It’s time that brandy had a rebrand. For too long, the opulent spirit has been overlooked — with even the most discerning drinkers missing out on its sweet, robust flavours and fruity, full-bodied history.
No more, we say. Cognac (the finest variety of brandy) deserves more than being poured over a pudding this Christmas. That’s why, here at Gentleman’s Journal, we’ve sought out the best bottle of brandy to educate amateurs and aficionados alike. With peonies on the palate, notes of both apricot and orange, and a colour even richer than its illustrious heritage, may we present Delamain’s Pale & Dry XO Centenaire; our case for cognac.
It’s an incredible brandy; a luscious liquid that begins life on vines in the Grande Champagne hamlet of Bellevigne. The blended eaux-de-vie sourced from these remarkable vines is earmarked early on — destined to become Centenaire — and goes on to be aged in old oak casks in Delamain’s semi-underground cellars. Here, the cognac is cared for, with the levels of damp and humidity providing it with the ideal conditions to naturally reduce over time.
But, standing Delamain truly apart is how the French brand has blended tradition with innovation. While its Cellar Masters honour the heritage of the cognac industry, Delamain also sits at the vanguard of modernisation. The brand uses a progressive addition of ‘les faibles’ (a weakened, albeit Grande Champagne, eaux-de-vie, where others would use water) to lead this charge. An especially gentle reduction method, ‘les faibles’ is traditionally used by Delamain to adjust its cognacs to a final desired strength.
And this is what makes Delamain’s Pale & Dry XO Centenaire the ideal bottle with which to reacquaint yourself with cognac. It’s a spirited spirit; and one which finds ways of further eliciting the age-old brandy’s signature qualities from the fine eaux-de-vie from which it is created — whilst all the time avoiding any sweeteners or colourings that may temper its natural purity.
In fact, you may even spot a slight colour variation from bottle to bottle; a pleasing idiosyncrasy unique to these natural, honestly-blended bottlings — and a touch that pays homage to the blend’s original sensory heritage.
And what a heritage it is. Back in 1920, brothers and heirs-apparent to the Delamain empire, Jacques and Robert, set out to create a cognac that embodied the spirit of a blossoming, modern new age; one that captured the beauty, art and essence of the natural world. They called it ‘Pale & Dry’ — a simple, clear-cut name that reflected the honest values of the liquid itself.
But these bottles were transformational. The spirit defied convention with its ethereal lightness and elegance, and, though it was an entry-level offering, it became one of the most acclaimed launches in Delamain history — and remains one worth celebrating today. That’s why Delamain created its Pale & Dry XO Centenaire, an evolution of the brand’s XO; and a way to celebrate 100 years of the brand’s finest, most flavoursome hour.
And this new spin on the original release repositions cognac once again — giving brandy its well-overdue rebrand. It sits at a slightly higher alcohol content of 42%, a level that Delamain’s Cellar Master deemed the perfect balance between strength and sweetness.
At this level, the aromas and flavours of Pale & Dry are intensified. And these are flavours worth intensifying; with a particularly fruity nose first tempting your tastebuds with the exotic notes of mango, lychee, apricot and nectarine. There’s also a richness that swells to the fore when you let the brandy breathe — think sultanas, candied peel and even enriched breads.
On the palate, the cognac lives up to its ‘Dry’ name. Delicately dotted with touches of peach, wildflowers and vanilla, there are also faint hints of hazelnut and chestnut in the delectable mix. Ending with a lingering honey and almond finish, it’s a journey of sumptuous sensations — and one with a deep respect for the inherent gifts of nature.
It’s everything you could possibly want from a fine cognac. Brimming with nuance and bursting with deference to traditional flavours, the Pale & Dry XO Centenaire honours the spirit’s heritage — but looks to the future. It is packaged, for instance, is a new 50cl format. Both visually distinctive and more affordable for the amateur cognac drinker, it’s the old adage of ‘less is more’ come to flavourful life.
So, if you’ve been trifling with the idea of buying some brandy this Christmas, call off the search. There is no bottle better than Delamain’s Pale & Dry XO Centenaire to fill that cognac-shaped hole in your drinks cabinet. Enjoy a generous measure at room temperature or even pair it with a fine cigar this festive season. And, only if you really must, sacrifice a spoonful or two to your Christmas pudding…
Delamain Pale & Dry XO Centenaire
Want more spirited questions answered? Here, we ask; Should you ever put ice in a single malt scotch?
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