Enthusiasts of brandy are generally familiar with the more common cognac expressions from French houses Rémy Martin and Martell – which adhere to strict appellation laws which stipulate that it must be made from distilling wine made from specific grape varietals grown in clearly defined areas in France’s Cognac region – but brandy can be distilled from almost any kind of wine, whether it’s made from grapes or any kind of fruit. A new brandy, FIVE X.P., was recently launched in Singapore that aims to challenge the notion that brandy is only good if it’s a cognac.
FIVE X.P., developed by wine importer Richfield Brands & Services‘ managing director Alan Wong and some friends, is not distilled from the typical Cognac grapes of Ugni Blanc, Colombard and Folle Blanche, but from the noble German grape Riesling. And unlike most other distilleries in France that uses traditional Charentais copper stills, the one in Germany employed by Wong to make FIVE X.P. uses vacuum distillation. Vacuum distillation allows the distillation of the wine under pressure and enabling it to boil at a lower temperature than normal, although critics claim it can alter the taste of the final distillate as different phenols may be captured during the process.
Brandy, from the Dutch word brandewijn which means burned wine, is made from distilling wine into a spirit that is generally 35% to 60% alcohol by volume (ABV) and then often left to age for a period in wooden casks.
But any such criticism is unlikely to deter Richfield’s Wong, who insists that the innovative vacuum distillation process helps to preserve the integrity of the fruits’ aromatics and flavours and a smooth subtle finish. Five X.P is also matured in oak casks for a period of six years like an XO, although some Cognacs can be blended from casks that may have been aged for up to 40 or even 50 years. “Any more than that, there is no further benefit (to aging),” Wong says.
“For the past six years, the last three in earnest, I have been working to create a new digestif. It is so different a spirit that there is no description for it so we are obliged to describe it firstly as a digestif, and then a brandy,” says Richfield’s Wong. “My fellow collaborators and I believe it is the first true innovation in several centuries. Needless to say with the combined knowledge, skills and experience we have created something not only daringly different, it is also superb with all the attributes of a fine drink without any hint of roughness. Our product has been conceived and developed entirely in Singapore. The product itself is made in Germany which has a reputation for quality and integrity. We are extremely proud of the result,” he adds.
The aromas and flavours of FIVE X.P. is more fruit-forward than other typical grape brandies that are aged for longer, exhibiting notes of caramel, honeyed peaches and apricots with a whiff of sweet citrus. The light finish is curiously like that of a lowland Scotch whisky; a gentle touch of toffee, sunburnt hay and splash of citrus.
FIVE X.P. comes in a slim flute-style bottle reminiscent of German and Alsace Rieslings, and even features the special VinoLok glass stopper, used by a number of producers of premium Riesling wines. It’s fully glass, which eliminates the risk of cork taint, and eases opening and re-closing.
There are just 10,000 bottles of FIVE X.P. available, although at a price of $300 per 500ml bottle Richfield may find that its entry to the brandy category may be more vanity project than any kind of a challenge to the status quo.
To get a bottle, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 6764-9463.
[Photo credit: Richfield Brands & Services]