Crafting a smooth Cognac is no easy task, but for Cyril Camus, the art of distilling is in his blood. Cognac is making a comeback, and by adhering to family tradition, Camus has kept his eponymous fifth-generational company at the forefront. HudsonMOD spoke with Camus about how he’s preserving and elevating the distilling techniques perfected by his forefathers in 1863.
How do you perceive CAMUS’ growth in the upcoming years with so many new spirits on the market?
Cognac was at the heart of so many classic cocktails, such as the Sazerac, Old Fashioned and the Sidecar, but was replaced by rye and whiskey when it got too expensive or hard to find. Now, mixologists are rediscovering why Cognac was the original ingredient, and it is regaining its place on cocktail menus.
At the same time, the CAMUS brand stands for quality, heritage and craftsmanship. Consumers appreciate that and are making choices based on taste as opposed to the latest promotion.
How does your brand differ from other Cognacs?
At CAMUS we’re not just Cognac makers, we are wine growers. Respect for the grape, the land and our family traditions is at the core of what we do. We bring something different to market: products that have a personality and a soul.
CAMUS owes its international reputation to the richness and extreme subtlety of flavor of its Cognacs. We have a unique style based on blending eaux-de-vie from different crus and of different ages. Our approach is driven by the craft of Cognac making.
What is your favorite blend and why? How do you like to enjoy it?
These Cognacs are part of our family and the cliché has never been more true: which child could you prefer? My preference would be driven by occasion and place. When I am relaxing after work, I enjoy a glass of Borderies VSOP on the rocks. If I’m gathering with friends, I’m likely to choose a cocktail made with VSOP Elegance. My favorite is the Sazerac. It’s a classic, and there is a reason why it was first made with Cognac.
Describe the process that a bottle of CAMUS goes through.
The CAMUS process is a celebration of the art of Cognac. There are certainly more efficient and cost-effective ways to make Cognac, but they’re not the ways of my forefathers and if we used them the end product wouldn’t be worthy of our name.
In order to be called a Cognac, the spirit has to be made from grapes grown in the Cognac region, which are then double distilled and aged in French oak casks for a minimum of two years. For CAMUS, the process is an artisan approach where we curate the subtle nuances the grapes have to offer by hand.
Following distillation, the cellar master hand selects the eaux-de-vie with the richest and most subtle flavors. Barrels are chosen with equal care to respect the character of the original eaux-de-vie and achieve perfect balance. During a long, dormant stay in these barrels, the Cognac will take on an individual amber appearance, just as its aromatics will develop over time. Oak barrels with light tannins give the Cognacs an inimitable roundness, keeping all their aromatic qualities intact. For older cognacs, such as XO Elegance or Extra Elegance, choosing damp cellars gives the eaux-de-vie the wonderfully mellow character that has delighted both amateurs and the most demanding connoisseurs around the world.
Explain why Borderies is so sought after.
Our family home le Plessis is in the heart of this highly desirable region. We are the largest landowner in the appellation and, as a result, have a very special connection to Borderies. Today, CAMUS is the only major house to offer a complete range of eaux-devies produced exclusively from grapes from the Borderies region. The Borderies cru — the smallest of the cognacgrowing areas — is renowned for producing eaux-de-vies with intense floral bouquets and excellent aging qualities. Borderies eaux-de-vies are much characterized by floral notes, aromatic persistence and hints of spice and sweet pastries, and their excellent aging properties make them ideal for superlative Cognacs.
Do you have any new blends in development?
Innovation is very important to us, and we’re always looking for new ways to express and interpret the terroir of Cognac.
What gives CAMUS Cognac its distinctive flavor?
CAMUS draws on the richness and diversity of the whole AOC region, using Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche and Colombard grapes to produce the wine that will eventually become our Cognacs.
Is there a part of the manufacturing process that gives the brand an edge?
The distillation process is a crucial step as through distillation we reveal the wine’s heart and soul. Unlike many corporate brands, most CAMUS Cognacs are distilled on the lees, which emphasizes the typical characteristics of each eau-de-vie and terroir.
Are there stories behind each bottle design?
Our handcrafted approach doesn’t end with the liquid, and each individual decanter has been designed to reflect the unique characteristics of the Cognacs they contain. We recently redesigned the Elegance line to convey a contemporary and luxurious feel, while at the same time reinforcing the five generations of CAMUS family which have contributed to the Cognac. The bottles are modeled after wine decanters. With a nod to our heritage as wine growers, our cloverleaf is engraved into the VS and VSOP bottles as a reminder of the first bottles sold in 1863. With a nod to contemporary times, a QR code offers a link to more information and serves as a security device against counterfeiting.