I really prefer to try things out in a hands-on way. This push to buy a car without ever touching it? I don’t really get it. The system’s set up for me to send the thing back, should I find the driver’s seat unsuitable, but basics like that—how the thing actually feels—seem to me to deserve a higher slot on the priority list.
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This principle is especially true for bar cart gear of every kind. Globes and decanters and snifters: The best way to give these things a try is to pour a taste and see what you think. Recently I had the opportunity to test drive the Les Impitoyables Whisky Tasting Set, new-era whiskey and cognac glasses from the French firm Peugeot. I liked them—more on that, shortly—and, having tried them myself, I’m gifting them with confidence to a tight list of friends and relations who have improbably come to trust my judgment.
Peugeot started out around 1812 as a maker of saws. Its first coffee mill appeared in 1840, followed by a pepper mill for the table in 1874 (my own from the company probably dates to 2002 or so, and remains in tip-top shape). The family business sponsored its first Tour de France winner in 1905. I don’t think you can buy one of their cars in the United States at present, but Peugeot’s a global player in the automobile space, expected to return to the U.S. at some point.
Bicycles, scooters, numerous things that break stuff into smaller pieces—it’s quite a diversified brand, and owned all over the place, but not without pockets of excellence. Toward the end of the 20th century, Peugeot was a player in Formula One engine manufacture. In the early ’90s, their cars won at LeMans. There’s a Peugeot showroom on the Champs-Élysées, for crying out loud.
Still, to me, nothing speaks louder about the company’s aspirations than how it describes its culinary grinding tools: “For each spice, a specific mechanism has been designed to best express its organoleptic splendor, its singularity, its imagination.”
Something’s surely lost there, in the translation from the French, but something wonderful is gained.
I was interested to learn of the company’s Saveurs division, an attempt to expand its culinary expertise into the wine and spirits space. There are corkscrews, both electric and hand-powered; handsome decanters and glasses; and something called a Clef du Vin, a patented tool which looks like a very small crowbar and which one dips into a glass of wine, they say, to determine its ageability.
And also these handsome and useful snifter things, which I quite enjoyed. Each package arrives with the vessel—something of a hybrid between a stemless wineglass and a brandy snifter, with a raised dimple in the middle—a metal cradle, and a leather coaster, called an “Untersetzer” in the brochure’s multilingual German section. The mouth blown glass will “enable… enthusiasts to enjoy the fragrances in spirits, without the ‘fire’ feeling of the alcohol.”
I tested this a few times and found it to be true. In the interest of science, I tried the glass first with Makers Mark, basically my house hooch, by pouring equal measures into the Impitoyables and a plain rocks glass. In the new equipment, the aromas of the bourbon were indeed heightened without being heated up. More noticeable was a kind of unpeeling on the palate; tasted from the Peugeot, secondary notes emerged from the bourbon more forcefully. A pleasing caramel flavor, like a chewy candy your grandmother used to have around the house, jumps out of the texture, identifiable but not at all cloying. It’s there in the rocks glass, too, but subsumed. Though the difference is slight, overall, it moves the experience in a good direction.
It was clear to me that the product’s best use would be with more aromatic spirits, cognac or armagnac especially. I had a so-so scotch sitting around, and it brought the flavor up to better than average. As soon as I get my hands on something excellent, I know what glass I’ll reach for.
Peugeot recommends that the metal base spend some time in the fridge or freezer until you are ready to use it, to chill the spirit down without diluting it—to “prevent… the risk of thermal shock,” the brochure says. I don’t expect to experience such a worry, though I can imagine a summer evening on a porch in Georgia where you wouldn’t want the liquor to rise too much in temperature. In any case, it’s a nice sturdy place to put your glass down.
I didn’t really need these things, but I am glad to have them. As you might imagine from a 200-year-old French brand, they arrive in stylish packaging—a handsome red box for each well-secured snifter, and a small booklet with instructions and inspiration. A pair would make a very lovely gift for Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, or any other special day a whiskey lover in your life has coming up.