This November we held our first ever portfolio tasting at the New Bedford Art Museum in New Bedford, MA. Part educational tasting, part fundraiser, mostly party, we're pleased to say that the night turned out very well. The museum's galleries were packed with friends, family, and newbies to the Heavenly sphere, mingling, conversing, eating, and of course, tasting our French wines and spirits.
We poured over 60 of our award-winning products from our nearly 20 independent, family-owned producers, including Cognac, Armagnac, Calvados, whisky, gin, wine, liqueurs, absinthe, and aperitifs.
We had lively music from Bertrand Laurence and Menége à Trois, which set the festive atmosphere. Our restaurant partners, Cork, Emma Jeans, Kyler's Catch and EJ's filled the museum space with delectable aromas and delicious small bites. Christine's spread of French cheese (45 lbs of it!), along with a selection of fresh French breads, was a sight to behold! Rory, bar manager at La Voile in Boston, was on hand with two wonderful cocktail creations, though regrettably without his customary beret. Our thanks to our friends, family, and Heavenly team members who staffed the tasting tables and were ready to answer questions and educate our guests about our French spirits. We couldn't have pulled it off without their hard work.
Our graphic design intern, Emma, who took photos and videos of the event, put together a video slideshow for us below. Thanks to everyone who came out and we can't wait to do this again next year!
Heavenly Spirits is pleased to announce a first in the whisky market: a French whisky double matured in refill ex-bourbon casks and ex-Armagnac barrels. This is the first whisky in the world that we know of to have an Armagnac cask maturation. The cask used (No. 8151) came from the oldest Bas Armagnac producing house, Armagnac Dartigalongue, who happens to be another proud member of the Heavenly Spirits portfolio team.
This collaboration between Armorik and Dartigalongue came about in part due to our desire at Heavenly Spirits to have a French whisky matured in Armagnac barrels. The suggestion was given and the rest is history. The unique label design melds a lightly-depicted antique photo of the Dartigalongue distillery's yard with the classic Armorik Breton dragon logo.
The whisky was matured for 3 years in a refilled bourbon cask and spent an additional 2 years in the Dartigalongue Armagnac cask.
Tasting notes from the Director of Warenghem Distillery, David Roussier:
Color: Copper ABV: 46%
Nose: Nice aromatic intensity. At first some lemon notes and vanilla, followed by ripe fruits (Mirabelle plums) and elegant oaky notes. Licorice, with soft notes of pastry with almonds.
Palate: Intense aromas of citrus, followed by a nice roundness and nice volume. Elegant woodiness enhanced by peppery and fruity (peach) notes. Long and spicy finish.
About the Houses:
The Warenghem distillery located in Lannion, Brittany has been making high quality liqueurs and spirits for over 100 years. In 1900, Leon Warenghem created his first product, the Elixir d’Armorique, a distillate of 35 plants which won awards at international exhibitions in 1902. 30 years ago, Warenghem was the first and only distillery to ever produce double distilled single malt whisky in France and today it remains the most renowned.
The oldest house in Bas Armagnac, the Dartigalongue family began to distill in 1813. In 1838, Pascal Dartigalongue founded the first Maison d'Armagnac in Nogaro, the heart of the Bas Armagnac region. In 1870, his son Joseph acquired a large vineyard in Salles d'Armagnac near Nogaro. In 1978, his great grandson Pierre Dartigalongue created his Museum in Nogaro which houses all the archives of Maison D'Armagnac, including all correspondence since 1838 and a fascinating collection of Vieux Armagnacs in their original bottles, dated 1829, 1848, 1852, 1870, and 1900. Today, Dartigalongue is regarded as one of the leading producers of high quality Armagnac.
This year marks the seventh year in a row that Heavenly Spirits has participated in The Inland Seafood/Quality Wine & Spirits Annual Food & Wine Experience. They have certainly figured out a winning formula, as the overall experience has not changed much in all that time. Of course, how can you go wrong by staging it in a great city like Atlanta, gathering around fifty of the finest seafood suppliers on the Atlantic coast along with a hundred or so different wine and spirits suppliers from around the world, and ask them all to bring their best samples to taste? Add some pretty good live music, invite chefs, restaurateurs, caterers, grocers, retail wine & spirits store owners from the greater Georgia area to come by, hang out and taste quality for six hours straight, and it has to be a successful good time.
As usual, we had a table packed full of our award-winning French products, including some of our super stars like the Marie Duffau line, a couple Dartigalongue Armagnacs, a Jean Fillioux Cognac, a Crème de Cassis from Jules Theuriet, and our Absinthe La Muse Verte. This year we also had the pleasure of introducing Du Peyrat Organic Cognac for the first time to Atlanta and it was a big hit.
Each year, we fly in to Atlanta the night before the event, go to the before-party held at the Quality warehouse/offices, attend the event, and then find a good place to eat in Atlanta before taking off the next morning. This year we ended up at a bar and restaurant by the name of Empire State South. It turns out they carry several of our Heavenly Spirits products and they were recommended by a half dozen attendees. The experience did not disappoint.
After a short Uber ride, we sat ourselves directly at the bar and started with cocktails; CC ordered the “Love Shack” featuring gin, ginger, and passion fruit, and I had the “Two World Hero,” which featured cognac, rye, and sweet vermouth. Both were delicious and just what the Doctor ordered after a long day. We then chose a range of tapas-style vittles from the menu, including: the ESS Charcuterie tray, Baby Carrots, the “Farm Egg” recommended by all, and a Hanger Steak. To accompany our feast we both ordered a glass of Minerva, a good value red wine from the Southwest of France that we used to buy frequently as our house wine when we were living in Saint-Jean-de-Liversay, near La Rochelle. This particular one, a 1913 from Chateau d'Oupia was quite good and brought back fond memories. All in all, it was a great experience and a good way to close out another busy business road trip in Atlanta.
By Paul Scott
When asked to represent the U.S. market’s most beloved Armagnac house, Armagnac Delord, during "The Greatest Brandy Category Is…” seminar at Tales of the Cocktail 2016 in New Orleans, I obviously accepted!
To be involved in such a seminar, presented by some of the USA’s most recognized personalities in the beverage industry was, at the very least, an exciting prospect. And of course a visit to New Orleans couldn't be refused, as it would be my first.
I decided to begin my stay familiarizing myself with the local area, locating the venues, and getting started on networking. Very quickly I noticed that Tales of the Cocktail had drawn large numbers of industry professionals from all over the USA and the world. I especially noticed quite a lot of Australians, many residing in the USA and working in the industry I later found out as bartenders, mixologists and retail clerks. Continuing my walk through the French Quarter, it felt necessary to seize the opportunity to enjoy a Sazerac! I found the level of skill, knowledge, and attention to detail displayed by the bar workers throughout the French Quarter to rival that of the most well-known and respected cocktail establishments around the nation. In the French Quarter, the detail-oriented mixology was apparent in almost every bar I visited (and there were several).
By 6 pm Bourbon Street had begun to liven up – a little too lively for my sedate middle age – so I headed to a little cocktail lounge and Jazz Bar, RFs, located next to my Hotel on Dauphine Street, one block away from Bourbon, but a world apart in character. RFs or Richard Fiskes is a New Orleans classic. The evening was spent talking cocktails with the Manager, Mackenzie, and proprietor, Andrew, whilst enjoying the head-turning jazz band playing on stage, the Meghan Stewart Quartet. At some point I found myself giving an impromptu Armagnac seminar at RFs. Future trips to NOLA will see RFs as a first port of call to enjoy some Delord Armagnac-based cocktails!
On to the Seminar!
The seminar was held at the Fleur-de-Lis suite at the Royal Sonesta Hotel and set up much like a political debate, a little tongue-in-cheek event moderated by Derek Brown of Drink Company and Columbia Room fame. The rules were set, cheering was encouraged, as well as clapping, stomping, whooping and chanting, and why not? Even we serious, high-browed brandy enthusiasts need a little whooping and chanting on occasion.
Each brandy category was well-defended by their spokesperson.
Cognac was represented and defended by Brandy Rand, Vice President of U.S. Marketing and Business Development at The IWSR, an international beverage alcohol research firm. Her defense of her category looked at the strict controls put in place in regard to the production of Cognac, combined with U.S. sales figures. Her most memorable tactic, however, was to attempt to tear down the other categories: Armagnac is not well known (it is known by the Best!); American Brandy lacks regulation and you don't know what you're going to get; and Brandy de Jerez is merely a byproduct of the Sherry industry. Lots of fun, a little real information, and with a “Mean Girls” attitude!
Jackson Cannon, Bar Director, Eastern Standard and Island Creek Oyster Bar Owner/Bartender, The Hawthorne represented Armagnac. Jackson defended his category with quiet confidence providing detailed information into the production and aging of Armagnac, terroir, and explanations of the three Armagnac Crus.
JP Fetherston, Head Bar Manager, Drink Company defended Brandy de Jerez. He delved less into sales figures, manufacture or historical significance. His presentation was simply based on the product, how it tastes, how it can be used, and how aging improves it.
Dan Farber, Founder/Distiller, Osocalis Distillery, who defended American Brandy, offered an impassioned defense based on exciting innovations that are being explored by U.S. Brandy producers, which may not be possible elsewhere due to strict regulation. His defense of American Brandies went onward to highlight the qualities of all three other categories.
One of the most notable questions asked by the Moderator was:
If you were not representing your category, then which brandy would you rather be representing?
Of the four defenders – one of whom who was already defending Armagnac – one declined to answer, and the other two chose… Armagnac! So of the 3 available panel votes, 2 voted for Armagnac and 1 abstained, making Armagnac the panel winner.
The crowd however voted by “Noiseometer,” and by virtue of making a lot of noise, chose the patriotic favorite, American Brandy.
To each his own, but in this case I say, who wants to follow the crowd?
Vanilla might be one of the most difficult flavors to capture. An essential flavor not only in baking, but in many great cocktails, vanilla-flavored products are often too sweet or too "fake" tasting. Navan liqueur developed a dedicated following during its tenure, and its absence has been keenly felt.
Being the enthusiastic importers of Armagnac that we are, a few years ago we decided to address this desire for a naturally-flavored, sweet but not cloyingly so, vanilla brandy liqueur. Together with one of our producers, Artez, we created Artez Arvani to fill that need.
Artez Arvani is made from 100% Madagascar vanilla beans, which are macerated in blanche (white) Armagnac. The color of Artez Arvani comes entirely from this maceration. Sugar is then added to create a liqueur perfect for mixing into cocktails, or even to be served on its own.
Artez Arvani is a true artisanal liqueur. It is produced on a 30 acre estate in the Bas Armagnac region of France, in an area known as the First Cru.
The house also crafts rare single varietal Armagnacs, which utilize only one grape: Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, or Baco; the renowned La Muse Verte Absinthe and Pastis, made according to traditional family recipes; and a lovely pear eau de vie.
As most of you know, we take our product sourcing very seriously. In the case of Rhum, we have been actively seeking to discover the best quality Agricole Rhum available to add to our portfolio for U.S. representation. With that goal in mind we traveled to the French island of Martinique for a week of research and development. We had an amazing time! It was the beginning of harvest season and we were able to visit five of the seven distilleries on the island, as well as several historic museums. We spent four full hours at one of these amazing distilleries and it was the highlight of our week, as we learned a great deal about the Martinique Rhum industry and tasted many fine spirits.
While I can't name names at this time, we are very excited about the possibilities of working with some very fine producers in the not-too-distant future.
For those of you who are not familiar with Martinique agricole rhum, let me provide you a brief description: Rhum agricole (French pronunciation: [ʁɔm aɡʁikɔl]) is the French term for cane juice rhum, a style of rhum originally distilled in the French Caribbean islands from freshly-squeezed sugar cane juice rather than molasses. When France colonized some of the Caribbean islands, like Guadeloupe, Haiti and Martinique, they divided rum into two subcategories, rum industriel (rums made from molasses) and rhum agricole (rums made from pressed sugarcane juice) which accounts for only around 1 - 2% of all rums produced in the world. Rhum made from sugarcane juice has a different flavor and aroma profile from other rums, for real connoisseurs it is that unique and individual sense of terrior that makes rhum stand apart from ordinary rum. The rhum agricoles produced on the island of Martinique have achieved French A.O.C. status — the only rums in the world to do so.
To be labeled "AOC Martinique Rhum agricole" rum has to be produced from cane grown in an area authorized by the AOC decree. Currently, only the territories of the following 23 municipalities of Martinique are allowed for the cultivation of sugarcane intended for the production of AOC Martinique rum:
Since the AOC changed some of the rules a few years ago, it is no longer permitted to bottle Martinique Rhum that has been aged somewhere other than Martinique. So we have been actively looking to replace our highly-awarded Rum Chauffe Coeur 7 years old. This rhum had a great story;
it was a special limited selection that was brought in bulk from Martinique to the mainland France many years ago and it was put to age in the cellars of the original owner, who had created the brand name Chauffe Coeur after World War II. This rhum was then bottled in mainland France and exported to us in the US. Then we ran out…..! In the meantime, 2 things happened:
First, the AOC law changed and mandated that all Martinique aged rhums be bottled in Martinique
and second, Martinique rhums became a rare commodity and the distilleries were only interested in selling their rhum under their own labels.
In any case, I imagine the dozen or so bottles that remain will become increasingly valuable collector's items. Here is a list of awards earned by the Chauffe Coeur Rhum Vieux:
Many American rum drinkers are still somewhat unfamiliar with this superb quality style of rhum, made from pure fresh pressed sugar cane. To those who have only tasted molasses based rum from the big industrial producers, rhum agricole can be an acquired taste. But once you develop an appreciation for the fresh sweet grassy notes in the unaged versions, as well as the fine layered complexity of the older ones, it is easy to become a dedicated fan. Some of the master blenders that we spoke with are true artists dedicated to their craft in much the same way as the Master Blenders of fine cognac, whisky and armagnac.
In addition to our work on Martinique, we enjoyed perfect 85 degree weather, gorgeous beaches, and wonderful seafood meals during our week long stay. We also drove up and down the many hills and along the never-ending shoreline as we attempted to see as much of the island as possible. All in all our visit to Martinique was a fantastic experience. We left the island with very high hopes that we will be returning again and that we will soon be sharing some of these exceptional Martinique masterpieces with our U.S. distribution networks and you.
Today is February 2nd. In France it is always the day we celebrate "the Chandeleur." Traditionally, the best way to celebrate is by making and eating crepes.
In Roman times, this day was the celebration of the God, Pan, protector of the shepherds and the herds. The Romans would spend the night walking around town with "chandelles", the French word for big torches, and that is where the name Chandeleur comes from. A tradition came later that if you made crepes that day with the wheat harvested in the fall, it would ensure that the wheat that was stocked would not rot for the rest of the season, securing prosperity until next harvest.
A few other rituals came along over the centuries, but today, the only one that remains is to make crepes on the day of the Chandeleur, and this is a wonderful thing, because crêpes are sooooooo good! With this in mind, I am sharing my own recipe. Enjoy!
Christine's French Dessert Crêpe Recipe:
4 oz. plain flour
1 level tbsp. sugar
1 egg and 1 yolk
1 1/4 cups liquid (equal parts milk and water mixed)
1 tbsp. melted butter
1 tbsp. of Cognac
Put the flour in a large bowl, make a hole in the middle, add sugar, eggs and the milk/water mix. Stir with a wire whisk until smooth. Let the batter rest for 1 hour. Just before using, stir in the melted butter and Cognac.
Put a crepe pan (or flat frying non-stick pan) on medium/high heat, coat it with butter, and when butter sizzles, add some batter to make a wafer thin crepe. Turn down heat to medium, cook 1 minute then flip the crepe over, cook another minute.
Put the crepe on a plate, add sugar, jam, Nutella, Chantilly, or chestnut cream, or a combination of these. Roll the crepe and indulge!
Kids will enjoy these treats with a glass of milk, but the adults should definitely go for our all-natural French cider, Claque Pepin from Normandy!
The Heavenly Spirits' exceptional French spirits' portfolio just got even better with the addition of "Diplôme Dry Gin," an amazingly good and historic blend from the city of Dijon, France. Already catching on in Japan, Australia, Canada and much of Europe, Diplôme will make its debut in the U.S. in February, 2016, launching first in Boston, New York, and Chicago.
The original 1945 recipe for Diplôme was perfected during WWII and soon became the official gin for the American Army stationed throughout Europe. Diplôme Dry Gin is a unique French made “London Dry" style Gin, created, and distilled in Dijon, a city known and respected worldwide for its culture and fine cuisine.
The recipe for Diplôme Dry Gin is one of the oldest in France.
Using natural botanicals sourced from Europe and Morocco, Diplôme Dry Gin is made from a selection of the finest juniper berries, coriander, whole lemons, orange peel, angelica, saffron, iris root and fennel seed available. With an ABV of 44%, Diplôme Dry Gin is perfect for use in gin based cocktails, while it is also one of those rare gins that can be enjoyed straight up chilled or on ice.
Each sip of Diplôme Dry Gin begins with a lively scent of perfumed citrus before revealing a complex layering of exotic spices, dark chocolate, lavender and zesty grapefruit, all delivered through a velvety texture and a lengthy finish.
Samples will soon be going out to selected spirits reviewers across the country. Our expectation is that they will be as enthralled as we have been with the quality and taste of this superb spirit. With an MSRP of $36.00 Diplôme Gin will make an exciting addition to anyone's top shelf collection of spirits. For more information and some exciting new cocktail recipes, visit Diplôme Gin.