Inspired by Cognac, made in America, Omage is the brainchild of Julious Grant, a 30-year wine and spirits industry veteran with brandy in his blood. Omage is made from California-grown grapes (the varieties aren’t specified) with methods similar to those used in Cognac, all intended to mimic the king of all brandies. That said, it’s not without its share of departures from tradition. Distillation takes place in both pot and column stills and aging occurs in charred and toasted American bourbon and French oak barrels, depending on style.
Three bottlings, hewing roughly to the age requirements of Cognac, are offered, each bearing the traditional designations of VS, VSOP, and XO.
We received all three expressions for review. All are bottled at 80 proof.
Omage American Brandy VS – Two-plus years old. Surprisingly bold and fruity, with classic American brandy notes on the nose: fresh apple and vanilla, then coconut and fig elements. Vanilla is laced throughout, increasing in prominence as it becomes a bit overpowering as the brandy develops in glass. As the finish approaches, the experience starts to get a little cloying and overly sweet, though a curious cola note arises at the conclusion of the experience. Interesting but more than a little unctuous. B / $26
Omage American Brandy VSOP – Four years old; curiously dark in color. Like, really dark. Again, a very strong vanilla thread, countered to some extent by notes of stone fruit and chewy raisin, eventually showing a brooding, earthy quality — almost like sweetened coffee. Time in glass helps the brandy to open up a bit, but heavy notes of pancake syrup, cinnamon candies, and brown butter had me feeling more like I was sipping on an odd liqueur. B / $36
Omage American Brandy XO – At 6 years old, it’s the grande dame of the group, just barely showing some of the linen and floral notes you’d find in a French brandy. It’s long overdue, as these elements add much-needed complexity to the experience, showcasing oxidized wine, hemp rope, and cassia on the nose, then notes of orange peel alongside cola, tea leaf, and milk chocolate on the palate. Fruit and more austere, slightly hoary notes dominate as the finish evolves, with notes of tobacco and some creosote eventually taking hold. Complex and more evocative, with hints of incense throughout, though still several years of aging short of feeling fully realized. B+ / $90