Sophie Max Selection No4
Rock'n Rolling in the Grande Champagne
Sophie & Max Sélection N° 4
In the heart of the Grande Champagne in Angeac-Champagne, the premier cru of Cognac, resides a Cognac house that we think is really like no other. Raison Personelle, which as many might guess means personal reason, evokes a blend of tradition, authenticity, and passion - very normal things for a Cognac house - but all wrapped up in a distinctively Rock and Roll spirit. Sabine and Bertrand de Witasse, the kind folks behind this unique house, have breathed life into their small-batch Cognacs by merging their two greatest passions: distillation and rock and roll. We’ve always been keen on protecting Cognacs’s diversity, and so the pull to Raison Personnelle for a Sophie & Max Selection edition just felt so right.
Bertrand and Sabine's journey to Raison Personelle wasn't an obvious one. In 1994, they took a leap of faith, leaving behind their comfortable but busy and often hectic lives in Paris to follow a calling. That calling pulled them to the Charente, where they set out to fulfill a desire to lead what to them was a more meaningful existence and embark on an adventure to become Cognac vignerons, distillers, and blenders. But making such a transition does not happen overnight. It takes time and patience, very much like the time and patience required to make a great Cognac.
As relative novices in the field, they had to learn everything from scratch - from vineyard work to distillation, from aging processes to mastering the administrative procedures involved with customs, the BNIC, and their own treasury. Funnily enough, we are now getting a taste of what Sabine and Betrand must have gone through since we have several hectares of young vines planted in and around Beaulieu. Even just a few hectares is not without stress - and we do not even make wine, distill, or age Cognac!
They leaned on Bertrand’s uncle, who already was part of the fabric of the region and had tremendous know-how with regards to distillation. But they also figured everything out for themselves by doing, diving straight into the deep end and learning by doing. They persevered and always aimed to move forward, never allowing the region’s challenging weather conditions; or the never ending tasks in the vines, distillery, and cellar, and around-the-clock distillation periods to dissuade them from their chosen path. A quarter of a century later, their conviction has borne fruit, and the de Witasse family has been successfully producing their own brand of niche small batch Cognac under the name Raison Personelle since 2014.
Rock and Roll
The soul of Raison Personelle is undoubtedly steeped in the spirit of Rock and Roll. Bertrand and Sabine’s passion for music isn't confined to playlists and headphones; no, it reverberates through the very fabric of the distillery. You'll find them both grooving to rock classics on the tractor, in the vines, in the distillery, and even in the office. The chai is more than just a space for aging and blending Cognac. It also doubles as a stage, housing drums, guitars, and an entire musical set-up.
Their love for music extends beyond personal enjoyment. They see it as an integral part of the distillation process. The distillery fittingly enough doubles as a rehearsal studio for the Alambic Brothers, a band formed by a group of friends from around Segonzac, where they regularly hold lively jam sessions with the alambic as the backdrop. The influence of their musical taste is found right down to the vats, each bearing not a generic number but the names of various legends of rock. This eclectic mix of distillation and rock and roll brings an unrivaled vibrancy to Raison Personelle, and an easy-going free spirit attitude that I find to be both uncommon and refreshing in the Cognac world.
Raison Personelle is one of the rare few in the region to still employ a wood-fired alambic, proving that a Cognac house can be modern and eclectic while still holding tight to traditional practices. The wood-fired still, one of their two alambics, is from 1935 and is still in operation, a testimony to the de Witasse family's commitment to authenticity and tradition.
The choice to use wood-fired distillation is a demanding one, requiring a commitment to maintain a continuous supply to the boiler around the clock. It makes for a very hands-on approach to distillation. Whereas a gas-fired computer controlled alambic very easily regulates and controls temperature during distillation, a small wood-fired alambic is regulated and controlled solely by the person operating the alambic. We’ve even visited some producers who still use a wood-fired alambic that have a little mattress next to the alambic so that they have a constant eye and ear on what's going on while the alambic is humming. Sabine and Bertrand have assured us that they too have a makeshift bedroom in the distillery right next to the alambic to never be more than an arm's reach from still. It goes without saying that this distillation method is more finicky, and hands-on.
It took Bertrand years to master this art, inherited from his uncle, and to understand the personality of the old, small boiler, learning when to stoke the fire, how to regulate it, and even the type of wood to use. The fruits of this labor are evident in their high-quality, unique Cognacs, appreciated by lovers of Cognac around the world.
Making of Sophie & Max Sélection N° 4
The selection process for this particular bottling was really quite natural. After a visit at the domaine to taste and further discuss the project, eight samples were sent over for us to taste and consider. All of the samples were various blends of eaux-de-vie at the XO quality and above - but in the early teens in terms of age. So we can say that all samples were young XO’s.
While all samples showed very clear Grande Champagne traits - and a clear producer DNA - it was sample N°8 that raised our eyebrows and ultimately got the selection. Why? It seemed to best capture the aromatic intensity that we know and love from the Grande Champagne, but channeled that intensity on the palate leaving a Cognac with immense drinkability.
This is exactly the drinkable profile we seek for this N°4 edition.
Interestingly enough, this sample N°8 is Sabine’s very first blend, crafted entirely by herself, and kept in the cellar only to see the light of day in the future - so now, basically. It consists of several different eaux-de-vie, all dripping from the small wood-fired alambic. The eaux-de-vie were distilled on the following dates:
- December 3, 2010
- December 18, 2010
- December 1, 2011
- December 9, 2011
Sabine herself states:
The tasting note below will reveal that Sabine’s efforts are a smashing success.
The aromas are bright, defined by a vibrant mix of orange, tangerine, and kumquat - sweet orange citrus fruits. It has a sharp, fresh scent that is cut through with saffron and spicy cleansing ginger. The notes of licorice and orange peel add an extra layer of complexity. Its overall aroma intensity is high, presenting the typical characteristics of a young XO Grande Champagne Cognac.
The Cognac reveals a surprisingly soft and supple character, contrary to the vigor suggested by its nose. The flavor intensity is balanced, and the mouthfeel is cushioned without any abrasiveness. It has a high level of drinkability - almost dangerously so. With a moderate complexity, it stands as a versatile Cognac, and would also make an excellent “house” Cognac. Its youthful charm shines through in the form of sweet nectarines, yellow peaches, and the recurring notes of ginger and licorice. The inherent robustness of young Grande Champagne eaux-de-vie has been excellently tamed and neatly packaged in this blend.
The finish is medium at best. Soft and cushioned. The fruity and spicy flavors continue to play on the tongue but only gently touch the back of the palate and throat. Zero aggressiveness or astringency. The fun contrast between the intense, lifted nose and flavors, and the soft, supple mouthfeel makes each sip pleasurable. Each sip invites the next - and that’s exactly the point. Fun.
Sophie & Max Sélection N° 4
SPECIAL LAUNCH OFFER
Purchase 2 bottles, get an 8% discount per bottle.
Purchase 3 bottles (or more), get a 15% discount per bottle.
Note: Discounts automatically applied at checkout. *
Cognac age: XO Cognac
Growth area: Grande Champagne
Small batch: 150 bottles only
Bottle size: 70 cl
Sophie & Max Sélection N° 4
Not quite what you'd expect, way more on the rustic and unbalanced end as a blend. More earthy, weird oak, and still somewhat more distillate driven. Compared to No 3, both don't really sand out for a particular profile, but 3 is much more balanced. Nice packaging though.
Sophie & Max Selection N° 4
Deep amber colour. On the nose a mix of orange fruits, dried orange peels, spicy and earthy notes and a few fresh mushrooms. The palate of this cognac is lively, vibrant and youthful. Sweet white peaches on the fruity side mingle with ginger and liquorice. The finish is medium and ending on spicy...
Early Autumn or L' été Indien Cognac - Sophie & Max Selection No. 4
No ethanol spirit smell. Alcohol is almost dialed in the cognac. NOSE: At the opening - an aroma of young vibrant X.O., a sweet creamery scent, a mixture of coffee with milk, floral honey, Irish cream, tangerine peel and a bit of saffron. In The Glass: First 5-7 minutes scent of orange and...
It's good, and beyond.
Tastings are so subjective and based upon one's personal preference. I prefer much older drams, with greater complexity and more wood influence. Straight from the bottle, this offering is certainly good, but not stellar. Still a bit immature for my palate. But, while not something I'd do with a venerable...
Introducing the exquisite Selection No.4 Cognac to my collection, I was instantly enthralled by its remarkable blend, which skilfully weaves together a tapestry of flavours, creating an experience that is nothing short of extraordinary. This one was kept for an evening with my father. It was a pleasure...
As we mentioned above, Raison Personelle really is a Cognac house unlike any other. This special Cognac house echoes with melodies of rock and roll while producing elegant and powerful Cognacs, full of the character of Grande Champagne. Sabine and Bertrand de Witasse have successfully combined old-world distillation practices and contemporary passions and have found a way to inject their very own personality and soul into what they make. And we absolutely love it. It just made too much sense to work with them on a Sophie & Max Selection edition.
We see this as a Cognac for long days and warm weather. This is not a Cognac to spend hours upon hours contemplating. There is a time and place for that type of Cognac. This Raison Personnelle XO is a Cognac to share in good company, a Cognac to drink and build good moments and lasting memories around, and why not with some rock and roll in the background.
We love it and could not be happier with Sabine’s blend. Cheers to Raison Personelle!
* Sophie & Max Sélection N° 4 is excluded from additional discounts and vouchers.