KWV has unveiled SA's first and only XO Cognac produced under a South African brand name, the KWV Héritage XO Cognac. They've also unveiled KWV Nexus 30 year old brandy, the world's first commercially available 30 year old brandy containing potstill up to 42 years old.
According to KWV's Marketing Director, Peadar Hegarty, KWV is challenging the conventions of the industry with these two additions to its luxury product range. "Cognac can only be produced in Western France and verification of its authenticity is taken very seriously, protected by an origin appellation, meaning that in order for the blend to qualify as a cognac grapes must be sourced and the product must be bottled and matured in the Cognac region in France," he explains.
For KWV's XO Cognac, KWV formed a collaborative partnership with the French House of Maison Charpentier* and developed KWV Héritage XO, created by KWV's award winning Master Distiller Pieter de Bod who developed the blend in his brandy cellar in Paarl.
"Pieter chose from 20 of the finest "Extra Old" cognacs from the Petite Champagne and Grande Champagne regions in France, aged between 12 and 30 years, making it one of the oldest blends available worldwide and earning this cognac its prestigious Heritage XO distinction," says Hegarty.
He recalls the moment, saying that it was like watching a master pianist. "Pieter tasted each one, picked up the notes, then carefully chose the most precious blend, and our XO Héritage was born - a perfect finish great moment."
de Bod then travelled to France for the blending and maturation process. Cognacs from the sought after Petit Champagne area are characterized by their elegance and Master Distiller De Bod says that the artisans at Maison Charpentier, which was founded in 1895, are true masters of their craft, distilling their cognac on site in small batches, which are then carefully nurtured throughout the maturation process in French Oak barrels. He points out that this is significantly different from the mass produced mainstream brands.
"We are very proud to be the first South African company to produce a South African branded cognac," says de Bod. "This represents what is believed to be the world's first cross-continental alliance, illustrated by our brand statement of Two Continents, Two Keys, One Extraordinary Cognac."
KWV XO is rich amber in colour, conjuring up fruity flavours of litchi, cinnamon and fruitcake on the nose with notes of citrus, mocha and roasted coffee. "On tasting, one discovers a well-balanced cognac with hints of coffee and dark chocolate and a lingering, velvety finish," says de Bod.
Cognac is one of the most important export products of France with 98% being exported. While the US was the most important cognac market in the 90s, Asia, especially China, took prominence. The total luxury alcoholic beverage category is worth R1.1-billion per annum in South Africa alone, with cognac representing 5.7% volume and 7.6% in value, and growing.
Nexus the world's first 30-year old commercially available potstill brandy
The KWV Nexus 30-year old is a premium potstill brandy, handcrafted in small batches at the KWV cellars in Paarl using a blend ranging in age from 30 to 42 years old.
"Retailing at a recommended price of R23,000 Nexus is for those who want to celebrate those finish great moments with an exceptional brandy, that is personalised on order, from our retail partners," says Hegarty.
The Nexus name means the highest point of a connection. "It links our KWV journey to finish great, representing the pinnacle of our brandy journey, which begins with our 3 year old," he adds. "KWV differentiates itself in the spirits industry in offering such a clearly signposted range of aged potstills. Our Master Distiller, Pieter de Bod, oversees each step to ensure the product is exquisitely crafted so that uncompromised purity and handcrafted quality is captured in every drop."
de Bod says that during the first stage of maturation clear potstill spirit absorbs the characteristic colour of the oak and develops its flavours and bouquets (the scent of oak, warm vanilla and the rich aromas brought out during toasting).
"Gradually the years pass, until after 20 years, the brandy mellows, the bouquet becomes richer and the flavour known as 'Rancio' appears," he explains. "This is a Charentais term, being notes of exotic mushroom and walnut oil, complex specific aromas that develop during the long barrel ageing accentuating their intensity."
At the culmination of its journey KWV Nexus 30 reaches its apogee, the climax of its development. In fact KWV Nexus contains brandy up to 42-year-old blends.
de Bod describes the Nexus taste experience: "The rich golden amber liquid has a sweet strawberry jam, honey, dried orange peel and green pepper corn nose, which is well balanced with cinnamon, macadamia nuts and a smoky aroma complimented by old woody tawny port flavours. A well balanced brandy, it has a long finish with notes of spices, caramelized fruit and roasted coffee beans."
KWV Nexus brandy is packaged in a hand-blown bottle crafted by internationally acclaimed glass artist, David Reade. Each individually crafted bottle is sealed with a handmade Baltic Amber stone with origins that can be traced to tree resins going back 50 million years.
Hegarty points out: "We chose unconventional packaging, as we wanted to showcase the beautiful bottle and the use of all natural products put together by these artisans fits beautifully with our Finish Great philosophy. From vine to glass, this precious blend is the proud fulfilment of an incredible brandy-making odyssey that represents our Master Craftsmen at their very best."