FAQ: Cognac

What is Cognac?

Cognac is a type of distilled brandy named after the town of Cognac in France. French Law says that a distilled spirit may only use the name Cognac if the production method and aging for the distilled spirit meet the following specific legal requirements:

  • Production must be in Cognac, France
  • Must be a wine - grapes only -Eau-de-vie
  • Eau-de-Vie is any distilled product made from fruit
  • The wine is made of 90% Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano), Folle Blanche and/or Colombard grapes.
  • Must be distilled 2 times in copper pot stills.
  • A minimum of two years of aging in French Oak casks. Most quality cognacs are aged much longer than the minimum legal requirement.
  • After the harvest, all distillation in Cognac must be completed by the 31st of March.


What makes Cognac different from brandy?

All Cognac is brandy but not all brandy is Cognac.

Like Cognac, the word "brandy" belongs to the category of wine eau-de-vie. However, Cognac is a wine eau-de-vie of a Controlled Appellation of Origin. It's a premium form of brandy made in a very specific fashion using mostly Ugni Blanc grapes, known locally as Saint Emillion. As per the law listed above, the wine that is made from these grapes is then distilled two times in copper pots, and aged at least two years in oak barrels. In common usage, the word "brandy" often only refers to any kind of brandy that isn't specifically Cognac.

The longer a brandy ages, the smoother, more mellow, and more complex it becomes. The aging ties up the producer's capital, so well-aged Cognac are usually more expensive. Not all Cognacs are exceptional, but when everything comes together and they are at their best, they are definitely among they world's most treasured spirits.

Cognac has long been considered a luxury drink and its name is not only well earned, but also very guarded.

What do the initials stand for on the label?

Any initials that we find on the front label of most Cognac bottles are referring to one very important but not so simple thing, and that's aging.

  • V.S. (Very Special): AKA "three stars," means the youngest Cognac in the blend must be a minimum 2 years old
  • V.S.O.P. (Very Special/Superior Old Pale): Means the youngest Cognac in the blend must be at least 4 years old
  • X.O. (Extra Old): As of April 2016 the new minimum is 10 years old. Previously, the minimum was 6 years.
  • Hors d'Age ("Of the Ages"): This is another way of saying "this Cognac is so old, it'd be impolite to ask it's age." Must be aged a minimum 6 years but it is almost always much older. This is often the highest marque for many producers.



Who makes our favorite Cognac?

About Paul Beau: The Beau family is one of the oldest artisanal cognac distillers in Segonzac, the heart of Cognac's first growth, known as the Grande Champagne region. Their master distiller, Olivier Laurichesse, produces their cognacs without additives in the absolute best way possible.

About Guillon Painturaud: The Painturaud family owns 18 hectares of Ugni Blanc located in one plot around the farm they have been living in since 1610. The distillation know-how has been passed from generation to generation, with Line Guillon Painturaud now running the family business.

About Navarre: Jacky Navarre is one of the last purists among the artisan Cognac distillers and he's on the verge of becoming a cult icon. He takes care of his small Grande Champagne estate with a very basic rule, "Let nature do (most of) the work." Jacky distills on the lees to add complexity of flavor. His cognacs see no sugar or caramel coloring. And no water. These products are in the purest form there is.



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