What is the difference between Cognac & Brandy?

Is Cognac just the same as brandy?

The literal definition of brandy is: any distilled spirit that is made from fruit juice (apples, pears, grapes). And yes, Cognac is also a distilled spirit made from fruit juice (so it actually is a type of brandy), however its the regulations around the making of the Cognac that make it distinctive.  Lets look into it in more detail…

Where do they come from?

Where brandy can be made anywhere in the world, Cognac can ONLY be made in a certain region in South-Western France, in the small grape-growing region surrounding the town of Cognac (about a 3-hour train ride from Paris and just north of the world-renowned wine region of Bordeaux). The more premium Cognac’s are from the Grande Champagne or Petite Champagne sub-regions, while the Borderies, and Fin Bois are sill considered to produce very high quality.

What are they made from?

Brandy can technically be made with any fruit juice (although it is mostly made with some sort of grapes). Cognac must be made up of a minimum of 90% of little known varietals  Folle Blanche, Colombard &  Ugni Blanc. with up to 10% of varying other grape varieties being allowed.

What is the distillation process?

Brandy can be distilled using any distillation process (most commonly it is a continuous method). Cognac however, has severe regulations around distillation: it must be double-distilled, a far superior and more expensive method that results in a highly alcoholic and very pure spirit. And it must be distilled in copper. What difference does this made? Think of the difference between cooking potatoes in boiling water, or frying them in butter… copper adds flavour that simply can’t be replicated!

What is the ageing process?

Brandy can be aged in any style of oak casks, and while in some countries (ie France) classify it in the same age scale as Cognac, some countries do not have the same regulations. Cognac is always aged in Limousine or Tronçais oak casks.

VS (Very Special) 2+ years

VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) 4+ years

XO (Extra Old) 10+ years

Essentially:  Cognac is to brandy what Champagne is to sparkling wine… Similar in so many ways, yet made in one location in a superior fashion, resulting in an exclusively French premium product (that can also fetch much higher prices!). 

 

About Grand Breuil…

Grand Breuil is exclusive to Vendimia in Australia, carefully selected by the Vendimia tasting panel from many of the Cognac houses for its superior quality but great affordability compared to the 4 big brands (think Martell, Rémy Martin, Hennessy and Courvoisier).

For cognac-makers and siblings Lilian & Jerome Tessendier, the art of crafting Grand Breuil cognac is to turn time into an ally. Having learnt the art of distillation through experience, passion and history, this pair are said to have noses like none other in the Cognac world! Fruity, floral and woody scents give their cognac prestige and nobility. As well as flavour and aroma, the very history of the prestigious Grand Breuil cognac is unveiled at each tasting occasion.

 

FUN FACT: When the distillation process is finished, the Cognac comes out as a clear spirit (like Vodka) and has 70% alcohol. The ageing in oak barrels gives it the colour & the alcohol percentage is actually watered down to the standard 40% using highly sophisticated blending techniques.

The actual difference between single-malt & blended Scotch whiskey

Did you know that while whiskey is one of the world’s most common alcoholic drinks, it originates from one of the world’s smallest regions?

True ‘Scotch Whiskey’ refers only to a whiskey made in Scotland, and even there, to claim that title it must have been aged for a minimum of three years in oak!

And while many don’t understand the actual differences, single-malt Scotch Whiskey is considered the most prestigious (and therefore often the most expensive) ‘Scotch Whiskey’ option and preferred tipple-of-choice for the true whiskey aficionado.

So does it really matter that much? Well, that depends on what you are looking for in your whiskey. So let’s take a little time to explore what defines a single-malt or blended whiskey, and why a single-malt demands its higher price and has a more coveted reputation than its blended cousin — made in Scotland or otherwise.

In essence: if a bottle contains only malt whiskey from only one distillery, it is a ‘single-malt.’ But if a bottle has malt and grain whiskeys from different distilleries, it is known as a blended whiskey. That’s the simple explanation.

What is a malt whiskey?

Made from 100% malted (ground) barley, malt whiskey is twice distilled. The first distillation process is an old fashioned boiling-off of the liquid to remove impurities, and results in a liquid with around 20% alcohol. The second distillation occurs in a spirits still to ensure the product of a premium quality product. The alcohol content at the completion of this process is 60-75%. (Yes, it is then diluted, but taking the alcohol content to this level initially is one of the reasons why malt whiskeys are considered superior).

What is a grain whiskey?

A grain whiskey can be made from any single grain or a combination of barley, wheat, corn or rye grains. The grain whiskey label therefore tends to cover a more diverse range of products, such as straight rye or bourbon. Grain whiskeys are also single-distilled, skipping the old-fashioned first-boiling method. Instead, they are distilled directly in a spirits still and are only taken to the point of achieving the desired alcohol content.

Which is better?

As you can see, malt whiskey is more localised, focussed, refined and (many would say) superior product, made from only one type of grain & twice distilled, while grain whiskey can be made from a range of grains from different origins and its single distillation process creates less complexity and intensity of flavour.

Although a single-malt whiskey is probably the more traditional ‘Scotch,’ it commonly has stronger flavours from the malt (like tobacco, smoke, sour cherries, wood, leather or citrus) that are not exactly ‘easy-drinking’ for many people. And even blended Scotch malt whiskeys can vary dramatically in flavour from different growing regions, different grains, different distilleries and different recipes.

On the other hand, blended whiskey from a range of malt & grains can brings more of the rounder, smoother, sweeter flavours of the various grains to the palate (honey, vanilla, lighter oak, raisins) making these blended whiskeys often a more consumable drink.

So in the end it really comes down to personal preference! So why not do the comparison: check out the Glenfiddich Single-Malt Scotch Whiskey & Johnnie Walker Gold Label Blended Scotch in our store side by side, and decide which one best suits your tastes best.