First there were the wine tastings. Then the Scotch tastings. And now, cognac--specifically Courvoisier. Formerly the drink of emperors and kings, it is now the drink of choice for P. Diddy and Busta Rhymes. And also of certain Galley Slaves, particularly when it's free, as it was last night at the Courvoisier tasting at trendy Indebleu restaurant in downtown D.C. (The place is a fusion of Indian and, um, bleu?) But there was no confusion over the drinks, poured into four glasses denoting the four marks: VS (Very Special), VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale), Napoleon, and XO Imperial. Our guide was the glamorous Nina Shay, officially called an "ambassodrice" for Courvoisier. (Not that there is an embassy of Courvoisier, or a Republic of Courvoisier for that matter.) Contrary to my hero A.J. Liebling, I found these cognacs to be better than Calvados, his drink of choice. The VSOP was especially refined, with a smooth finish.
Interestingly, some of the tasters preferred the VSOP over the pricier varieties of Napoleon and XO. "They're too complex!" said Galley friend M.C., at first a skeptic who, when asked if he could smell the vanilla, chocolate, citrus, and cigar aromas from his glass, replied, "I know what I smell--bullshit!" But he eventually came around and was even named an honorary ambassadrice by some of the ladies at our table. Another issue concerned the new tagline for Courvoisier, which is "Earn It." M.C. thought a more preferable slogan would be "Sniff It."
There was no argument, however, over our final tasting of the limited edition L'Esprit de Courvoisier, which contained blends ranging from 70 and 200 years in age. "When this is gone, it's gone," said Nina Shay. And so we savored our few precious ounces, knowing that unless we're sharing bottle service with P. Diddy at Ghost Bar, this will be the last time we ever have anything like it. Each bottle runs about $5,000.
3 hours ago