made cognac, no matter which house produced it. According to Gabriel, there’s an aromatic story that the spirit will tell, but it only reveals itself with time. “The older the cognac—if it’s a well-made cognac—the longer that aromatic story in the glass is going to be,” he says. “It will continue to tell you beautiful cognac stories throughout the night. Great cognac should stay with you for a very long time.”

Légendaire delivers on that promise.