How Is Cognac Made? (And Armagnac Too!) Your Questions Answered
Cognac is a craze. In France alone, 16,800 people work on producing cognac. Most of the drink goes to international consumers, particularly in the United States.
This leads many people to think that they need to order cognac from France. But that isn’t true. You can make cognac in your distillery, as long as you know what to do.
What exactly is cognac, and what is Armagnac vs. cognac? What tools do you need to make cognac? How is cognac made, and how much does it cost?
Answer these questions and you can end every day with a refreshing alcoholic beverage. Here is your quick guide.
What Is Cognac?
Brandy is a liquor that originates from distilled wine. Most people drink it after dinner to assist their digestion. It is a high-alcohol beverage, meaning that most people drink it in small glasses.
Cognac is a special type of brandy. It undergoes two stages of distillation, producing a thin and flavorful drink.
Cognac comes from white wine and white grapes. Official cognac can only come from the Cognac region of southern France. But people outside of France can make unofficial bottles, including inside their own homes.
You can drink cognac straight, or you drink it in a cocktail. A sidecar cocktail combines cognac with an orange liqueur and lemon juice. You can also drink a number of cognac-based liqueurs, including Grand Marnier.
You can also incorporate the liquor into any recipe that calls for brandy. You can use it to make a pan sauce or as a flavoring in desserts. Popular cognac brands include Hennessey and Hine.
What Is Armagnac?
Armagnac is another kind of brandy. As with cognac, most people drink it as an after-dinner beverage. The drink has rich flavors, combining notes of chocolate and fruit.
The main difference between cognac and Armagnac is distillation. The producers distill wine twice to produce cognac, while they only distill the wine once to make Armagnac.
The shorter distillation period means that Armagnac has a thicker texture and mouthfeel. The alcohol content is stronger.
What Are Some Tools for Cognac Production?
The most important tool for cognac production is grapes. The traditional grapes for the drink include Colombard, Saint-Emilion, and Blanche.
It is possible to use different kinds of grapes, but the flavors of the drink will be different. Whatever grapes you pick should create a juice that is 8-9% alcohol. Do not go outside this range, as your drink will lack a good aroma or concentration.
Wooden barrels are also very important. Your drink has to age inside the barrels over a long period of time. The tannin and vanillin within wood impart their flavors to the cognac, creating a high-quality drink.
European imports are the best barrels. Whenever possible, get a barrel made of Limousin or Tron wood. These types of wood slowly impart their tannin to make a mature beverage.
You can use a brick kiln to distill your wine. You can use wood or natural gas as a method of heat.
You need to store your cognac in a safe location where it can age. This can be a cellar or a separate building. Once it is done aging, you can put your cognac into glass bottles.
How Is Cognac Made?
The process begins with grape pressing. The juices flow out of the crushed grapes and ferment without aid.
Once the wine has fermented, you can pour it into pot stills. These stills go into brick kilns, which are as hot as 200 degrees Fahrenheit. They remain until the alcohol separates from the liquid.
The vapors collect inside the swan’s neck of the still. They pass into a condenser coil and remain there.
You can then heat the condensed wine a second time. It is important to keep an eye on the wine because it can become too high in alcohol content. The liquid should be clear and reduced with a moderate amount of alcohol.
This liquid can then go into the oak casks. They age for two years in their first container and then get poured into another cask.
You should sample the cognac once a year until you achieve your desired drink. The best cognac can take decades to age.
Armagnac undergoes the same process as cognac. The only difference is that it is distilled once. Some Armagnac bottles may be ready after a year of aging, but you can age yours for longer.
How Much Is Cognac?
It is possible to buy a bottle of cognac for less than $50. Most of these bottles have been aged for less than five years. They are more fruity, though you can use them in cocktails.
Mid-prize bottles are also fruity with minimal aging. They tend to have stronger aromas than cheaper selections.
More expensive bottles have gone through more than a decade of aging. They have dark colors, floral aromas, and a variety of flavors, including nutty notes.
You can find a similar price range for Armagnac. The more you are willing to pay, the older your drink will be and the stronger the flavors.
If you are making your own cognac, you can expect to pay some money. You need to buy grapes and barrels at a minimum. This can cost a few hundred dollars, though the quality of your drink is worth it.
Now that you know the ins and outs of how cognac is made, consider buying a cognac barrel to age your beer, wine spirit or food product.
At Northeast barrel company we import 500L and 600L ex cognac barrels made from limousine oak. These barrels are sure to impart a flavorful, complex flavor to your product. Browse our shop today!