Maison Surrenne is sourced in the deep and wonderful cellars of Tiffon S.A, the largest remaining family-owned house (now also known as Cognac Braastad). The firm owns four distilleries and eight aging cellars, centered on the marvelous stone home distillery (the Madame) on the banks of the Charente river in Jarnac, upstream from Cognac. The Braastad family purchased the company in 1920 to supply the Norwegian state monopoly with barreled cognacs; the firm also distilled and aged as wholesalers, selling cognac in barrel to other producers for use in blending.
Because of this reliance on the wholesale market, the Tiffon cellars contain an unusually high proportion of older unblended cognacs. In 1998, Ansley Coale of Craft Distillers and Richard Braastad, cellar-master of Tiffon, created the Maison Surrenne brand for the US market.
Believing that the sophisticated drinker would be especially interested in minimally-blended cognacs that emphasized individuated regional and harvest characteristcs, Surrenne presents single-district bottlings that often come from a specific harvest (identified by a Lot Number on the label), even from single casks.
The Surrenne cognacs come from a long tradition of craft-method distillation on small copper pot-stills and aging in oak casks in cool stone-walled cellars (the east wall of the cellar across the river from the Madame is the old city fortification of medieval Jarnac). Each bottling is selected to exemplify the best characteristics of grapes grown within one of Cognac’s specified regions: grande champagne, petite champagne, and the lesser-known borderies. Blending is kept to a minimum, and is usually among distillates from a single harvest.
Grapes (for the standard bottlings, all of them ugni blanc) from the premier Cognac delimited growing regions
Prices are those listed by our Ukiah CA neighbor Caddell & Williams. At your local store, the price(s) may vary significantly, due to transportation costs, state excise taxes, and the pricing structure of the store and of the distributor.
Tasting Maison Surrenne
Surrenne bottles cognacs that are true to their specific district (grape-growing region) and to their specific year of harvest/distillation. To our minds, cognacs tend to be over-blended in the interest of uniformity; when Ansley Coale and Richard Braastad created the brand (1998), they were impressed by the available variety of interesting (& little-blended) malt whiskies. Maison Surrenne cognacs are distilled from grapes grown in three of the 6 legal Cognac regions. Petite champagne cognacs tend to be delicate and flowery; they tend to lose their appeal with extended aging. Borderies cognacs tend to have excellent body (a sense of weight on the palate) due to there being more clay in the soil. Grande champagne cognacs can develop superb aromatics and flavor, but usually only after extended aging due to the high percentage of limestone in the soils.
Ancienne Distillery ($48)Ten-year-old 100% petite champagne from the home distillery, a lovely stone edifice on the banks of the ...
Distillerie Galtaud ($80)Single-cask (wonderful focus) 100% Borderies from the 1989 vintage. Galtaud is a single-still facility founded in 1800 in the commune of Mainx. Unusually deep fruit and volume with the region’s typical attributes: a hint of violet & nut kernels. Cognac of the Year from Wine & Spirits. (750ml / 40% abv)
XO Maison Surenne ($120)Single-vintage (1980); 30 years old at bottling. 100% grande champagne, blended from Surrenne’s Madame, Figon, Brunetiere, and Moreau cellars. Classically delicate XO from Cognac’s premier region, with plenty of the region’s depth and finish. Great price. (750ml / 41.2% abv)
Tonneau No. 1 ($270)Inconceivably rich. A blend of century-old petite champagne assembled in a large tun in 1922, topped off annually for 86 more years. Astonishing complexity: contains dozens of very old cognacs. The average age probably approaches 150 years. (750ml / 41.9% abv)
Unblended 1946 Grande Champagne ($600)Distilled on a wood-fired still by Hubert Portier ...
Heritage 1875 ($1200)A family treasure discovered by courtier Alexis Cabanne in the stone cellar of an 18th-century distillery/farm near Jarnac – six rattan-wrapped demijohns whose contents first appear in an 1875 inventory. Almost certainly pre-phylloxera. Exceptional quality with extraordinary presence. Wine & Spirits’ cognac of the year when released. (750ml / 41.9% abv)
Cask 365 ($2000)We believe this to be the finest cognac in bottle. A genuine rarity, assembled in 1961 by Surrenne’s former cellar-master, Hilaire Guilbaud: his personal blend from the house’s finest old grande champagne cognacs. The blend then aged for another 47 years in one cask. Every component is well over 100 years old. 24 bottles imported each year: we get 6 of them. (750ml / 42.2% abv)