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Tuesday 29 September 2015

St Agnes gives Australian brandy a quality boost

There is a lot of history to the Angove family's St Agnes brandy, but the product has not always received the respect it deserves. 

With the Australian spirits category enjoying boom times (think whiskies, vodkas and gins), Richard Angove says it was the right time to lift the profile - and quality - of the top-shelf St Agnes brandies. 

The Renmark distillery, producer of the original Australian brandy since 1925, has launched into the luxury market with new XO additions to its portfolio.

The brand's first foray into the world of luxury brandy (generally dominated by Cognac producers) has seen the launch of two ultra-premium XO brandies – the XO Imperial 20 Year Old and XO Grand Reserve 40 Year Old. 

The new XO brandies join the popular XO 15 Year Old ($99 a bottle), which has already won global recognition. 

Richard Angove says the  family company is aiming to re-position Australian brandy both domestically and internationally. 

"My family has been crafting brandy for over 90 years and we’re excited to now be moving into a new territory of rare, luxury and unique goods," he says. 

"We have a clear purpose, and that is to do one thing brilliantly, to show the world another face of Australian produce excellence by crafting an iconic Australian spirit of world-class standard. 

"The team at St Agnes Distillery is exceptionally proud of these new releases. They represent a uniquely Australian take on the timeless luxury and prestige of XO, and we can’t wait to show them off.”

Angove says St Agnes wants to lift recognition among Australian spirit drinkers. 

“It is a fantastic locally made spirit that mixes really well and through double pot still distillation is a true piece of Australian craft and wine industry history,” he says. “We will be working with key on premise accounts in developing St Agnes-based cocktails and are just in the process of putting a St Agnes cocktail guide together – bringing some of the old school back like the Sazerac, the Sidecar, and St Agnes and dry ginger. 

"These drinks are fresh and full of flavour and, when made with a good quality Australian brandy, they’re even better.” 

The prices rival those of premium Cognac (and the presentation is superb) with the St Agnes XO Imperial 20 Year Old having an RRP $200 while St Agnes XO Grand Reserve 40 Year Old has an RRP of $785 and is made in minute quantities. 

St Agnes is distributed by Vintage House Wine and Spirits. 

I sat back on Friday night and sampled the three premium brandies. Here are my thoughts: 

The XO Grand Reserve is formidably smooth and tastes luxurious with its rich, deep spiciness. I opens up in the glass, revealing more layers of complexity. World class and worth a splurge if you have the cash to spare.  

The XO Imperial is a more immediately aromatic wine with its floral aromas leading to rich toffee and oak notes, with everything in balance. This is the one I would be drinking right now - and it is good value for money and wonderful for sipping and savouring. 

The XO is lighter and slightly sweeter with candied peach and pear notes and hints of orange marmalade alongside restrained oak. Lovers of tokays will very much enjoy this.  

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