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Cognac, the king of brandy

2010/06/15

Alcohol has been around since dirt.  I would love to hear the story of the first person to drink juice or cider that had sat in the sun too long and “turned”.  They must have thought they’d either gone crazy or had magical powers.

But not all alcohols are created equal.  Using a fine quality brandy for perfumemaking and herbal tinctures is important to me.  I know most people use vodka, or “everclear” grain alcohol, mainly because they are odorless and because they are inexpensive.  But I think the quality of your product suffers when these forms of alcohol are employed.

My reasoning is simple, although it might not make sense to anyone but me.  I look at everything in terms of energy.  Not just the New Agey sense of the word, but in a philosophical one as well.  Basically, vodka has been grossly abused throughout history.  Think of all the people who have been overdosed and overserved because of vodka’s lack of taste and odor.  My mind goes into all sorts of horrible scenarios, going back through the annals of time with this potentially untraceable liquid drug. 

So, I know it’s a bit out there for some, but I want to associate my creations with the highest quality alcohol I can.  And since wine cannot be used for perfumemaking, I use cognac.

Here is a quote about the special craftmanship that goes into its production, courtesy of Get Frank:

Essentially the king of brandy, Cognac is produced in the Charente and Charente-Maritime regions of France; it gets its name from a local town.  The anal-retentive drink of the alcohol industry, Cognac must be made under extremely precise regulations.  Deviating from these regulations even slightly turns Cognac into regular ol’ brandy.

Seven areas in France are designated for Cognac production.  Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, and Borderies produce the majority, but Fins Bois, Bons Bois, Bois Ordinaires, and Bois Communs tend to squeeze out a drop or two.  Each area creates a unique drink, but all are of high quality:  they each have a knack for Cognac.

The grapes used for Cognac are very exclusive: no matter how many beg to be picked, only certain ones are.  First of all, Cognac must be at least 90 percent Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, or Colombard grapes.  Ugni Blanc carry the most weight (some Cognac is made solely of this grape), with Folle Blanche and Colombard grapes minimally represented.  The remaining ten percent may, by law, include other varieties of grape.  These varieties are typically specific and, like a grape involved in drama club, highly eccentric.

Dissimilar to other brandies, Cognac must be distilled twice in copper pot stills.  After the second distillation, the heart of the Cognac, or the eau-de-vie, is placed into barrels made from the oak trees of the Troncais or Limousin forests.  Here, the eau-de-vie must be aged for a minimum of two years, though most is aged for much longer.  Still, Cognac isn’t allowed to get too old: it’s usually not kept barreled up for more than five or six decades; it does, after all, have things to do.

I wouldn’t call the makers anal retentive.  I’d call them masters of their craft!

As far as having the cognac scent present in my perfumes, I consider it a great asset.  There are cognac essential oils used in perfumery and many consider it a highly desirable component of a fragrance complex.  Some examples can be seen here and here.  Even the heir to Hennessy has made his own fragrance line with cognac as inspiration.  Check them out here.

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