THE HOLIDAYS BY SOBERON: Classic French Spirits

We’re under ten days to Christmas, a good two weeks till New Year’s Eve, but we’re probably left with at least a month full of festivities, dinner parties and get-togethers, so plenty of reasons to bring a bottle of beautiful booze with you. Hence the reason I’ve got this series: ‘The Holidays By Soberon’ running, and I will continue to do so, with quite some good ideas still to come. Today we won’t be looking at the more obvious choices like Gin or Whisky, we’re going to have a look at some of Europe’s most elegant distillations. Today I’m taking you to… France!


The French are worldwide renowned for their wines (and with reason!), there’s Absinthe, Liqueurs, Vermouths, Champagne and Pineau des Charentes, I can name dozens of boozy suggestions of why France is a beautiful country, but today I’m going to focus on three noble distillates: Calvados, Armagnac and Cognac, all while suggesting you a personal recommended expression of each of these three spirits!


Armagnac is, similar to Cognac, a distillate of grapes, though there’s several important differences, most notably where it can be made (roughly the Gascogne region in the South West) and the way of distillation: While Cognac is double distilled in a pot still, Armagnac is single distilled in a column still.

FACT: Armagnac is the oldest brandy distilled in France.

As recommended bottling, I’m presenting you Samalens’ XO. Samalens was founded in the Bas Armagnac region in 1882 and has, since then, been producing a series of wonderful bottlings, of which this XO is the perfect example of an affordable, yet unmistakingly premium expression. The brand takes pride in honoring their rich heritage while having a bright look at what the future brings at the same time.


The XO is a bottling boasting of flavor. You get autumnal fruit aromas, all covered in wooden undertones. There’s a full body of grapes, a hint of warm orange peels, and a vision of crackling fireside. I get medium sweet tones in the middle, with some dark, bitter chocolate in support. The finish is medium to long, with a trickling of spices.

FACT: Since April 2018, all Armagnac bottles with an XO statement have to be made up of eau-de-vies of at least 10 years old. Prior to April 2018 it only had to be made with eau-de-vies of at least 6 years old. This change of regulations followed after the same was made for Cognac.

Samalens Armagnac can be found in specialized liquor stores both online and offline. Click here to find a possible local supplier.

website: Samalens


Calvados is an apple (and in some cases pear) brandy that, like Cognac, is distilled twice. It is produced in the Normandy region of France and while it isn’t always as highly regarded as Cognac, there are some true gems to be found. In the second half of the 19th Century it even got huge, when the phylloxera crisis destroyed most of France’s (and Europe for that matter) vineyards.

The Calvados I’m presenting today comes from Chateau Du Breuil, a brand founded in 1954. A mere 12 years after Calvados officially received its Appellation Controlée.  The brand is established in a castle in the heart of the Pays d’Auge. The Calvados is well known and easily found allover the world, but today I’m presenting a lesser known expression in their line-up: the Chateau Du Breuil 8 Year Old with Sauternes Finish.


Much like the name tells you, the Calvados ended its aging cycle for several months in small French Oak casks in which first sweet Sauternes Wine was kept.  This adds a beautiful richness not easily found in other Calvados expressions (or at least not in a similar way). Honey meets apples, followed by a slow evolution of spicy undertones.There’s a floral blanket covering the entire palate in a very gentle way. Some wood and nuts in the finish that lasts longer than your average Calvados of the same age, the sweetness definitely having to do with this.

Chateau Du Breuil Calvados can be found in specialized liquor stores both online and offline. Click here to find a possible local supplier.

website: Chateau Du Breuil


Cognac is an aged grape brandy, distilled twice in the typical ‘Charentais Pot Still’. It can only be produced in the Cognac region, which can be divided in 6 smaller regions of which Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne are considered the most noble. The area pretty much covers the same ground as the region of Pineau Des Charentes.

Today I’m presenting you the RARE VSOP of HINE Cognacs, a house established in 1763. The RARE VSOP carries the title of ‘Fine Champagne‘, which means it has to be produced of at least 51% Grande Champagne. The other part can only come from Petite Champagne. In age, the VSOP Cognac is between 6 and 12 years old, but due to the elegance and high quality of eau-de-vies used, tasting this one could easily fool you in thinking you’re trying a fully aged XO, it also comes in a stunning bottle, that suits any homebar.


In the nose wild honey and small snips of orange peel are dancing around a fine body of grapes. It’s exceptionally smooth when it hits the palate, soft wood entering the playing field, supported by a hint of vanilla and lightly bruised peaches, served on a pillow of white flowers. The finish is exceptionally long and heartwarming.

FACT: HINE is the official supplier of Cognac for the British Monarch, Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II.

website: HINE Cognac

Hine Rare Cognac can easily be found in specialized shops like Mobile Liquor Store in Gent and online webstores for a recommended price of €45-55 for a 70cl bottle.

Stay tuned, more Holiday Recommendations coming soon!

Disclaimer 1: All pictures and text are property of Matthias Soberon / Served By Soberon. Nothing can be used or copied without written permission of the author and the addition of credits.

Disclaimer 2: These ‘Holiday-Recommendations’ are entirely personal and all chosen by me. While some items might have been gifted, these are in no way paid promotions or recommendations that were chosen for me in stead of by me.

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