One of our favorite stops in Cognac is always to the maison of Raymond Ragnaud, a producer whose Pineau des Charentes spirits we've been carrying for sometime now. The original Ragnaud Cognac was produced by the Ragnaud family, but when the two brothers Raymond and Marcel took over they were unable to work together. The Domaine split and now there are two separate brands under the name of each brother. Raymond Ragnaud is still produced on the original estate and is now overlooked by his daughter, Mrs. Ragnaud-Bricq pictured above.
Jean-Marie has been the distiller at the property for the last thirty years. He always takes us down into the cellar for some cask tasting and a lesson on barrel aging. Like Armagnac, the Cognac producers believe in aerating the spirit by changing casks every six months to a year. We've often tasted a few out of the cask, but Grand Champagne Cognac doesn't taste all that great in its youth - and by "youth," that means anytime in the first twenty years of its life. Usually the blends have more complexity because the young brandy is balanced by an older vintages. Of their older blends, the Reserve Rare is our favorite. A very gentle palate with notes of toasted almonds and soft stone fruits.