Imagine the immediate aftermath of World War II, as the era of deprivations slowly eases and life gets back to normal. In the Charente region of France, the department where the town of Cognac is located, a family whose Cognac-making history dates back to 1727 creates one of its first distillations of this Brandy variety since the end of the war. And there it lies in several barrels, for decades, awaiting discovery.
And discovered it finally is, by the Last Drop Distillers, a company founded upon a desire to seek out and discover the rare and hidden gems of distilling that have been lost to time, hidden in dark and forgotten corners. Though Scotch Whiskey is their specialty, Last Drop’s 1947 Hors d’Age Cognac — limited to only 186 bottles that are offered at £3,200 each — is just the kind of rare gem that the company was founded to discover and bring to the contemporary market.
James Espy, Tom Jago, and Peter Fleck founded Last Drop after long careers at the pinnacle of the liquors industry. They have been key players in the brand creation of Johnnie Walker Blue Label, Chivas Regal 18-Year-Old, the Classic Malts, Malibu Rum, and Baileys Irish Cream. At the conclusion of their professional lives, they came together to create a company committed to saving and bottling the past.
When you crack the wax, draw the cork, it fills the room. A waft of old roses, but charged with a touch of citrus; its history is manifest at every step.
An Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire since 2013, Espy was a founder of The Keepers of The Quaich, which promotes Scotch Whiskey globally, and brands he’s overseen include J&B Rare, Johnnie Walker, and Chivas Regal. Jago has worked in the wine and spirits trade for decades and was a member of the team that developed Baileys Irish Cream — considered one of the greatest brand introductions in the history of the industry. Among other achievements, the worldwide footprint of Malibu Rum is Fleck’s claim to industry fame, along with his crucial work in the growth of several brands in Africa.
Now backed by their ownership arrangement with New Orleans-based Sazerac, the Last Drop primarily focused on searching around Scotland for stray barrels of old Whiskeys. The business plan was to bring to the marketplace long-lost heirlooms of distilling that have the flavor and uniqueness that connoisseurs would appreciate. This led to the equally refined world of fine Cognacs, and the 1947 Hors d’Age Cognac is their second specialized Brandy brought to the market.
“First, the nose. When you crack the wax, draw the cork, it fills the room. A waft of old roses, but charged with a touch of citrus; its history is manifest at every step. The complexity of sensations stems from that history,” is Jago’s description of this Cognac. “Distilled in 1947 in a small, ancient copper still, burning wood or charcoal, it’s rich in the imperfections that mark the exceptional from the simply fine Cognac.”
This Cognac is a rarity since very few examples of vintage distillations are left to be found. Its visual highlights include a deep bronze base with flashes of gold. Its scent is fresh and its character strong.
“The aromas have the richness of summer flowers and when eventually you sip this delicate liquid you come across the same ingredients in a much more complex form,’’ states Faith in his tasting notes. “It seems ridiculous that one’s first impression of a 70-year-old Cognac is how fresh, young, and delicious it is.”
The buyer of The Last Drop 1947 Hors d’Age Cognac will receive not only a wax-sealed bottle in a red-leather case with a custom-made stopper but also an additional 50-milliliter miniature and a certificate of authenticity, complete with a tasting booklet.
(Photo Credits: The Last Drop Distillers Limited)