Cognac and Other Brandy

Maturation & Blending

  • The spirit collected from this second distillation is matured in French oak casks for a minimum of two years and normally much longer. During this maturation period, the spirit takes on a deeper color from the wood as well as some of the toasty, vanilla and coconut aromas contained in the wood. The spirit also loses some alcohol to evaporation during this period and the resultant spirit is about 60% ABV. The part that evaporates is known as the "angel’s share," or as it is called in French, la parte des anges.

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  • Aroma, balance and complexity are the objectives of any cognac blend. The origin of the eaux-de-vie in the blend is important, but their age is also an important factor as well.

    The most important factor in determining the quality of a cognac is the skill of blending, since the quality of the eaux-de-vie is only important relative to the other eaux-de-vie in a given blend. This relative quality is a more important contributor to the final quality of the finished cognac than is the absolute quality of any one eaux-de-vie. Eaux-de-vies from different crus at different ages are needed to balance a specific blend, and strong eaux-de-vies impart their strength to lesser blends, while lesser elements can add complexity to even the finest eaux-de- vie.

    Blending as well as purchasing are accomplished with the assistance and direction of the master blender. After the amount of cask aging appropriate to the grade of cognac desired, the eaux-de-vie are pre-blended into larger batches, and the final blends are put back into cask for a period of final conditioning prior to bottling. This period is known as calage, and it represents roughly a half year for V.S, a year for V.S.O.P, two years for X.O, and three years for Richard and Paradis. At the end of the maturation period, the spirit is broken down in steps with the addition of water, and caramel is added to some qualities.

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  • Cognac is graded according to the minimum lengths of time spent in cask. Three star or V.S (Very Special) cognac is aged for at least 2 ½ years in cask, V.S.O.P (Very Superior Old Pale) is aged for no less than 4 years in cask, and X.O (extremely old), Napoleon and hors d'age are all aged at a minimum of 6 (but often longer) years in cask. These are the minimum legal ageing requirements for each grade of cognac.

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