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Cognac and Armagnac: The Brave New Frontier for Bourbon Drinkers

Cognac and Armagnac: The Brave New Frontier for Bourbon Drinkers

In recent years, Bourbon drinkers have slowly opened their palates and bar shelves to other spirits, bit by bit. First came Rye, a natural bedfellow, then Malt Whisky, a friendly cousin, and recently even Rum has won the hearts and minds of you barrel aged buccaneers. French Brandy thus far has eluded the spotlight, but we think it’s about time it got its due. Maybe we just need to give it an introduction.

People seem to have an image of Cognac as a drink for either snifter wielding snobs in silk robes or early 2000’s rap stars drinking out of bedazzled golden goblets. Basically, a prop for silly caricatures of wealth. And Armagnac? Most people in the Western Hemisphere haven’t even heard of it. France’s sister brandies were just about left out of the recent spirits Renaissance, which is a damn shame, as they represent some of the most storied, well made, tastiest, and best deals in the drinking world, if you just know where to look.

Some quick facts:

Cognac
  • Double Distilled (usually to around 70 to 72%)
  • Made from Ugni Blanc grape
  • Produced only in the Cognac Region
  • Usually reduced with water to around 40% abv
  • Most famous brands are non-producer “Negociant” houses (Courvoisier, Henessey, Remy Martin, Martell) who buy from various grower-producers, blending (and sweetening) to achieve their house style. Skip these altogether and go right to the source: the grower-producers themselves, many of whom are bottling fantastic, unadulterated, complex, terroir driven spirits that put the big houses to shame.
  • Expect floral notes, tea like characteristics, vanilla, and bright fruit

Armagnac
  • Single Distilled (usually to around 52-60%)
  • Made from Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, Baco, or Colombard grapes
  • Produced only in Gascony
  • Generally bottled at Cask Strength
  • Small (think 10-20 barrels a year) grower-producers are the norm, putting out amazing, well aged brandies at an absolute bargain for the quality and age
  • Though Cognac has the larger international market, within France it is seen as a more industrial product, and Armagnac is the tipple of choice
  • Armagnac’s profile is much more rustic and robust than Cognac, much more in line with American Whiskey than most people expect a brandy to be. Rich toffee, baking spices, cigar box, vanilla, orange zest, and juicy stone fruit flavors are common players here.
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Comments

Mike - October 29, 2019

I hate to admit it but I knew pretty much nothing about Cognac or Armagnac. This was such a fun and enlightening read!!

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