There are some spirits where I go through the entire bottle wondering if I should write about it, and eventually decide "no" simply because I don't find a good angle of approach. I can't write about absolutely everything on my shelf.
Chalfonte narrowly avoided this fate. The cards were stacked against it, because for the life of me I really couldn't create a tremendously interesting narrative for it. Nobody's really heard of Chalfonte—including me. I received it as a gift from some good friends as a birthday gift after telling them, "I dunno: maybe get me a cognac?" A quick search of my local bottle shop shows that they stock Chalfonte, so apparently it's not some kind of one-off, unobtainable thing!
Drinking Chalfonte confirmed a long-standing theory I wish I could take credit for: half the battle of getting a good cognac is simply to avoid "the big three" distillers that rest on their laurels—which is to say, Remy Martin, Hennessy, and Courvoisier. The Chalfonte VSOP retails for a tremendously fair $20, worked extremely well in every cocktail I made with it, and easily stood up to being consumed neat. It easily tastes like a bottle twice its price.
Which might beg the question: if it's so great, why did it take so much hemming and hawing to draft up a real-deal review? Well, I'll tell you: because it tastes like a pretty good Cognac, and like a Cognac should taste, but it wasn't particularly characterful. Chalfonte offers up a perfectly serviceable aroma of dried fruits, followed by more dried fruits with some cinnamon spice on the palate, followed by a mellow finish where you can pin the fruits down as apricot and peach. But that description, in fairness, could describe a lot of cognacs.
As I've mentioned before, a lot of that is a byproduct of Cognac in general. The regulations exist to create a superbly high quality product. It's just a bit unfortunate that by forcing everyone to run in the same race and with the same equipment, the outcome tends to become similarly standardized. Still, credit to Chalfonte for standing heads and shoulders above something like the Courvoisier VSOP at about $10 less!
I'd buy this again, no doubt. But, the application would probably be for Sidecars and other cognac-based drinks. As a mixer, Chalfonte is very good in a cocktail in the sense that it supports rather than takes center stage. If I wanted something similarly priced to drink straight, I confess I'd probably gravitate to brandies like the Ararat Akhtamar or Copper and Kings' outstanding Craftwerk series, which are technically not Cognac but far more distinctive and flavorful.
Still, long story short: if you see it, it's a must buy, and for that reason I had to tell you about it.