WhiskyNet Insight: Cognac - The King of French Spirits

  • 20 May 2021 3:03 PM
WhiskyNet Insight: Cognac - The King of French Spirits
Cognac can be called the king of the French distillate category without any exaggeration. This spirit has been gathering its enthusiastic fans for many centuries, and not just in French territories.

This includes spirits from world-famous brands such as Delamain, Pierre Ferrand, Hennessy and Courvoisier. The work of centuries of tradition and generations results in the quality we experience while tasting these spirits.

Cognac, or wine spirit, belongs to the family of brandies. The name of the category comes from the Dutch word “brandewijn” which means burnt wine. This is a fitting name, as most brandies are aged wine spirits, but relatives of brandies include various fruit spirits, so we could even call domestic pálinka brandy.

AOC - What is this strange acronym?

It is worth monitoring the famously strict protection of French origin (French appellation d'origine contrôlée, or AOC), which aims to assure consumers that what can be called cognac meets the usual quality standards. 

To do this, cognacs must meet many expectations. The most trivial expectation is the geographical origin of the product, so accordingly cognac has its own production area and region within the country. According to the protection of origin, the entire production process must take place in the region, from viticulture to the end of the first two years of maturation.

It is also worth mentioning that cognac, like armagnac, can only be made from certain types of grapes, and the distillate must be matured exclusively in French oak barrels for a minimum of 2 years. The alcohol content of the final product must be at least 40%.

Characteristics of cognac production areas

Within the cognac regions, we also distinguish several smaller production areas, or cru, on the basis of soil type and climate, and it is also important to know how these affect the final spirit.

The Cognac region has more than 70,000 hectares of vineyards, making it the second largest wine region in France after Bordeaux, despite the fact that almost 95% of the wine (grape distillate) produced here is used to make cognac.

Of the six different production areas, the most valuable, most recognized areas are Grand Champagne and Petit Champagne, with cognacs from these areas being the most premium spirits. However, most cognacs are a blend of several crus to meet the huge demand.

Among the blends, the so-called fine champagne blends are mixed exclusively with beverages from the Grand Champagne and Petit Champagne regions (with a minimum beverage content of 50% from Grande Champagne).

Pierre Ferrand cognacs go back 10 generations

Pierre Ferrand cognacs are made entirely from grapes from the best growing area in the Cognac region, Grand Champagne. Within that, too, the Angeac-Champagne area, also known by experts as the "golden triangle", is characterized by such a special terroir.

The very high lime content of the hilly-sloping soil here ensures the high quality and acidity of the grapes, which is essential for creating good quality cognac.

Distillation is traditionally carried out in small pot stills. The collected eau de vie is matured in small oak barrels in 7 cellars with different endowments (drier, wetter) in Logis d’Angeac. Beginning in 1630, the science of winemaking and distillation was inherited in the Ferrand family for ten generations.

Cognac Ferrand 10 Générations

10 Générations commemorates the 10 generations of the Ferrand family, paying tribute to the hard and persistent work of their predecessors, without whom they would not be able to make such excellent spirits in the Ferrand cognac house today.

Cognac Ferrand Reserve

A brilliant, golden-yellow premium spirit that combines vanilla and apricot jam with walnuts and cinnamon. It gives the impression of full-bodied, rich cognac with a great balance. It can also be a great choice as a gift!

Cognac Ferrand Selection Des Anges

Paradoxically vibrant, yet with the rich roundness that comes with age, Sélection des Anges allows us to experience the divine harmony of nature and pleasure. Sélection des Anges opens with a bouquet reminiscent of baking on a spring day.

Delamain cognacs

Delamain is one of the oldest names among cognac houses. The trading company was founded in 1759 by James Delamain. Delamain does not engage in viticulture or distillation, but takes over distillates from independent producers with whom it has been in contact for decades.

The high quality of the cognacs appearing under the name Delamain has been recognized for a long time, so much so that other manufacturers often compare their products to them.

Cognac Delamain Pale and Dry XO

Delamain only produces XO (or “Extra old”) quality, its youngest product, Pale & Dry, blended from cognacs of no less than 25 years of age. When tasted, floral notes and then full fruitiness appear.

Other remarkable cognac brands: Cognac ABK6 and Cognac Leyrat

Both brands – ABK6 and Leyrat – are coming from the same cognac estate, the Domaines Francis Abécassis.

The specialty of both ABK6 and Leyrat cognacs is that – compared to other cognac houses – their cognacs are single estate cognacs. It means that they control every method of the cognac production from the viticulture through distilling and aging until mixing and bottling.

Cognac ABK6 VSOP Premium

This brand – ABK6 – that carries the Abécassis family name is the signature of the Domaines Francis Abécassis. The ABK6 VSOP is a subtly spiced cognac with rich fruity and wooden aromas, and a long-lasting finish.

Cognac Leyrat XO Hors d'Age

Recognised by the greatest restaurants around the world, LEYRAT Cognac is the gastronomic flagship of the Domaines Francis Abécassis. It is silky and full on the palette. The finish is characterised by notes of vanilla and brioche.

A wide selection of Cognac can be found in Hungary thanks to WhiskyNet
Click here to have a look at the great range available


Proofread by Szilvia Molnár, a professional freelance writer, travel expert, mom of two, and admitted coffee addict. Though not necessarily in that order. Connect with her on LinkedIn or read about her latest travel experiences on the Exploration Lounge website.

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