Brandy in general means any kind of distilled spirit, made from fermented fruit juice. The fruit in question is often grapes, but there are a number of Brandies based on apples, pears and other sweet fruits.
So yes, being produced by distilling wine, Cognac is a type of Brandy, only a very specific one.
To make it slightly more difficult, different types of Brandy from different parts of the world each have their own names.
And while apple-based Calvados from Normandy, Spanish Brandy, Italian Grappa and other regional varieties are very popular around Flaviar headquarters, we’re going to focus on the French wine Brandy brotherhood this time that go by the names of Cognac and Armagnac.
If Cognac is Beyonce, Armagnac is SolangeArmagnac is less famous of the two Brandies, but equally good and has a group of very dedicated fans.
Although the production of Armagnac started about 200 years earlier than Cognac, it never achieved the same level of fame. Very much due to the fact that its home region didn't have good river and sea connections to reach the English and Dutch merchants in the past like Cognac did.
Cognac vs. Armagnac in a NutshellSpeaking of it, the main difference between Cognac and Armagnac is also known as the golden rule of real estate: Location, location, location.
Only a wine Brandy produced in Cognac region can be called Cognac, while Armagnac must be from the Armagnac region in Gascony, southwest France.
Both Cognac and Armagnac regions are divided further into smaller areas (Crus de Cognac) that have great influence on the characteristics of the grapes grown there (and therefore the drink).
There are, of course, a few other things specific to their production that distinguish Cognac and Armagnac:
GrapesNearly all Cognac is made of the grape variety called Ugni Blanc (Trebbiano). The same type of grapes is also used for Armagnac, but there are three other varieties that are equally common. All of them are white grapes.
DistillationCognac must be double distilled in a copper pot still. Armagnac is distilled in alembic continuous still (alembic armagnacais) with the exception of a few producers who double distill it in the same way as Cognac.
AgeingCognac is aged in Limousine or Tronçais oak casks. For ageing Armagnac, mostly Limousine oak casks are in use today, though it used to be aged in local black oak.
Due to its distillation method, Armagnac is on average aged longer than Cognac – 10 years and more.
BlendingWith very few exceptions, Cognac will always be blended. While Armagnac can be blended, unblended Vintage Armagnac is also very common. In both cases, the age indicated on the label is that of the youngest drink in the blend.
And last, but by no means least, when it comes to taste, Cognac is more subtle and gentle, while Armagnac is considered to be more complex and robust. It's also higher in alcohol; Cognac must be 40% ABV and Armagnac is typically between 46 to 48% ABV.
mmm... A Cognac tasting would be nice, you say? Funny, we thought so, too...