A bottle of Camus XO Elegance. A combination of eaux-de-vie from all six of the crus of Cognac, this is a complex Cognac with exceptional balance between fruit and oak.
Some Cognacs are made for food, some for drinking, how about a Cognac made for food with an exceptional understanding of how fruit and oak can combine to create a symphony of flavors. This seems to be the intent of Camus XO Elegance, which is made from a combination of eaux-de-vie from all six of the crus of Cognac (Branche, Fines Bois, Petite Champagne, Grande Champagne, Borderies and Grande Fine Champagne). In the glass it has a color that ranges from medium honey to amber depending on light and viewing angle. The nose is full of the richness of the oak and the sweetness of a well aged tropical fruit. The palate is tremendously well balanced with a wonderful interplay of fruit and oak, with a long, rich finish. It has the acidity of a young Cognac but with the wonderful flavor breadth and intensity of a great mature Cognac. Just when I thought that I knew what I was tasting, another flavor or a more pronounced flavor would flow across my palate.
“A liqueur, in my writing, should be treated with the same precision as a unique wine or a fine port,” says liqueur expert Ian Wisniewsky. “The actual spirit may be a neutral one such as vodka, but the liqueurs should be carefully blended to complement each other.”
He’s right: liqueurs are often made in the same way as fine cognacs. They’re then allowed to age in oak barrels for years.”
This is a Cognac that needs food. Whether it’s a hot evening on the banks of some serene lake in a far away place or a lunch in a Michelin three star restaurant, this is a Cognac that wants to be there. I want it now! It’s got real body and depth but with the acidity of a young Cognac. That’s the thing: it’s not just a young Cognac, it’s got the color, intensity and richness of a great mature Cognac.
It’s not only complex in the sense of maturity and its interplay of oak and fruit, it is also complex in its combination of fruit. Just when I think I know what I’m tasting, there’s another flavor. I’ve never experienced that level of complexity before. It has an intensity to it but it is not just the richness of notes that I find here, it is the depth and number of flavors.
It has six years of age on it but it doesn’t have the same level of intensity as some other Cognacs I have aged. In those Cognacs, everything is abrupt and crisp. Here, on the contrary, there is a feeling of quantity and breadth, a sense that there is a lot more than meets the eye.
I think Camus is brilliant. They’ve captured the richness of the fruit and oak of an extra old Cognac, but with the lightness of a young Cognac. In short, they have brought together the richness of a ripe pear, the fullness of an oak barrel and the tannic bitterness of a French cognac. But what amazes me the most is the level of “breadth and depth” of flavors that are contained in this Cognac. It is this quality that is missing from many Cognacs.
To understand my praise, take a sip of XO Elegance. And then take a bite of a ripe pear. Don’t take a bite of the whole ripeness of the pear, pierce the skin carefully and eat the flesh. The flesh is rich and juicy, and if you have the time and the patience to wait a few minutes, there’s a wonderful change from acidity to sweetness. The juice is rich and complex. And you start to wonder how many more flavors are in there. And then you get a taste of the skin. The skin is hard, it’s bitter and crisp, it almost makes you retch. But then after a few minutes you start to.