Branson (along with Le Chemin du Roi Champagne) is part of the Sire Spirits brand, which is famously owned by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson. Branson Cognac is available in four expressions, all of which we received for review. Ready to get started?
All are 80 proof.
Branson Cognac Phantom – Essentially a VS bottling, this is sourced from vineyards in the Borderies and Fin Bois regions, and then aged for at least 2 years. Very fruity on the nose, with a mix of applesauce and creme brulee notes in evidence. Plenty of vanilla on both nose and palate, with some chunky barrel notes building as the sweetness slowly fades. Lightly nutty on the finish, but otherwise heavily sugary, albeit innocuous on the whole. A clear club-centric mixer selection. B / $50 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Branson Cognac Royal – Aged 5 years minimum, so roughly a VSOP, with eaux-de-vie sourced primarily from Petit Champagne and Borderies. More complexity here, with less upfront sweetness and notes of cola, milk chocolate, and vanilla more evident on the expressive nose. Lightly floral elements emerge after some time in glass, with more evident on the palate. The vanilla attack leads to a body infused with notes of sweet tea, a pinch of allspice, and mild notes of lavender and linen. A fairly classic VSOP-style Cognac, it’s quite mild on the whole and also innocuous, albeit for different reasons than the Phantom bottling. Final judgment: Perfectly pleasant. B+ / $60 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Branson Cognac VSOP Grande Champagne – This expression is aged a minimum of 4 years, “with the majority up to 7 years,” but is made from 100% Grande Champagne eaux-de-vie. The difference vs. Royal is significant and interesting: This is a much more savory brandy, with some earthiness, more intense floral notes, and a grind of pepper on the nose. More oak influence seems to be in the mix, too. The palate continues the theme, with turned earth informed by notes of fresh cola, vanilla, and nutmeg. Here the perfumy florals dissipate, however, replaced by some red berry notes and a pinch of cinnamon. A brown sugar character gives the finish a distinct and not unwelcome sweetness, effectively tempering the savory elements on display, though notes of baking spice linger on the finish. B+ / $70 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS] [BUY IT NOW FROM TOTAL WINE]
Branson Cognac XO Grande Champagne – The top tier of Branson is this 100% Grande Champagne Cognac, aged for a minimum of 10 years, with some of the eaux-de-vie over 25 years old. Here we have what acquits itself as a classic, oldish Cognac experience. While never overt with complexity, the brandy layers in notes of tanned leather, plenty more baking spice (heavy with cloves), and a stronger oak influence — all atop notes of gentle apple, pear, and a hint of Meyer lemon. The palate is surprisingly on the racy side compared to the other Branson bottlings, perhaps because it is less sweet, letting the alcohol shine a bit more clearly. Notes of coconut, lemon curd, and vanilla caramels are all in attendance, with a dusting of spice box and wilted flowers on top. No complaints here, though this XO never breaks any noteworthy new ground. A- / $240 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]