One of my favorite nightcaps is brandy — especially during the winters. Although, what I am actually drinking is a Cognac. Technically speaking, there are a couple of differences between a Cognac and a brandy. Follow along, to learn what they are.
Cognac vs. Brandy
Difference 1: Location
This one might be a little obvious, but the primary difference between the two here is that for a brandy to be coined as a Cognac, it has to be made in the Cognac region of France. Whereas, brandy, in general, can be made anywhere in the world.
Difference 2: Price
All things being the same, Cognac can be more expensive than a brandy. Why? Because factors such as time, region, quality, and the distillation processes are more nuanced than a regular brandy. As an example, using high-end barrels is extremely important for a well-defined Cognac, and Cognac barrels cannot be called as such if any other liquor was used before. For instance, according to Cognac Expert Blog, if you take a bourbon barrel, and then try to age Cognac inside of that, it cannot earn the name designation. On the other hand, other liquors can be aged inside a barrel even though a different one was in it before.
Difference 3: Classification & Grape Varieties
All Cognacs can be referred to as a brandy; however, the opposite is not true. Further, as it relates to grape types, cognacs can only use Ugni Blanc, Colombard, or Folle Blanche.
Other Interesting Notes About Cognac
- All Cognacs are blends. However, before it can be officially called a Cognac/a.k.a before it’s blended, it’s referred to as “eaux de vie.” An interesting tidbit about Hennessy is that the tasting committee samples 40 different eaux de vie.
- Most Cognacs will usually have one of the three (below) age level designations.
- VS (Very Special): If you see these two letters on a bottle of a Cognac, it would mean that it’s aged for at least two years.
- VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale), refers to a Cognac that’s aged for a minimum of 4 years.
- XO (Extra Old): Having this designation on a bottle indicates that the Cognac is aged for at least 6 years.
- A Cognac will typically undergo at least two rounds of distillation — that need to be completed between October 1st – March 31st.
Also, in most instances, the higher the aging, the more expensive the Cognac will be.
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In everyday usage, one may not necessarily know of the differences between a cognac and a brandy; nevertheless, they differ in delicate ways. Commonly speaking, Cognacs may be considered a bit higher on the sophistication spectrum.
If nothing made sense in this post, just remember that a Cognac can only be called as such, if it originates from that region in France.