In layman’s terms, Cognac Liquor is simply brandy with a different name. However, to the connoisseurs of this
fine spirit, that statement could not be further from the truth. It is not for nothing that this quality liquor is
as well known and widely appreciated the world over as champagne.
Like that other famous beverage, Cognac derives its name from the region in France that holds the exclusive
legal right to use the word. Moreover, like champagne, calling it merely a type of 'burned wine' is to empty the
term of meaning. For Cognac, if it is to be given its real due, is a divine spirit.
While it is true that humans on earth make the drink, they seem to have been guided by a light within that urged
them to the highest level of ingenuity in the service of pleasure.
Nevertheless, before the poetry must come technique.
Cognac is made from a minimum of ninety percent grapes from the Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche or Colombard
varieties. These white wine grapes spring from the chalky soil, aided by wet winters and hot, dry summers. In this
small region of south western France near the Charente River, master vintners produce the base that will go into
That product is then squeezed and fermented like wine. However, that is only the beginning. The liquid is then
distilled in a copper pot still to raise the alcohol content and warm the blood of every Cognac lover on the
planet. Most brandy, and Cognac is no exception, is around forty percent alcohol by volume, or ABV. Some are as
high as eighty percent, but it is questionable whether the product should have the same name in those cases.
The output then makes its way into Limousin oak casks, where it is aged for anywhere from two to fifty years or
more. Like all spirits, and unlike wine, it ceases aging once bottled. Since the oak is porous, some air does
gradually intrude. The mixture of oxygen and the distinctive chemistry of the wood lend to the brew an incomparable
One of the consequences of the aging process is not just to let air in, though. It also evaporates out the other
way, causing about three percent of the Cognac to dissipate over an aging period of ten years. This loss of product
is just one of the many sacrifices that fine Cognac makers make in order to produce this outstanding beverage. The
master distillers are not bitter, though. The portion evaporated is lovingly known as 'the angels share'.
They know whereof they speak, since the drink they finish with truly deserves the moniker 'divine'. Those who
buy it must agree, since they happily absorb the cost.
There is an especially elevated type known as Armagnac. Made by a very similar process, it hails from a region
of the same name to the south in Gascony. The oldest type of brandy, it has been made here since the early 15th
century. Limousin or Monlezun black oak may be used in the casks with results similar to Cognac.
One of the chief differences is that Cognac is double distilled, while Armagnac is single-continuous distilled.
Aficionados, though, say that whereas Cognac is divine, Armagnac rules the universe. In such a contest, there are