Rémy Martin’s XO cognac is proof that one of the biggest cognac houses is also one of the best.
Classification XO Cognac
Company Rémy Cointreau
Distillery Rémy Martin (Touzac, Cognac, France)
Cask type French limousin oak
Still type copper pot (alembic charentais)
Released 1981; ongoing
Proof 80 (40% ABV)
Aged at least 10 years
Like all of Rémy Martin’s cognacs, this XO uses grapes sourced exclusively from the Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne crus (growing areas), regarded as the highest quality of the six crus permitted by French law.
While displaying the richness and complexity that are hallmarks of the best XOs, it avoids the excessive woodiness that can be the category’s Achilles heel.
Too pricey to use as a mixer
Color: Deep reddish-copper with hints of gold
Nose: Fruity, sweet, gentle and inviting, with light grape, peach and melon, along with floral notes and hints of baking spices
Palate: Sweet but not cloying; very fruity, with dates and ripe grapes as the featured players, supported by honey, buttered pastries (like a warm cinnamon bun) and just a hint of maple syrup, with oaky spice on the back of the palate
Finish: Tangy and fruity, along with baking spices—cinnamon and clove predominate—and dry oak
Rémy Martin is named after the winegrower who started selling cognac under his own name in 1724. The brand as we know it today, one of the best-known and most popular cognacs in the world, evolved throughout the 20th century. The first VSOP expression was launched in 1927. In 1948, the decision was made to use grapes exclusively from the Petite Champagne and Grand Champagne crus, resulting in higher-quality eaux-de-vie. And while it seems that Rémy’s iconic XO expression has been around forever, it was launched only relatively recently, in 1981.
Lesser XO cognacs (XOs, by law, must contain no eaux-de-vie younger than 10 years old) can taste like they’ve spent a little too long in the barrel, with an astringent woodiness overwhelming the other flavors. Not so here: This is a cognac that doesn’t let you forget that it’s distilled from fruit, namely a blend of 85% Grande Champagne and 15% Petite Champagne grapes, which gives it the Fine Champagne designation. Though the eaux-de-vie are aged for at least a decade, and some doubtlessly much longer, the blend tastes quite young and lively. The richness and full body, however, are reminders that it’s an XO.
The fruitiness is amplified by a buttery, sumptuous mouthfeel that coats the tongue like velvet. It’s somewhat similar to Rémy’s 1738 Accord Royal expression, which contains eaux-de-vie ranging from 4 to 20 years, but the XO is richer and more complex. If the 1738 is a college-level course in making fine cognac, the XO is a master class.
This cognac would surely make a terrific cocktail, but it’s such a perfect sipper that it seems a crime to mix it with anything except a glass and your mouth. Rémy’s stature as one of the biggest houses in Cognac may put off some who like to seek out lesser-known brands, but this is a cognac that anyone who appreciates the category will enjoy.
Rémy Martin’s XO expression uses up to 400 different eaux-de-vie in its blend, all of them from the Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne cru.
Although Rémy Martin is one of the largest cognac houses, it has been run by two families (Rémy Martin and Hériard Dubreuil) for its entire history.