Hubert Germain-Robin and Ansley Coale at the distillery
Germain-Robin Hand Distilled Alambic Brandies is located in Mendocino County in Ukiah. The Robb Report’s expert panel named the Select Barrel XO the world’s “Best Liquor”. Using 19th century hand-methods on an antique cognac still, they base their distillates on much better grapes than anyone in Cognac ever dreamed of using.
Germain-Robin is from a very long family line that has been producing cognac since 1782. The firm had recently been taken over by giant Martell. Germain-Robin said that ancient hand-methods of distillation were disappearing as the large firms dominate production applied “improved” high-volume production methods to an ancient industry. He yearned to find a way to use what he had learned growing up, secrets of distillation handed from Master to apprentice for centuries.
In the summer of 1982 Germain-Robin found an antique still in an abandoned cognac distillery, had it refitted, and shipped back to Mendocino County. Germain-Robin and his business partner Ansley Coale built a modest redwood shed, and in it made an historic discovery. They decided to experiment with premium wines, instead of the thin acidic wines, not fit for the table, that are used to make cognac.
The very first time that brandy distilled from Pinot Noir flowed from the still, Germain-Robin put his nose in the sampling glass, took a long sniff, and turned to his partner, and said, “this is the finest I have ever seen”.
In 1987, they released the $39 fine (VSOP). The real quality of their brandies was revealed in 1994 with the $110 Select Barrel XO. In 1999, their superb $350 Anno Domini astonished reviewers.
Reviewers consistently rate Germain-Robin brandies among the world’s finest distilled spirits. It’s because nobody else distills 100% premium varietal wines, such as Pinot Noir.