Cognac Is Back

Sharp - - GUIDE -

The only mys­tery is how this ele­gant spirit — favoured by Bond vil­lains and hip hop artists alike — ever fell by the way­side in the first place

OGNAC IS THE ORIG­I­NAL lux­ury spirit, and de­spite years on the back­bench, it’s start­ing to make some noise again. Which means you should know a few things about it. Al­though it may seem un­ap­proach­able, Cognac is re­ally just brandy made in a spe­cific re­gion — Cognac, France (ob­vi­ously). A few other rules ap­ply: it’s made from spe­cific grape va­ri­etals (pri­mar­ily ugni blanc), which are fer­mented then dis­tilled (twice) in cop­per pot stills, and it’s aged for a min­i­mum of two years in French oak. Much of the spirit’s sig­na­ture taste comes from this pro­duc­tion line. The grape va­ri­etal is aro­matic; pot dis­til­la­tion helps to re­tain the essence of the wine and the wood im­parts struc­ture, sug­ars, and vanillins.

But this is where it starts to get com­pli­cated. The blend­ing process some­times in­volves min­gling to­gether as many as a hun­dred dif­fer­ent eaux-de-vie (ba­si­cally lightly dis­tilled brandy), of dif­fer­ent ages and from dif­fer­ent crus — small re­gions within Cognac it­self, some of which are thought to have bet­ter mi­cro-cli­mate and soil con­di­tions than oth­ers. In ad­di­tion, Cognac is classified ac­cord­ing to dif­fer­ent grades, some of which are very straight­for­ward and oth­ers vague-sound­ing. At the high­est lev­els of clas­si­fi­ca­tion, def­i­ni­tions start to sound like this: “Al­ways at least six years old, but usu­ally far older and far su­pe­rior.” Not ex­actly air­tight.

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