The Drouet XO Cuvée Ulysse Cognac Grande Champagne, 40.3%, asserts, “My plums will not be ignored!” They are stewed with late harvest maize in a distinguished (but not Grand Cru) Puligny-Montrachet, served on recently-fired porcelain that against the dictates of science retains somewhat of the humble oakwood-fired kiln that metamorphosed it from mere clay to that which purveys my food. There’s also slivovitz-laced wedding cake…where’d the lindenberries come from?…and a tinge of burnt tarragon and burnt oregano, as if a tiny lightning bolt kissed my herb garden on a warm, misty Midsummer’s Night Eve. It’s hard to believe that the DXOCUCGC (as I’ve taken to lovingly calling it) isn’t over 100 proof.
It’s hot on the mouth—it’s as if peat should be part of it, but mais non, mon ami, peat is not in it at all. The mouth, beyond the fire, is a continuation of the nose. A smooth segue between scenes, an even smoother glissando between notes. My nose is located near my mouth, but for the first time since childhood innocence, they seem but one thing; my so-called “five senses” merging into four. There’s an additional piquancy that emerges from the fire, like branches of Prunus spinosa—not Baruch Spinoza— that remained undaunted by heat. This DXOCUCGC is laughing at a notion of a shared value for the taste of cognac. It says definitively that it will find a new essence of grape, matured perhaps in ironwood,* that murmurs other cognacs are not so much wrong, as irrelevant.
The finish carpets my tongue like the flooring of a conifer gladedingle all a-greenneedletingle with the late summer sap of the ferment of the seasons. Winter may be coming, but it’s far off, and I revel in the immanence of the Fall, the finish of Summer. There are more plums, this time ripened to within an inch of being prunes, but that heap of beans is still, while much reduced, a hill of beans. May we justly call this fruit at the edge of transformation a bowl of sunshine-drenched plunes? Or prums? No. It remains a fricassee of plums and slow-smoked venison sausage in thick Mornay sauce—a sauce that merrily leapt beyond Béchamel with the glorious and fortuitous introduction of Gruyère.
* not really
–Our thanks to the Raj Sabharwal and PVI Global for the sample!