Arts & Entertainment

Dowd on Drinks: 2 Million Reasons This Cognac Is World Class

The latest entry in the adult beverage world's "most expensive product" category comes in the Cognac subdivision.

Henri IV Dudognon Heritage, valued in the decanter shown here at nearly

$2 million, "is known to be the most luxurious and most expensive in the world," its producers said in a statement.

The name Henri IV honors the French king (1553-1610) who is a direct ancestor of Claudine Dudognon-Buraud, heiress to Maison Dudognon, which is located in the center of the smallest area of France's Cognac Grande Champagne region. It has been producing Cognac since 1776.

While this particular Cognac is, by all accounts, excellent, the bottle is astounding: handcrafted crystal, dipped in 24-karat yellow gold and sterling platinum and decorated with 6,500 certified brilliant cut diamonds.

It weighs about eight kilograms (17.6 pounds) and is filled with 33 ounces of Dudognon Heritage Cognac Grande Champagne, aged in barrels for more than 100 years to produce an alcohol content of 41 percent (82 proof).

The Dudognon family distills only from the Ugni Blanc grapes grown on their properties. Their two alambic stills produce about 200 barrels annually, some of which is sold to the well-known Cognac houses of Remy Martin, Delamain and Hine.

All Dudognon farming is organic and the eau de vie — a colorless fruit brandy prepared via fermentation and double distillation — from the family's best grapes is aged on-premises in their small chai (pronounced "kay," as opposed to a wine cellar it is an aboveground structure used for wine storage and aging).

The wood used for the barrels is air dried for five years prior to use. No additives are introduced in the process, so the finished cognac is light colored and airy.

In other news of alcoholic "gems," El Gran Jubileo Tequila Extra Anejo walked off with top honors in the inaugural Agave Spirits Competition, held in Cancun, Mexico.

The 100 percent blue agave liquor from Destileria la Alborada in Jalisco state took the Platinum Medal, the Top Agave Spirit Award and the Judges Favorite Award.

A panel of six judges from three countries reviewed more than 80 spirits from Mexico during competition at the Royal Resorts Club International and Hacienda Sisal Restaurant. They blind-tasted the entries in six categories — aroma, initial taste, body, finish, smoothness, and quality for price.

Agave spirits from all over Mexico were eligible to compete in this inaugural Agave Spirits Challenge and dozens of tequilas, mezcals, sotols and agave-based liqueurs entered.

The final rankings produced the top six spirits, which then were tasted blind for the final grand tasting.

The finals included three tequila products, two sotols and one mezcal. In addition to the El Gran Jubileo, other platinum winners were El Zacatecano Mezcal Añejo, Hacienda de Chihuahua Sotol H5 Extra Anejo, Tres Mujeres Tequila Añejo, Vida Tequila Reposad and Hacienda de Chihuahua Sotol Anejo.

The complete list of medal and other award winners is available at, the sponsoring organization.


              (William M. Dowd covers the adult beverage world at

              c.2008 Hearst Newspapers