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Education (Masterclass) Learn interesting facts about your favourite spirit

COMPLEX AGED SPIRITS
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It is essential to understand the unique principle behind complex aged spirits: Cognac, Armagnac, Brandy, Calvados, Agricole Rum, Whiskies, etc:

Concentration of aromatics and complexity!!!

Through the distillation process 10 L of wine give 1L of spirit. The aromatics of the wine will be multiplied by 10!

Through the maturation process in oak barrels the slow evaporation of alcohol and water will further reduce

and concentrate the spirit (by a factor of 2 over 20 to 30 years henceforth 20 times the initial concentration of

the aromatics in the wine).

The added benefits of aging is the slow and minute oxidization of the aromatics (esters) undergoing variation

and diversification, therefore increasing complexity.

From the above principle one understands the characteristics of complex aged spirits:

  •  They cannot be cheap.
  •  They are enjoyed via the nose even more than via the palate.
  •  Only a tiny quantity must be sipped to distinguish the various aromas by dilution in the mouth to avoid the numbing of senses.
  •  They must be given time in the glass to release their esters, according to their degree of?? volatility.
  •  They must be talked about to compare impression (they are therefore a conversation drink).
  •  Their enjoyment requires patience and a certain intellectual effort.

Aperitifs
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Introduced in 1846, aperitif is an alcoholic beverage usually served before a meal to stimulate the appetite and also facilitate the digestion.
There is no single alcoholic drink that is always served as an aperitif.
You can find traditional aperitif from different regions of France.

Vermouth
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Vermouth is an aromatized, fortified wine flavoured with various botanicals (roots, barks, flowers, seeds, herbs, and spices).
The modern versions of the beverage were first produced in the mid to late 18th century in Turin, Italy. While vermouth was traditionally used for medicinal purposes, its true claim to fame is as an aperitif.
However, in the late 19th century it became popular with bartenders as a key ingredient in many classic cocktails including the Martini, the Manhattan, and the Negroni.

Pastis
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Pastis is an anise and botanical flavoured spirit and aperitif from France limited to a maximum of 45% ABV.
Pastis was first commercialized by Paul Ricard in 1932 and enjoys substantial popularity in France, especially in the south-eastern regions of the country, mostly Marseille.
Pastis emerged some 17 years after the ban on absinthe, during a time when the French nation was still apprehensive of high-proof anise drinks in the wake of the absinthe debacle.

Absinthe
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Absinthe is historically described as a distilled, highly alcoholic (45–74% ABV) beverage. It is an anise-flavoured spirit derived from botanicals, including the flowers and leaves of Artemisia absinthium (“grand wormwood”), together with green anise, sweet fennel, and other medicinal and culinary herbs. Absinthe traditionally has a natural green colour but may also be colourless. It is commonly referred to in historical literature as “la fée verte” (the green fairy). Water from a beautiful absinthe fountain is poured slowly over a lump of sugar on a perforated spoon sitting on top of a heavy crystal glass with 30ml of absinthe.

The best absinthe are from Jura (French or Swiss) where they continued secret production during all the 90 years when it was illegal and then kept their knowhow!

Mistelle
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Mistelle is produced by adding grape alcohol to non-fermented or partially fermented grape juice. Generally by law the alcohol must be of the same local origin as the grape, therefore “Pineau des Charentes” is cognac + freshly pressed grape juice, “Floc de Gascogne” is Armagnac + freshly pressed grape juice, “Pommeau de Normandy” is calvados + freshly pressed apple juice, “Macvin du Jura”, “ Ratafia de Champagne” “ Ratafia de Bourgogne” etc, etc.
The addition of alcohol stops the fermentation and, therefore Mistelle is sweeter than fully fermented grape juice in which all the sugars turn to alcohol.

Bitter
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A bitter is traditionally an alcoholic preparation flavoured with botanical matter such that the end result is characterized by a bitter, sour, or bittersweet flavour. Numerous longstanding brands of bitters were originally developed as patent medicines but are now sold as digestives and cocktail flavourings. The best bitters are obtained by using the plant which has the most elegant definition of bitterness i.e. the Gentian. Cinchona ( Quinine ) is also preferred, against Dandelion, Artichoke, etc.

Armagnac
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Armagnac is located in the Gascony region. In 1909, Armagnac was categorised into three different regions, being Bas-Armagnac, Armagnac Tenarèze, Haut-Armagnac. Originally in Bas Armagnac a sub region was called Grand Bas Armagnac where a different soil of ochre sands induced a superior Armagnac. This appellation was not registered legally by the French government and not controlled; it was abandoned when too many neighbouring Armagnacs were trying to pass as “Grand Bas”. The Appellation Contrôlée approves ten grape varieties, however Armagnac is made by distilling white wine vinified mainly from the Folle Blanche, Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Bacco Blanc Grapes.

As with all complex aged spirits (Cognac, Fines [Brandy], Calvados, whisky, etc.) the time spent in the barrel is the main factor of quality. Once in a glass bottle it remains the same almost forever and certainly does not improve.

With over 300 producers selling bottles of Armagnac, it is a highly competitive industry, with Cerbaco selling the finest on offer. We pride ourselves on the high-quality Armagnac at our disposal and are confident we can provide you with the right bottle to suit your palate.

Calvados
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Calvados (Cahl vah dos) is the authentic apple (and pear) brandy, made in Normandy, north west of France. The Varieties are cider (and pear) apples high in sugar and bitter more suitable than fruit apple which lacks complexity and length.
Calvados is the result of apple juice fermented (cider), distilled and matured in oak casks.
Calvados is a fascinating, intense and fruity after dinner drinks. It also used in cocktails using its pronounced aromas and flavours.
At Cerbaco we represent the very best producers from the first terroir of the Calvados region (Appellation d’Origine Controlée), the Pays d’Auge. We also import small batches from the Domfrontais ( more pear ) area and the main area of Calvados production, with above 20 different Calvados available in Australia.

Cognac
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Cognac (pronounce CONIAK) is the most famous brandy in the world. Cognac is made in the Charente region, on the east cost of France, just north of Bordeaux. it’s made from Ugni Blanc grapes (a few other white varieties are also used), double distilled in copper pot stills and matured for several years. 6 regions produce very different cognacs, the first 3 being the best: Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois, Bons Bois, Bois Ordinaires; Needless to say that these mentioned on the label are extremely important, because if the appellation is only Cognac, then you have an indifferent, ordinary mix match.

Cognac is an intense drink enjoyed after dinner or later, in cocktails as well as to pair with food or cigars.

Cerbaco work closely with nine different producers, importing almost 50 different Cognac from the various terroirs of the Cognac region of production, different age and vintage. We can source rare, collectable Cognac upon request.

Marc, Fine and Fruit Spirits (Eau de Vie)
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Eau de Vie is a generic term to described pure fruit distillates: pear william, abricot, cherry or raspberry are all popular fruit spirits. Much rarer Great mullein, Meadowsweet or Sweet-scented Bedstraw are also made available here in Australia.

“Fine” (Brandy) describes a wine distillate which is not from Cognac, nor Armagnac, but from Champagne, Burgundy, Languedoc, Cotes du Rhone etc.

Marc is the French equivalent of the Italian Grappa, a distillation of the leftovers from the grapes already pressed (all solid remains) with the possible addition of fresh grape juice fermented.

At Cerbaco we represent the finest producers from Alsace, Burgundy, Champagne, Cote du Rhone and Basque Country. They are experts in distilling fruits from their estate. Our Medlar fruit spirit is iconic, alongside Pear William spirit with a pear kept “prisoner” inside the bottle. The quality and quantity of fruit, the keeping of only the heart of the distillation, the long aging in stainless steel are the difference between the sublime and the ordinary.

Rum / Rhum / Ron
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Rum is a spirit that’s distilled either from fermented molasses (a viscous by-product of the sugar industry where most of the aromatics have been lost through the evaporation of sugar making i.e. Traditional or Industrial Rum or freshly pressed 100% sugar cane juice fermented and distilled i.e. Rum Agricole. Because of its base material, molasses-based rums generally have a sweet note and flavours of molasses, and caramel (their complexity is ramped up by aging them in barrels), while those made with sugar cane juice (like rhum agricole and Cachaça to a lesser extent), have a much greater palette of aromatics , length and complexity. Rum is made in sugar cane producing countries, especially those in the Caribbean. Very aged versions are generally sipped neat, while unaged and lesser aged spirits are mixed in classic, Tiki and modern cocktails. Agricole rum has its own very original cocktail the Ti’Punch.

It is said that Rum Agricole is to Cognac what Industrial Rum is to Grappa. Accordingly splendid very old Cognacs, Armagnacs or Rums Agricoles are very difficult to differentiate.

Tequila
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Tequila is an authentic spirit, made from plants called agaves, in the region of Jalisco, Mexico. Tequila is the result of cooked agaves, juiced, fermented and distilled. Some Tequilas are rested (reposado) or aged (anejo) in oak casks.

It’s important to drink 100% blue agave Tequila, as they are many drinks called Tequila that are simply flavoured alcohol, not our cup of tea (100% de agave is often mentioned on bottles). In the recent years, quality Tequila is seducing more and more aficionados around the globe.

At Cerbaco we represent sipping Tequilas from all categories and regions. We also represent a unique selection of old vintage Tequilas, with a total of 12 different Tequilas on our portfolio. We thank our producers for their amazing products and trust in our work.

The altitude and harshness of climate reduces the yield but improves strongly the complexity and length of the Tequilas. Ours are from unusually high growing areas.

Mezcal
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Mezcal is a Mexican spirit, made from plants called agaves, and is similar to Tequila. Mezcal is the result of cooked agaves, juiced, fermented and distilled. Some Mezcal are rested (reposado) or aged (anejo) in oak casks. A simple comparison to differentiate Mezcal and Tequila is to say Mezcal is to Tequila what Islay whisky is to Scotch whisky. Also, the regions of production are different as well as the varieties of agaves used in their production:

Mezcal is made in Oaxaca from Espadin or other types of agaves.

Tequila is made in Jalisco mostly from Blue Webber agaves.

At Cerbaco, we represent two brands of Mezcal recognised for their high quality, with a total of 5 different Mezcals on our portfolio.

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