The world’s two most widely consumed distilled spirits are whisky and cognac, respectively. Both are renowned for the aging processes that give them their distinctively complex and nuanced flavors. Sure, but what are bourbon and Cognac, exactly? What separates them, if anything? What’s the verdict on flavor? How similar are their constructions?
Not being a distilling expert yourself can make it difficult to know where to go for help. That’s why we compiled everything you need to know in one convenient place. Everything you need to know about bourbon and Cognac is right here.
What Is Cognac?
The brandy known as “Cognac” originates in the Cognac area of France. Cognac, like Champagne, is both a region of France and a well-known alcoholic drink.
Since the 1600s, when French vintners first began to experiment with distilling their wines, Cognac has been enjoyed worldwide. There are just four main Cognac producers today, and they are all French, with the most renowned having been in operation continuously since the early 1700s.
Who Makes Cognac, and How?
Cognac is created uniquely compared to other spirits like whisky. From grape to bottle, this is a quick look at the Cognac production process.
First, You Must Make Wine
Making excellent wine is the first step in creating a world-class Cognac. However, wine intended for consumption and wine used in the production of Cognac are two entirely different things. The ideal Cognac wine would have a low alcohol content of around 9% and a high acidity level. Distillation couldn’t be easier than with this setup.
The wine can be distilled after it has been squeezed from the grapes and allowed to ferment. Distillation is a method used to refine liquids and elevate their alcoholic strength by evaporating and condensing them.
Cognac is distilled in a pot instead of a column still. After the wine has been pressed and fermented, it is cooked in a pot. Since the boiling point of alcohol is lower than that of water, it will boil before the wine does. The glasses are returned to a liquid state by releasing alcohol vapors, which are then condensed in a pot. Cognac requires a second distillation because the previous one did not produce a high enough proof.
Process of Ageing
After two distillations, the spirit is ready for aging. The alcohol’s aging is responsible for most of Cognac’s flavors and all of its hues as it develops.
To earn the name “Cognac,” a libation must be matured in French oak barrels for at least two years. The legal categorization and labeling of a Cognac will change depending on how long it was matured. A lot of Cognacs, nevertheless, has been matured for a lot longer than two years. An adage goes something like this: “If you can’t say something nice about someone, say something about their dog.”
The Blending Process
For a Cognac distiller, the blending process is the pinnacle of artistic expression. Once the Cognac has aged to perfection, it must be blended barrel by barrel to ensure a uniform flavor.
Cognac distillers spend decades perfecting their ability to taste and mix different Cognacs to achieve a uniform flavor and consistency. The final flavor of a bottle of Cognac depends on the care taken throughout the blending procedure.
Cooling and Bottling
When the distiller is satisfied with the final blend, the Cognac is bottled and ready to be savored.
What Is Bourbon?
Bourbon whisky is a sort of liquor that got its start in the town of the same name in Kentucky. Corn, wheat, barley, and rye are the cereal grains used to make whisky, a distilled liquor. It is common practice to let this spirit rest in barrels for a while before bottling.
Since bourbon is a distinctly American spirit, it can only be legally labeled as such if it is produced in the United States. A minimum of 51% corn must be used in the mash bill when producing bourbon. The remaining 49% can be manufactured from any number of cereals, however, the most common ones are wheat, barley, and rye.
Why is Bourbon Different From Cognac?
So that you can understand clearly where the two spirits diverge, we’ll review the distinctions between bourbon and Cognac. Cognac, on the other hand, is created entirely from wine grapes, while bourbon only uses 51% maize and 49% other grains.
Both Bourbon and Cognac are distilled spirits, although their processes are rather different. Cognac is made using a double pot still, while bourbon is made in a column still.
Both bourbon and Cognac are required to age for at least two years, although the barrel types used for each are different. It is required that Cognac be matured in French oak barrels, while bourbon is aged in new, charred wood barrels.
As the saying goes, “If you can’t beat them, join them,” and it seems that the people of the Champagne region have mastered the art of doing just that. On the other hand, bourbon can only be legally produced within the United States.
Ultimately, bourbon and Cognac have distinctively different tastes. When compared to Cognac, which has a fruitier palate and the oaky flavors from the barrel aging process, bourbon is warmer and more comforting due to the presence of vanilla and caramel.
In What Ways Are They Alike?
- Bourbon and Cognac are two examples of distilled spirits, which are alcoholic beverages that have been refined and fortified through the distillation process.
- A minimum of two years is spent aging both Cognac and bourbon in oak barrels.
- The two are similar only in that respect. Cognac and bourbon may look identical, but their origin stories are extremely different. Although they share certain common steps in their production, the outcomes are vastly different.
What We Know About Bourbon and Cognac
The two most well-known types of distilled spirits are Bourbon and Cognac. More divergences exist between the two than commonalities do. While grapes are used to make wine, cereal grains are used to make Bourbon. Both Cognac and bourbon are distilled, however, Cognac uses a pot still and bourbon uses a column still.
Bourbon and Cognac are both aged for at least two years, however, whereas Cognac must be aged in barrels made from French oak, bourbon can be aged in either new or charred oak. Neither of these liquors is a bad choice, but they should be treated separately. It’ll be a fun collision of styles.