Tuesday Tools & Tricks #26: A Beginner’s Guide To Cognac!


Happy Tuesday, everyone!

Do you aspire to be a Fancy Person? Someone who sits in overstuffed leather chairs in dim private libraries sipping a glass of fancy liquor out of crystal glasses?

Of course you do.

Well, then you should probably know a little something about Cognac, because boy oh boy do the Fancy People love it. Luckily for us, the aspirational Fancy Persons, it also happens to be quite delicious!

Be honest — how many of you really know what makes Cognac Cognac? Or even what Cognac is?

It’s okay, we promise not to judge you.

But lets change that, okay?

First things first: Cognac is a type of brandy that gets its name from the town of Cognac, France. Brandy is a spirit distilled from wine. In a very all squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares sort of way, it is important to remember that although all Cognac is (technically) brandy, not all brandy is Cognac.

Got it?

There are three things that make Cognac into Cognac:

  1. Cognac is distilled twice. To make brandy, you go through a distillation process using an old-style pot still. To make cognac, you take the brandy produced in that distillation process and distill it again.
  2. After it is distilled, Cognac must be aged in oak barrels. Legally, Cognac must be aged at least 2 years in order to achieve its name, but good Cognac is usually distilled for much, much longer.
  3. Cognac, like Tequila or Champagne, can only be given that name if it is produced in a specific region of France.

The French call Cognac “Eau de Vie,” which means water of life–but although Cognac is quintessentially French, the people of France themselves are not too into it. Cognac is nowhere near the most popular liquor consumed in France (they love their scotch…), and in fact today the majority of Cognac produced every year is sold in Asia.

Cognac is typically served as a digestif, which is why you generally see it next to the coffee and port on dessert menus at restaurants.

Now, remember how we said that Cognac is for the Fancy People? Well, we really, really meant it. Good Cognac can ost more than you can imagine. Seriously. Imagine how expensive you think a single bottle of liquor could ever be. A few thousand bucks, maybe?

Rémy Martin, which is usually accepted as the best Cognac brand there is, sells a bottle of one of their varieties for $22,000.

Yep, you read that correctly.

But don’t worry, you don’t have to sell your kidneys, house, car, and probably all your limbs in order to taste some of the stuff — there are indeed some (relatively) economical options.

You can get a bottle of Cognac for $30, but honestly? Don’t.

Rémy Martin’s cheapest option clocks in at about $50, and it is quite good. It is called Rémy Martin VSOP, which is an official Cognac aging term that stands for Very Superior Old Pale.

The basic distinctions for Cognac are VS (Very Superior), which is the youngest variety and only aged 2 years, VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale), the first step up that has been aged at least 4 years, and XO (Extra Old), which encompasses everything aged at least 6 years. After XO there are many, many more complex labels attached to the stuff, but that is for another blog…

Both the Hennessy XO and Rémy Martin XO will cost you somewhere in the range of $120-200, and for most of us that is the fanciest we are ever gonna get. But $200 for a bottle of liquor is pretty damn fancy, if you ask us.

Honestly? We tend to think that buying a bottle of Cognac is a bit of a waste. Instead, we suggest that on certain very special occasions when you happen to be celebrating something and treating yourself to a fancy meal out, you purchase yourself a glass at the end of the evening. Because really? One glass of Cognac is all you need to keep you going for quite a long while…


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