In March, I had the opportunity to experience one of France’s most famed exports in the beautiful town of Cognac, France with CAMUS Cognac and Viking River Cruises .

We were in Cognac as part of Viking’s massive christening celebrations designed to highlight their new Viking Longships and Viking’s newest itinerary in France: Chateaux, Rivers and Wine, departing roundtrip from Bordeaux.

Touring the CAMUS facility in Cognac, France. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Touring the CAMUS facility in Cognac, France. Guests had the ability to try their hand at making their own unique blend of cognac. Last night, I finally uncorked my very own bottle. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

With only two days in the region on our short preview cruise, it was tough to know what to do. Half the guests were headed out to taste some of Bordeaux’s acclaimed wines, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to learn more about cognac. It’s been one of my favorite after-dinner drinks for years now, and I’m always trying – subtly but steadily – to get people on to it.

CAMUS (pronounced cam-ooo) is a family-owned company that has been making cognacs since 1863. To properly welcome us, we were introduced to two generations of Camus men: Jean-Paul Camus, who became a Master Blender in 1977; and his son, Cyril Camus, who has served as President of the House of CAMUS since 2003.

The House of CAMUS is situated in the picturesque countryside, and is worth visiting for the history and scenery alone. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The House of CAMUS is situated in the picturesque countryside, and is worth visiting for the history and scenery alone. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Today, father and son continue the tradition that began with Jean-Baptiste Camus (1835-1901) who originally founded the company in 1863 as La Grande Marque.

Guests on Viking’s Chateaux, Rivers and Wine itinerary can participate in an optional excursion to the House of CAMUS on Day 3 of their itinerary, when Viking Forseti docks in Blaye, France. You’ll learn about the history of the company and be able to sample different vintages. You can even try your hand at blending your own cognac, which is exactly what I did.

Now, I should preface this with the disclaimer: I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I like Cognac, but I can’t even think of trying to be on the same level as Jean-Paul and Cyril, both of whom have made a living out of the art of blending. What I was doing wasn’t blending; it was pouring a bit of this and a bit of that in a flask and hoping it took.

Playing mixmaster at CAMUS Cognac in France back in March. Guests on Viking River Cruises' Chateaux, Rivers and Wine itineraries can chose to visit CAMUS as an optional excursion in Blaye, France. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Playing mixmaster at CAMUS Cognac in France back in March. Guests on Viking River Cruises’ Chateaux, Rivers and Wine itineraries can chose to visit CAMUS as an optional excursion in Blaye, France. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

But our expert master blender took the time to explain each type, or cru, that all cognac is based off of. There are six crus, all of which revolve around geographical characteristics. For our blends, we’d be using Fin Bois, Boise a Terroirs, Petit Champagne, and Grand Champagne.

The lightest blends – referred to as the most feminine – feature a lighter taste with stronger notes of framboise, or raspberry. At the other end of the scale, Petit Champagne and Grand Champagne are considered to be the most masculine; smoky, dense, and something that pairs nicely with a cup of black coffee or a cigar.

My very own blend of CAMUS cognac, in France. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

My very own blend of CAMUS cognac, in France. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

My Cognac, back in Vancouver. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

My Cognac, back in Vancouver. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

So, I mixed up the proportions I desired into a 50cl bottle, which was then blended, poured into a new bottle, sealed, labelled, and placed into a gorgeous wooden box for me to take home. We were told to wait a total of three months from the date we’d bottled it before sampling it.

Now, I’m a bit early. My cognac was bottled on March 20, and it’s now June 16. But, on June 20th, I’m sailing the Inside Passage, and I didn’t want to risk trying to bring my own spirits onboard a cruise ship, lest they be confiscated. The fact that my cognac even made it home is something of a miracle, after I had to abandon my luggage in Madrid on the return journey home.

Lacking a proper Cognac glass, I improvised. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Lacking a proper Cognac glass, I improvised. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

So, the other night, I removed the seal on the bottle and poured myself a glass. Here I have to apologize to CAMUS – because this is certainly not how they intended their product to be enjoyed: I realized I don’t actually own a proper cognac glass. But, I thought that one of Viking’s Aquavit glasses would be appropriate for the first official taste.

The verdict? It’s pretty good, if I do say so myself. I don’t think it will ever hold a candle to their own master blends (I still dream of the CAMUS Ile de Re Fine Island Cognac Double Matured that was served to us chilled and in a frozen glass), but I think I did a half-decent job!

Barrels of Cognac at the CAMUS factory. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Barrels of Cognac at the CAMUS factory. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

As far as excursions go, this is a tremendous one – even if you’re not interested in cognac. The House of CAMUS is nestled in a beautiful, picturesque valley that will make you want to give up your citizenship and move to France. What’s more fascinating is what’s actually involved in blending and successfully making cognacs, and it’s fascinating to see the different blends the company has come up with over the years, each of which has been created for a specific purpose.

My own cognac – which I will call “Journalist Strength” – even has a unique ID number that will allow me to order another batch of my “special blend” from Camus anytime I’d like. But I might have to purchase one of their master blends instead – not at my local liquor store, but in person.

We're headed back to Bordeaux in November to report live from the full Chateaux, Rivers and Wine itinerary with Viking River Cruises! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

We’re headed back to Bordeaux in November to report live from the full Chateaux, Rivers and Wine itinerary with Viking River Cruises! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

In November, we’re headed back to Bordeaux to experience Viking’s full Chateaux, Rivers and Wine itinerary with a Live Voyage Report that will run from November 22 to November 29, 2014.

The full itinerary, both here and onboard:

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The beautiful Viking Forseti will be our home for seven days as we sail the Dordogne, Garonne and Gironde rivers

At its conclusion, we’re headed once again to Bordeaux-Merignac Airport. Our final destination, however, isn’t Canada – it’s Budapest, Hungary – where we’ll overnight before starting out on another exciting Viking journey. We’ll be revealing our exact itinerary soon, but in the meantime, here’s a hint: it involves Christmas Markets.

So join us for our special back-to-back Live Voyage Report coverage this winter as we spend time on some of Europe’s most unique – and celebrated – waterways.

Join us in November as we return to France's splendid Bordeaux Region with Viking River Cruises! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Join us in November as we return to France’s splendid Bordeaux Region with Viking River Cruises! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

You can learn more about Camus Cognac and Viking River Cruises by visiting their respective websites. Join us from November 22 to December 7, 2014 for our back-to-back Live Voyage Report coverage from the waterways of Europe!

 

 

2 Responses to Taking the wraps off my own CAMUS Cognac and another Live Voyage Report

  1. […] post Taking the wraps off my own CAMUS Cognac and another Live Voyage Report appeared first on From The Deck […]

  2. Vanny says:

    Amazingly AWESOME! Your cognac and your upcoming Viking cruises! I can’t wait to follow along on both. I’m in total envy that you’re going to Bordeaux… again! It’s my dream river cruise, being a wino and all 🙂

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