ABOARD THE VIKING FORSETI — The Bordeaux region is well known for wine, but today, I am anxious to explore its cognac.
While there are tours to explore the area wineries, I have chosen an optional tour to go into the city of Cognac, just an hour and a half drive away.
I signed up for the tour when I heard we’d have the rare opportunity to create our own personal blend of cognac, bottle it, and take it home. While I have never really tried cognac before, like many people, I thought that this would be a great experience. It wasn’t just great. It was amazing.
After a motor coach ride to the tiny town of Cognac, a cozy collection of tiny businesses and homes of the workers who tend to the cognac production, we arrived at the Camus facility.
Camus is the fifth largest producer of cognac in the world. The $3.5 billion industry is dominated by four large businesses entities. Camus is the largest family-owned cognac producer and that is why Viking River Cruises has brought us here.
Viking River Cruises promises “privileged access” throughout their itineraries. As a family-owned business, they strive to choose experiences with other family-owned companies that excel at their craft, producing great quality products and personal attention.
Our cognac blending tour at Camus was the perfect example of the unprivileged access that Viking can provide. The master blender of Camus led our small group through a personal blending session in a darkened cave surrounded by cognacs at a price point that I don’t think I could afford!
Four cognacs were set before us. Frederick talked us through a tasting of each of the cognacs, expertly and comically explaining to our group of inexperience cognac drinkers what the different flavor profiles were. As a master blender, Frederick was surprisingly down to earth and patient when explaining the nuances of each cognac.
After tasting the four options, we were then allowed to create our own flavor profile and custom blend. A large beaker was set before us, and on paper we decided what percentage of each of the four we would like to have in our custom blend. There were no rules or parameters to follow. It was just pure fun of what we liked.
Just beside the tasting tables were casks of cognac. What a thrill when we were allowed to bring our large beaker over to the casks and fill them with whatever and however much cognac we thought would make a great cognac blend. Pictures galore were taken as everyone had fun opening a spigot and allowing the cognac to pour out.
Next was a custom label, filled in with the percentages of each of our picks, and then the numbers written down in Camus’ book, in case we’d ever like to order another bottle of our custom blend.
After swirling our cognac blend to marry it together, and then pouring into a bottle, we brought our bottles to a table where the master blender corked our selection, and our custom labels were carefully applied, before the bottle was placed inside a wooden box.
The smiles – and camera flashes – of everyone in our small group belied the fact that this was an incredible experience we’d never thought we’d have – yet are incredibly thrilled that we did!
(Note: The price for this optional tour was 182 euros, or about $250.)