You may have heard about Cognac Park, Saison Rum, Arlett Whisky or Mr. Gaston Gin. But do you know the common point between all these brands? They are all produced by Distillerie Tessendier & Fils.
What a pleasure to finally dedicate a space to this honorable house on our site! We met Jérôme Tessendier, fourth generation Cellar Master (his brother Lilian is the Master Blender, see cover picture) on several occasions at trade shows (Quintessence, Rhumfest…). Each time, Jérôme Tessendier welcomed us with kindness, courtesy and presented the fruits of his work with humility.
Humility is, in our opinion, the common thread between the different spirits of the Tessendier galaxy that we have tasted. Superlative adjectives are banned from the commercial speech: Distillerie Tessentier & Fils prefers to talk about technique and present the innovations for what they bring, not for the image they convey.
Monsieur Baco hence introduces you to Distillerie Tessendier & Fils and its main brands.
It all began in 1880 when Gaston Tessendier, a mathematics teacher, married the owner of the wine estate ‘Le Buisson’ in Javrezac en Borderies. He learned the culture of the vineyard during the weekends and developed the vineyard. His son Claude then took over the estate and learned distillation and aging. The two following generations each perfected a little more the previously acquired know-how.
Management of the vineyard
As a cognac producer, the Tessendier family owns 22 hectares of ugni blanc in the Borderies area, which are soon to be certified HVE (high environmental value). A major renovation plan for the property will accelerate the transition to a more environmentally friendly agriculture from 2024. The average age of the vines is maintained at around 20 years, an age considered optimal for producing quality distillation wines. In-house distillation of wines from the Borderies vineyard accounts for 50% of the supply of Cognac Park, the remaining 50% being purchased from partner distillers (‘bouilleurs de cru‘) located in Grande and Petite Champagne, Fins Bois and Borderies.
Distillerie Tessendier & Fils has 6 stills with onion-shaped tops. Particular care is given to the heating curves. The spirits are poured colder in order to obtain a higher rectification. These temperature choices allow to calibrate the aromatics with more precision.
Distillerie Tessendier & Fils has 14 cellars with varying degrees of humidity, housing approximately 20,000 barrels. The distillery collaborates with the cooperages Leroi, Doreau and Vicard. The wood species used are mainly French Limousin oak (most of which have had humidified heatings) as well as American oak, and old bourbon barrels that have contained cognac. The distillery also uses some Sherry barrels and new mizunara oak supplied by a Japanese cooperage.
Jérôme Tessendier readily admits that while “you have to have a fairly precise idea of what you want”, it is sometimes necessary to grope and experiment to obtain a result that lives up to expectations.
Lilian and Jérôme Tessendier have developed their distillation activities beyond cognac. In addition to Cognac Park, the flagship brand of the family group, Distillerie Tessendier & Fils has created the brands Saison Rum, Mr. Gaston (organic gins and brandy), Arlett (French whisky), Seven Yards (Scotch whisky bottling) and Grand Breuil (cognac).
No coloring nor sugar is added to the various spirits produced by the distillery.
All the samples tasted were provided free of charge by the producer. The tastings were conducted over approximately 1 hour with the same tulip glasses.
The Cognac Park brand was born from the meeting between Dominique Park, of Scottish origin, who wanted a cognac bearing his name and Jérôme Tessendier. The Tessendier family, owner-harvesters in the Borderies region, already supplied part of their spirits to the brand and Jérôme took care of the blending. In 2008, Distillerie Tessendier & Fils became the sole owner of the brand.
The product range
The product range is based on 3 segments: the Originale collection (blends), the Mizunara collection (cognacs made only from Borderies and aged in Japanese mizunara oak) and the Exclusive collection (vintage cognacs, unique barrels, organic cognac…). A white pineau des Charentes completes the range.
The cognacs spend between 6 and 12 months in new casks before being transferred to older casks (6 months for the VS and Organic Fins Bois, 8 months for the VSOP, 10 months for the Borderies Single Vineyard and 12 months for the XO and the vintages).
As for the cognacs of the Mizunara range, they spend 10 months in new barrels before being transferred into older barrels. The finish in new barrels of Mizunara lasts 6 months except for the 12 years old (matured between 9 and 12 months).
Jérôme Tessendier explains that the Borderies terroir lends itself well to aging in mizunara because the finesse and delicacy of this terroir does not compete with the wood and does not dominate it.
Still faithful to the French market
Unlike a majority of cognac houses that have long since deserted the French market, Cognac Park has remained faithful to its roots. Indeed, the French market still represents 14-15% of sales. As Jérôme Tessendier explains, “we cannot cut ourselves off from our domestic market indefinitely”. As he sees it, it is complicated to promote the French art de vivre when a brand is disconnected from it. France is a big market for spirits and cognac should get on board. Without trying to claim the pioneer status in the use of mizunara in its communication, Cognac Park has nevertheless been able to seduce French consumers with this innovative range in an appellation which is often locked into an academic reading of the specifications.
Carte Blanche – Very Special, 40° (50% Fins Bois, 50% Petite Champagne) – about 36€
Nose: opens with a fine spicy (nutmeg, white pepper, touch of clove) and woody profile. With aeration, the nose gets fruitier (ripe apricot, white peach). The background is marked by a floral (violet) and spicy (camphor, ginger) touch.
Mouth: the attack is moderate, the mid-palate is rather voluptuous and marked by sweet spices (vanilla, cinnamon), notes of lightly toasted bread, hazelnut spread. The finish is of medium length, rather fresh and floral.
VSOP, 40° (40% Fins Bois, 40% Petite Champagne, 20% Grande Champagne) – about 45€
Color: amber with copper highlights.
Nose: a little more discreet and mellow profile. The foreground is marked by fruit (roasted apricot, ripe cherry, touch of fig). The background is marked by notes of hazelnut, cocoa, and black pepper. The background is slightly floral (iris) and spicy (cinnamon stick).
Mouth: the attack is rather soft. The texture in mouth is rather round while remaining light on the aromatic. The mid-palate is relatively fresh (eucalyptus), with notes of hazelnut. The finish is rather short and slightly spicy.
Borderie, Single Vineyard (more than 10 years old), 40° – about 70€
Color: amber, coppery reflections.
Nose: opens with notes of waxed wood and camphor. The background is marked by spicy notes (allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon). A slightly floral register (lilac, violet) is expressed in the background. With aeration, notes of rancio (walnut, caramel, hazelnut butter) develop.
Palate: the attack is moderate. The mid-palate is slightly vinous, with notes of plum, liquorice, sweet spices (cardamom, vanilla). The finish is of medium length and floral (violet) and slightly woody.
XO, Traditional Reserve, 40° (100% Grande Champagne) – about 99€
Nose: very spicy at first with notes of white pepper and camphor. The background is marked by some fruity notes (papaya, passion fruit). Some notes of rancio complete the whole.
Mouth: the attack is rather soft. The mid-palate is spicy (licorice, coffee, black pepper) with some light wooded accents. The finish is of medium length and carried by white pepper and a fine rancio.
Borderies Mizunara Original, 43,5° – about 65€
Color: straw with golden reflections.
Nose: opens on waxed wood and notes of Armenian paper. In the background, spicy notes (yellow curry powder, mustard seeds, ginger) and a fruity touch (pineapple). Some floral notes (dandelion) and almond complete the nose in the background.
Mouth: the attack is rather soft. The mid-palate is lively and is marked by notes of yellow curry, star anise and supported by a woody frame. Notes of liquorice and roasted almonds can be felt in retro-olfaction. The finish is warm, relatively long, woody and supported by the same notes of roasted almonds.
Borderies Mizunara, 12 years old, 44° – about 95€
Nose: opens with notes of incense and roasted apple with cinnamon. The background is marked by fruity notes (apricot, yellow peaches, dates, a touch of guava) mixed with spices (madras curry) as well as almond paste. Discreet notes of yellow flowers and woodwork complete the ensemble.
Mouth: the attack is soft. The mid-palate is more concentrated with notes of rose, vanilla, a hint of lychee, supported by a woody frame. The retro-olfaction is slightly liquorice. The finish is rather long, carried by spices and a light woody note.
In the Originale collection, the VS impresses with its complexity for a young cognac and the Borderies Single Vineyard stands out for its balance and harmony. We would appreciate, as always, some higher ABV.
In the Mizunara range, the Original showcases the typical caracteristics of the Japanese oak with strength while the very good 12 year old offers a very nice balance between the spice brought by the Japanese oak and the fruitiness of the cognac.
Created in 2017, Saison Rum offers rums from Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica. Jérôme Tessendier selects distillates from these three terroirs and ages them in their country of origin in American white oak or bourbon barrels before being repatriated to Charente. At this stage, Jérôme Tessendier blends the barrels which will then be matured for 3 to 24 months in French oak barrels that have contained cognac or even in ex-sherry barrels.
The product range, intelligently built, is articulated around 8 references of various ages, blends and aging. The origin of the rums is not French, so we will only present a tasting note, but you should know that like the other spirits of the Tessendier galaxy, the value for the price is interesting and we invite you to discover them if you have the opportunity.
The cornerstone of the range, Saison Rum Original is a blend of rums made from still distilled molasses (20% Barbados, 20% Jamaica) and column distilled sugarcane (60% Trinidad). The rums are aged for about 5 years in American oak barrels in their country of origin before being blended and matured for 9 months in old French oak barrels in Charente. No sugar was added.
Saison Rum, Original, 42° – about 40€
Nose: opens with buttery, gingerbread and finely wooded notes. The second-ground is marked by more vegetal nuances of cut cane, pollen. The background is marked by more fruity notes (ripe apricots and peaches).
Mouth: the attack is rather soft. The mid-palate shows volume and is marked by notes of cane honey, peach in syrup and spices (cinnamon, caraway, cardamom, vanilla). The finish is warm, fresh and of medium-long length.
A simple and balanced rum that will lend itself perfectly to an informal tasting with friends.
You should know that Distillerie Tessendier & Fils has recently started the in-house distillation of molasses imported from the Caribbean. Currently in the experimentation phase, the distillery is collaborating with mixologists to fine-tune the profiles of the spirits that will constitute a new range.
Mr. Gaston Gin
In creating Mr. Gaston, Jérôme Tessendier wanted to create a contemporary and relaxed range of spirits.
The range includes 3 gins elaborated on a base of French organic wheat spirit. The 5 ingredients used for the aromatics are all organic as well: juniper berry, coriander seeds, lemon and tangerine peel and elderflower.
3 expressions are made: a natural gin, a barrel-aged gin with a Sherry finish (Pedro Ximénez) and a barrel-aged gin with a mizunara finish.
In addition to the gins, the Mr. Gaston range includes a brandy (about 25€), a tribute to the great-grandfather of the Tessendier brothers. It is made from grape and aged for two years in French oak barrels and then in bourbon barrels in order to develop a sweet profile.
To complement the gins, Mr. Gaston also includes 1 classic tonic, 1 citrus tonic and 1 ginger beer.
The information about the ingredients was consulted afterwards in order not to influence the impressions.
Mr. Gaston, Original French Distilled Gin, 42,5° – about 32€
Nose: fresh and carried by juniper. The second ground is marked by notes of lemongrass, citrus fruits (bergamot, mandarin, grapefruit), coriander seeds. A slightly herbaceous touch can be detected in the background (eucalyptus).
Mouth: the attack is rather mellow, the mid-palate is smooth and finely acidic, marked by citrus fruits (tangerine, lime, bergamot). The finish is of medium length with notes of Provence herbs and very light bitters with a hint of cocoa.
Mr. Gaston, Gin, Sherry Cask Finish, 43° – about 37€
Color: transparent, off-white highlights.
Nose: opens with a duel between candy notes and juniper. The background is marked by citrus notes (orange blossom, orange peel, bergamot peel) as well as by dried herbs (oregano, sage).
Mouth: the attack is also soft. The mid-palate is sweet and reminds of confectionery like berlingots. Some aniseed, zan, candied orange and morello cherry notes are also felt. The finish is of medium length and rather suave.
Nicely crafted gins that seek pertinence more than exuberance.
Arlett, French whisky
This time, Lilian and Jérôme Tessendier pay a tribute to their mother by creating this new range of French whiskies Arlett.
Sourcing and brewing
Distillerie Tessendier & Fils sources its two-row spring barley from the Indre region of France. The peat used for drying comes from Scotland.
The malted barley is brewed in the distillery’s brewery in Jarnac on two temperature levels.
The distillation is done in traditional ‘charentais’ pot stills (first pass in a 100hl boiler and second in a 25hl toaster). The heart is relatively tight and concentrated. The serpentine condenser is about 60m long and allows to obtain more subtle distillates.
The product range
The range currently consists of three whiskies: a single malt aged for 3 years in new American oak and bourbon casks, a peated single malt (20 ppm) aged for 3 years in bourbon casks only and a single malt aged for 3 years in new American oak casks (50%) and bourbon casks (50%) and then matured for an additional year in mizunara casks.
Arlett, Single Malt Original, 45° – about 44€
Nose: opens with notes of malt, honey (fir tree honey), hazelnut with a touch of coconut and spices (cinnamon, nutmeg). The background is marked by notes of bitter almond and cashew nuts and a touch of forest scent. A note of milk chocolate completes the ensemble.
Mouth: the attack is moderate. The mid-palate is juicy with notes of coconut, spices (clove, nutmeg, licorice, cardamom). A finely wooded register supports the whole. The finish is of medium length on cardamom and white pepper.
Arlett, Single Malt Mizunara finish, 48° – about 55€
Color: pale gold with slightly green highlights.
Nose: opens with notes of orchard fruits (golden apple, pear), hay, fresh almond and pistachio. The background is marked by more floral notes (lily), a touch of hazelnut praline. A herbaceous touch (chervil) completes the whole in the background. With aeration, floral notes, apple and beeswax develop.
Mouth: the attack is rather soft. The mid-palate is finely woody and spicy (hint of coffee, cardamom) with a note of sugar cane. The finish is rather long and floral.
Arlett, Peated Single Malt, 43° – about 50€
Color: straw with slightly green highlights.
Nose: opens with notes of bergamot, candied lemon and smoke. In the background, we find notes of cereals and yellow fruits (mirabelle plums), acacia honey and almond paste. Some notes of long pepper of Java complete the whole in the background.
Mouth: the attack is soft. The mid-palate is at first empyreumatic (smoky, tar, tobacco) then vanilla. An acidulous framework (notes of redcurrant and rhubarb) supports the whole until the finish, of average length which remains acidulous, smoky and mentholated.
These three whiskies are really impressive as they feel older than their age (for once it is a compliment…). Each of them has a distinct personality and will undoubtedly be among the best French whiskies when they have matured some more. The Arlett Single Malt Original shows a remarkable complexity and a varied and harmonious organoleptic profile for the price. It is a success. The mizunara shows more freshness and length while the slightly simpler peaty has a tangy and salivating mouthfeel.
Seven Yards and Grand Breuil
Seven Yards is a range of Scotch whiskies selected by Jérôme Tessendier and matured in casks containing cognac, while Grand Breuil is a brand of cognac from the house mainly intended for export.
Distribution Distillerie Tessendier & Fils
In addition to the production of house spirits, Distillerie Tessendier & Fils also distributes several fine French brands:
- Escale: French aperitifs designed to be worked into spritzes.
- Audemus Spirits: Pink pepper gin, Umami gin, Colvert Liqueur (fig leaves, honey and cognac), Bergamot Gin Liqueur.
- Le Whisky des Français : French whisky aged for 3 years in bourbon, cognac and Sauternes barrels. Eco-responsible approach.
- Les Canailles: 13 arranged rums with Provencal accents.
- Jean Cavé armagnacs (Bas-Armagnac).
- La Philosophe: French vodka made from wheat, distilled 10 times and unfiltered.)
- Egiazki: Basque liqueurs, pastis and gin.
- La Capricieuse: liqueurs from Berry made from goat and cow milk.
- Djin Spirits: non-alcoholic spirits.
Eventually, the company also offers some of its products (rums, organic gin, organic cognac, French whisky, organic vodka) in bulk in an eco-responsible approach.
In a nutshell
A family business founded in 1880 in Javrezac, Distillerie Tessendier & Fils has developed its distillation know-how from generation to generation. In addition to Cognac Park, the iconic brand of the house, Distillerie Tessendier & Fils bottles Caribbean rums that Jérôme Tessendier blends and refines under the brand name Saison Rum, distills French whisky under the brand name Arlett, and produces some organic gin and a brandy under the brand name Mr. Gaston. Overall, the attacks in the mouth are often soft and the entrey-level bottles particularly interesting. The cursor is placed between drinkability and complexity. Whether we talk about innovation (use of mizunara), aromatics, or price, accuracy always prevails over demonstration. This humility, which is perceptible from the people to the glass, is a common thread. Special mention to the young Arlett whiskies that pull a great blow on the tablecloth of the adults table!