Mesdames et Messieurs. Votre Altesse. The Musketeer has arrived. 

And he's here to defend Brandy. But not the peasant’s Brandy. Let them eat cake. No, this is the royall stuff.

The French gave us many worldly treasures. Camembert, baguettes, Brigitte Bardot, French kissing… the guillotine... They also bequeathed to the world a liquid treasure called Cognac. Merci!

What is Cognac?
In short, Cognac is a variety of Brandy produced from white Wine grapes. In particular, it must be made from specified grapes, of which Ugni blanc, known locally as Saint-Emilion, is the one most widely used. The Wine used for Cognac is very dry, acidic, and thin (much like our elderly relatives) but excellent for distillation and ageing. 

This Eau De Vie or Water of Life is produced only in the eponymous region of Cognac, France, where the sun shines strong and many rivers flow. The terroir of this French arcadia makes Cognac the greatest Brandy in the world.

For a distilled brandy to bear the name Cognac, an Appellation d'origine contrôlée, its production methods must meet certain legal requirements.

Cognac region is divided in 6 different wine-growing areas (cru) authorised to produce Cognac. Crus were introduced by law in 1909 to protect the uniqueness of Cognac. Here they are - in descending order of prestige: 

Cognac Regions1 Grande Champagne, the crème de la crème cru that lies in the heart of Cognac. 

2 Petite Champagne, the little one of the Champagne brothers known for delivering a slightly shorter palate than Grande Champagne.

3 Borderies, the smallest cru, with distinctive nutty notes. 

4 Fins Bois, where Cognac ages faster and is a bit heavier.

5 Bons Bois with its hard and poor soil

6 Bois Ordinaires, the cru bordering the sea, thus giving Cognac a maritime angle sponsored by the whipping winds of the Atlantic.

A blend of Grande and Petite Champagne Cognacs, with at least half coming from Grande Champagne, is known as Fine Champagne

The Brandy must be twice distilled in copper pot stills.

Cognac Alembic Still

Age & Quality
and aged at least two years in French oak barrels from Limousin or Tronçais. Cognac matures in the same way as Whiskies and Wine when aged in barrels, and most Cognacs are aged considerably longer than the minimum legal requirement.

Cognac QualitiesThree different categories of Cognac are recognized by law: V.S., V.S.O.P., and X.O. The names are English because the Cognac trade was originally developed by English speakers.

V.S. – "Very Special" or "Three Stars"
Designates a blend in which the youngest Brandy has been stored for at least two years in cask.

V.S.O.P. – "Very Superior Old Pale"
Designates a blend in which the youngest Brandy is stored for at least four years in a cask, but the average wood age is much older.

X.O. – "Extra Old" 
Designates a blend in which the youngest Brandy is stored for at least ten years but on average upwards of 20 years.

Cognac is not the only ‘gnac
Cognac has competition: Armagnac. Produced in the Gascony region of Southwest France, Armagnac has enjoyed less prestige than its coastal sibling, in large part due to being stuck in the middle of the country when the British and Dutch started to develop a taste for Brandy. These days, however, a good Armagnac is easier to find.

Armagnac is made from four grape varieties that grow in warmer, sandier soils. It is usually distilled only once using a column still or an alembic still and will typically run about 10 points higher in proof than Cognac.

Bonus! Both Cognac and Armagnac will pair beautifully with any meal you might make after spending the day hunting and tilling the fields of your French country estate. Go forth, friend, and drink the Eau de Vie!

Rancio is a highly desirable nutty flavor normally found only in extra-aged fortified Wines (Port, Sherry, Madeira, Marsala…) and fruit-based spirits: Cognac, Calvados, and Armagnac. It appears in Cognac after roughly 10 years of ageing in oak casks, becoming more intense over the years.

French ConnectionFrench Connection
Here is a simple Cognac cocktail classic - French Connection.

Pour 25 ml Cognac and 25 ml Amaretto into a snifter glass with ice cubes. Stir gently with a bar spoon.

Sos Smartass Corner

Cognac has played an important role in history. You see, Napoleon adored it so much he took a few barrels to his exile in Saint Helena's and we're quite confident he would have lived a while longer had he not exhausted his supply. 

It takes a lot of Wine to make a Cognac. When distilled, 10 liters of white Wine makes 1 liter of Cognac!

The late Kim Jong Il was one of the biggest individual consumers of Cognac in the world.

Finding Cognac in France is harder than you think, because 90% of its production is exported, mainly to Asia and the United States.

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