Navan Vanilla Cognac
by Darcy O'Neil on February 2011
Navan is a new product from Grand Marnier that infuses fine cognac with pure vanilla and a touch of sweetness from added sugar. This product is 'designed' for the hip and trendy crowd that revels in expensive products. Aside from the 'reason' Navan was created, it is still a great tasting product and if you like the Grand Marnier orange liqueurs and are a fan of vanilla, this product is for you.
Vanilla is one of my favorite flavours, and when a company like Grand Marnier mixes their fine cognac with real vanilla, I could not resist picking up a bottle. Navan is fairly pricey at $48CDN / $40US for a 750ml bottle. It should be mentioned that the bottle is beautifully designed and reflects the heritage of the Grand Marnier product line, while being modern at the same time.
In 2001 Busta Rhymes and P. Diddy made a song called 'Pass the Courvoisier' which ignited the brandy and cognac industries. Courvoisier is one of the largest cognac houses in France and has been around long enough to proudly state that Napoleon granted Courvoisier the title of "Official Supplier to the Imperial Court" in 1869. This modern salute, by Busta Rhymes and P. Diddy, to this classic spirit, created a significant demand for cognac and vintage brandies. With other "Cognac Houses" getting into this new found market, Grand Marnier did not want to be left behind, so they created Navan.
The idea was to create a spirit that stayed true to the history of Grand Marnier, but present a trendy modern image. Taking quality cognac and infusing with vanilla seemed like a good idea. Grand Marnier took this idea and marketed directly at the hip-hop crowds. So far Navan seems to have been successful with its marketing campaign, but I believe that this is a quality product by Grand Marnier and Navan is more than a quick fix liqueur, developed to make profits on a specific market segment.
Grand Marnier was not the only cognac house to do this, Meukow VS Vanilla is another vanilla cognac that is excellent, but is not driven by a market segment. In the future I will provide a review of the Meukow VS Vanilla.
Navan is a deep amber/golden colour with a strong, sweet, vanilla scent which is almost candy like. The liqueur is viscous and is almost syrupy and clings to the walls of the glass. The impression when taking the first sip sweetness followed by pure vanilla. This is quickly followed with a pleasant touch of alcohol, which balances the sweetness, to round it out. There is a warm, spicy finish from the cognac. The vanilla sweetness is still present, but extremely well balanced with the cognac. The best part is the gentle warming sensation the cognac provides in the back of your throat and stomach. It is definitely not harsh.
So far I've avoided using Navan in any cocktails, since I'm infatuated with the vanilla flavour. The best way to serve this is in a brandy snifter or port glass, neat. Navan is extremely smooth and easy to drink, even at the 40% alcohol content. However, it is a bit sweet and it is best to drink this slowly and allow the flavour to develop on your palate. It goes excellent with bitter sweet or semi-sweet chocolate and other desserts such as cherry cheese cake. Remember, it is possible to have to much of a good thing.