A rose wine: Sure. But how does one make a rose brandy? By blending cognac with red wine, that’s how.
Courvoisier calls this a “Cognac Innovation,” and that’s an understatement. Adding wine to cognac — something I didn’t previously think was possible but which, in retrospect, makes plenty of sense on its merits — creates an entirely new category of drink. Rather than an 80-proof sipper, Courvoisier is a 36-proof spirit on par with (or even less alcoholic than) any fortified wine. Result: Something that’s closer to Lillet than it is to Courvoisier.
The ruddy, translucent liquid could pass for sherry or tawny port in the glass, and if you didn’t know what you were drinking, the nose might indicate — perhaps — the latter. But a sip tells a different story. This is a different kind of drinking experience, like cognac with all the bite ripped out of it. Cognac mixed with water. Or, since all the sweetness is left behind, Kool-Aid.
What remains is an odd half-cognac, the essence of cognac’s raisins, wood, and fresh fruit flavors — apples are easily evident — left behind. There’s distinct milk chocolate notes on the finish. The lack of body is at first jarring; Courvoisier Rose is meant to be served chilled or on the rocks, to give it more weight. But once you acclimate to what is a unique drinking experience, its pleasures become evident. This is not a drink, as regular cognac is, for after dinner but rather for before it. The bracing but not cloying sweetness and the long finish make it a real oddity in the liqueur world and one which hints at versatility. I’d actually like to try it in lieu of vermouth in a Manhattan, or other cocktails, just to see what happens.