Rarity Club: Coutanseaux Aîné XO

If you haven’t heard of Coutanseaux Aîné Cognac, it is because in contrast to the widely marketed maisons, this esteemed house intentionally keeps a low profile. But among cognac aficionados, there are few more highly regarded names. Coutanseaux dates back to 1767 and the reign of King Louis XV. Astoundingly, an unopened bottle from that first vintage was discovered and auctioned in 2014 for an astounding €164,000, making it the oldest and most expensive bottle of cognac ever sold.

Coutanseaux’s reputation has long been known on the continent. In the 19th century, it became the official supplier of the Swedish Crown Court, a most prestigious honor. In recent decades, production declined because of the dissolution of the company that owned the brand. Today, however, Coutanseaux is gearing up to re-establish itself in the collective consciousness of cognac lovers.

The bottle of Coutanseaux Aîné XO you’ll find in this very special edition of Rarity is made to the same high standards as it has been for more than two and a half centuries. During that time, the house has been able to accumulate a truly extraordinary collection of eaux-de-vie (un-aged brandies) from premier cru (first growth) vineyards in the Grande Champagne region of Cognac. When these eaux-de-vie are aged in French oak and combined by Coutanseaux’s experienced blenders, the result is a masterpiece of cognac.

The utmost attention is paid to every aspect of Coutanseaux Aîné. Even the bottles are blown by hand, making each one an individual work of art. But the bottle can’t compare to the liquid inside. This extremely limited edition of Coutanseaux Aîné XO has been made available exclusively for Rarity members. “XO” stands for “extra old,” which in brandy terms means that it has been aged at least six years, but in the case of Coutanseaux Aîné, the youngest eaux-de-vie is at least ten years old. The emphasis here is on “at least,” as the age is defined by the youngest cognacs in the blend. A high-end XO cognac usually contains eaux-de-vie aged much longer than the minimum and in the case of Coutanseaux Aîné it is decades more. One sip will show you that this is no ordinary XO cognac.

It’s recommended that you decant your bottle of Coutanseaux Aîné XO before tasting or allow it time to breath in the glass. Anticipation of the first taste will be amplified by the warm, gentle aroma of spice and light fruits, intertwined with prunes, cooked oranges, and honey. On the palate, the burst of flavor is redolent of ripe summer fruits, autumnal berries, and honey, with just enough oakiness to temper the sweeter notes. The combination is one to sip, savor, and appreciate. And the name — Coutanseaux Aîné — is one to remember.