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Is Cognac A Brandy? And How Does Armagnac Compare To It?

Cognac, Brandy, Armagnac, what’s the difference? If you get puzzled hearing these names, not to worry you’re not alone, we’ll help you put the pieces together.
 

What is Brandy?

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.




Is Cognac a Brandy?

So yes, being produced by distilling Wine, Cognac is a type of Brandy, only a very specific one.
 

What is the difference between Cognac and Brandy?

Cognac must be produced in the Cognac region of France, while Brandy can be produced anywhere in the world. To make it slightly more difficult, different types of Brandy from different parts of the world each have their own names.

Hennessy

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 Solange

Armagnac 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 Nutshell

Speaking of it, the main difference between Cognac and Armagnac is also known as the golden rule of real estate: Location, location, location.

Frรจrot


Where do they come from?

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). 

Cognac Region

There are, of course, a few other things specific to their production that distinguish Cognac and Armagnac:
 

What are the key ingredients?

Nearly 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.

Grapes
 

How is Cognac made?

Cognac 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. 
 

What about the Aging of Cognac?

Cognac is aged in Limousin or Tronçais oak casks. For ageing Armagnac, mostly Limousin 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.

Barrels


Can you blend Cognac?

With 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.

How does Cognac taste?

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 at least 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...

How to drink Cognac?

The act of enjoying Cognac can take form in many different ways. 
 
If it's old, drink it straight, if it’s young, mix it. Meaning young, lower-quality Cognacs can be enjoyed in mixed drinks, and nicer Cognacs are usually enjoyed without mixers or ice. Save those pricey XO and Hors d’age Spirits for sipping.
 
The best drinking vessels to enjoy Cognac neat or with a drop of water are tulip glass, balloon glass, or wobble snifter. They combine both form and function to deliver the ultimate tasting experience.

Cognac on ice is served in a large tumbler glass, with room for two ice cubes. As a simple mixer with ice, use a long drink glass with many ice cubes.

How to pair Cognac with food?

France’s most well known Brandy was made for food. Since it’s so high in alcohol you can readily burn Cognac and that’s what a lot of traditional recipes do, they flambe (“flamed” in French) dishes savory and sweet like crepes suzette.
 
But it’s much more versatile than a culinary heating device. Local chefs tuck it into recipes to add a bit of bite or background. It is widely used in pates, nutty desserts, and stews to add a hint of something special.

And, of course, it’s a big deal in the cocktail world. Before we move on, learn more about Cognac food pairings.
 

How should you drink them? 

Cocktails arguably started with Brandy. First because wherever you have Wine, you have Brandy and, wherever you have Brandy someone is tinkering with it. There is a universe of Brandy cocktails out there so use these five classic Brandy cocktails as a launching pad.
 
Cognac cocktails are especially a growing trend in cocktail bars worldwide. We like VS Cognacs in long drinks, such as with ginger beer, lime, and fresh mint.

They also make great Sazeracs or Old Fashioneds, and can easily replace other base ingredients in classic cocktails such as the Manhattan, Tom Collins, a Mint Julep or even a Mojito.
 

So, which bottles should you buy?

The Flaviar Community is a spirited bunch of booze buffs with a refined taste for a tipple. We would be mad if we didn’t use the collective power of sophisticated palates for something good, right? This list of best-rated bottles is based on the ratings and reviews of Flaviaristas, so rest assured, we’ve included only the best of different styles, ages, and brands.
 

Brandy:

Shakmat 23 Year Old
Torres 30 Jaime I. Brandy Reserva de la Famiglia
Copper & Kings American Craft Brandy
 

Cognac:

Park Cigar Blend XO Vieille Fine Champagne Cognac
VSOP: Hine Rare VSOP Cognac
Hardy Cognac Legend 1863
 

Armagnac:

Château de Léberon Solera 2001 Armagnac
Delord Bas Armagnac 25 Year Old
Domaine Tariquet Bas-Armagnac XO

Updated May 28th 2020


 

 

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