Some say the “XO” stands for “eXtra Old,” I say it is an invitation to hug and kiss the cognac.
Martell is definitely a bit different from the other cognac producers. While Courvoisier and Hennessy strive to create a brandy with subtle hints of vanilla and caramel, Martell goes for a more down to earth, straight flavor. Consider other cognacs dainty ladies, while Martell is the mysterious aviator shaded gentleman sitting in the corner with a cigar and an ironic sneer toward toward society. Kinda like Elling.
The issue I’ve had with Martell’s VSOP is that it’s not quite as smooth as its more feminine cousins. This is, as mentioned, by design, and in some ways I suppose only Martell’s XO is meant to be enjoyed neat. And, by all means, if you get the chance to try it out, do so. Because this is good stuff.
When the cognac first hits your tongue you don’t need to look for frou frou hints of rose petals, this tastes like cognac. Pure and honest cognac. Blue collar cognac. Yet, just as you expect the flavor rush to be followed by a chaser of burn in the back of the throat… It doesn’t happen. It goes down smoothly, no differently than, say, a Courvoisier, but with little to no sweet aftertaste. Martell XO is just what it sets out to be; a straight cognac, with a nice strong flavor, and an incredible smoothness. And this makes it pretty heavenly.
A quick check reveals that you can’t buy Martell XO in Washington at the moment. What the hell? I blame the soft Seattleites for this. Expect to pay around $140 in the US for a bottle, which is… Yes, it’s an investment, and all I got to say is bless Dubai duty-free for carrying this.