Stump Your Friends with These Little-Known Facts About Cognac

Cognac, named after Cognac town in France, is a popular drink considered one of the finest spirits. Studies show that Cognac’s market has been steadily rising over the past five years, and this trend will continue, indicating that more people are partaking in this fine drink. Here are some little-known facts about Cognac you probably didn’t know but should know.

Cognac is the premium version of brandy.

Cognac is a variety of distilled wine or brandy produced in a region spanning 20000 acres around Cognac town on Frances coast. All types of Cognac are brandy; however, not all brandy is Cognac. The difference arises in the production process; that’s highly complicated.

There are six particular Cognac-making regions.

Cognac authorities in France split the production zones into six categories depending on their terroir. The classification starts from the top-quality zones, which have rich, chalky limestone soil that retains a lot of moisture and reflects adequate amounts of sunlight on the grapes. This is followed by zones with lots of sandy or clay soil as they retain little water, producing the least amount of grapes or altering their taste.

These zones are:

  • Grand Champagne
  • Petit Champagne
  • Borderies
  • Fins Bois
  • Bons Bois
  • Bois Ordinaires

All Cognacs in the market are produced from varying eaux-de-vie (distilled spirits with varying ages) from these regions to achieve a full flavor.

Cognac production has stringent rules. 

Other little-known facts about Cognac are the rules. For example, distillers can only produce Cognac from a combination or one of three kinds of grapes; Colombard, Folle Blanch, and Ugni Blanc.

According to Appellation d’origine Controlee (A French quality assurance agency), producers should only source grapes from the six zones in Cognac. The drink should be distilled two times in copper pot stills of a specific configuration and size (which applies to most distilled spirits).

Additionally, the brandy should be placed in French oak barrels and allowed to age for a minimum of two years. Delos Reyes, a Moet Hennessy mixology ambassador, explains that unlike other grain spirits produced throughout the year, you can only make Cognac at a specific time.

Farmers start harvesting the grapes from September up to October. They then turn it into wine immediately. Once that’s complete, distillation follows, which begins in November to March. The distiller then stores the spirit inside French oak barrels (Troncais or Limousin) and lets it mature for two years. After two years comes the most crucial step of blending, performed by master blenders, and the result is a tasty Cognac.

There are three major classifications of Cognac.

Vs, full name Very Special- refers to Cognac aged for a minimum of two years. Do note that Cognacs with three-star marks belong in the Vs category. VSOP, full name Very Superior Old Pale- refers to Cognac aged no less than four years. X.O., full name Extra Old- this is Cognac, aged for six years. However, as of April next year, to be classified as X.O., the spirit will have to age for ten years.

There is an additional classification of Cognac called Hors d’age, which means Beyond age. It’s a term majorly used by distillers to market top-quality products over the usual age scale. Some of them can be up to 40 or 50 years old.

To capture Cognac’s aroma, you should use two types of glasses.

Other little-known facts about cognac involve the glassware with which you drink it. These are; balloon glass or tulip-shaped glass. These glasses are critical in helping you taste and absorb the scent of the whiskey.

The top-selling Cognac Brands in the globe are

  • Hennessy
  • Martel
  • Pierre Ferrand
  • Remy Martin
  • Courvoisier

Cognac doesn’t continue aging. 

Compared to wine, Cognac doesn’t get better with time. However, provided you keep it in a cool, dry, and dark place, it will maintain the same fabulous taste from the day you purchase it until the day you open it.

It goes perfectly with Coke.

More so if it’s a VSOP or VS Cognac. You can mix it with ginger ale, champagne, Coke, and even Moscato. There are too many options you can try out to find what suits you best.

For example, there are two famous cocktails that feature Cognac. The first is “Sidecar,” a combination of simple syrup, Cointreau, Cognac, and lemon juice. The second is “French Connection,” a mixture of Amaretto liquor and Cognac.

Older Cognac has a darker color.

Younger cognacs are usually lighter and have a honeyed appearance. Older cognacs have a deep amber hue due to staying longer in the barrels, plus the tannins from the oak used to make the barrels.

The oldest Cognac is over 252 years old. 

It was bought by Wealth Solutions on 30th April 2014 in New York City at an auction.

Experts state that the bottle first appeared in the 1880s in Lachaise, France, owned by the Donsir Family before being sold by Eric Donsir to the Bonhams Auction. They estimate that manufacturers made the bottle in the 1840s.

Peak Cognac is also known as “Rancio.”

The Portuguese term refers to Cognac, which has reached optimal aroma and flavor levels. There are four Rancio stages, classified according to the Cognac’s age. The oldest stage is for spirits aged 50 years and older.

Cognac was once the most famous spirit.

In the early 1800s, bartenders used Cognac as the primary base spirit. Its complex flavors blend well with juices and fruits making it ideal for cocktails. Most of the cocktails today, from the Sazerc (named after Sazerac de Forge et Fils Cognac) and mint julep, were made courtesy of Cognac. According to many of the older mixology books, the mint julep was previously called whiskey julep.

The Sidecar’s exact origins are unknown.

Experts have long debated the origins of Cognac’s most famous cocktail, the Sidecar. Some reports claim it originated in Paris during the early 1900s. Moet Hennessy representatives argue it was designed in a New York bar by an unknown army captain that enjoyed riding in motorcycle sidecars.

Remy Martin believes a mixologist made it in Hotel Ritz. Of course, we can’t know who is correct, but we can enjoy the drink, which matters.

InterContinental Hong Kong sold the costliest Cognac shot in China.

You can get quality Cognac at all prices, though some are costly. For instance, the Remy Martin Louis XIII will set you back $3000. That price doesn’t come close to the 1858 Cuvee Leonie, which is in the Guinness Books of World Records. It was sold at an auction in China for $156,740 (1000000 Chinese yen)

Not that loved by the French.

Even though the French discovered Cognac and produced it, only about 3% of France citizens enjoy the spirit. A large percentage of the Cognac they make is for the export market.

Cognac was Napoleon’s favorite drink 

You can’t have a little-known facts about Cognac list without tying in the great Napoleon. According to Historians, Napoleon carried several Cognac bottles on his ship while heading to Saint Hellen. The English officers enjoyed the spirit so much that they later called it “Napoleon Brandy.” Napoleon III was also known to drink Courvoisier while attending the imperial court hearings.

It takes lots of wine to make Cognac. 

After distillation, you will need 20 liters of wine to make 2 liters of Cognac, which explains why Cognac only has a 1% share of world spirit production. Also, considering the amount of time and effort it takes to produce 10 liters of Cognac, it makes the spirit sought after and expensive.

The Angels share (La part des anges)

While aging inside the oak barrels, evaporation gradually leads to a reduction in the quantity of alcohol. The amount varies depending on the particular storage conditions. However, distillers estimate it’s an average of 2% a year. The reduction is known locally as “La part des anges” (angles share.) Add that to your little-known facts about Cognac repertoire. 

Cognac pairs well with many foods

You can enjoy your favorite Cognac while eating seafood, cheese, chocolate, or duck.

Lancha T, a top French chef states that pan-fried and grilled shellfish will go well with a V.S. Cognac. He adds that charcuterie and slightly seasoned meat paired with an older Cognac equals a magnificent meal. Furthermore, game meat such as bison, ostrich, moose, and wild boar will go down well with a bottle of X.O. Cognac.

If you like scallops, you’ll be glad to learn that you can partake in them while sipping a young Cognac, preferably a V.S. The Cognac will improve the scallop’s saltiness, giving you a worthwhile experience. Simply put, Cognac is a highly versatile spirit you can take in countless ways. So, you’re free to explore and find how you like it best.

Distillers only use wood from two forests to make Cognac Barrels. 

Cognac distillers only use wood from Limousin and Troncais forests to make oak barrels for storing the spirit. They prefer wood due to its toughness and immense ability to improve the drink’s flavor.

The French accidentally discovered Cognac.

In addition to the other little-known facts about Cognac, here’s one to stump your friends. It was an accidental discovery. In the early seventeenth century, Cognac town in France majorly exported salt and wine to Dutch and English. To protect the spirit quality in transit, the vintners distilled and then stored it inside oak barrels; it was thus called “burnt wine.”

Later, they discovered that the spirit flavor improved over time, and Cognac was born. Chevalier de la Croix Marrons was the first person to follow this process.

Some distilleries blend various Cognac vintages to achieve a robust flavor. 

A Cognacs distiller’s primary aim is to obtain a consistent taste. Therefore, most also employ professional tasters to ensure that the spirit has an exquisitely balanced state. 

In 2009, a group of expert distillers, wine connoisseurs, and journalists converged to create a Cognac flavor wheel. Each of the fifty people present tasted 100 Cognacs and used 5000 tasting notes to complete the flavor wheel. 

What does this show? For Cognac producers to come up with a similar flavor profile every year is impressive.

The most expensive Cognac bottle costs more than 2 million dollars.

The Henri IV Dudognon Heritage Cognac is undoubtedly worth the price. The bottle features 6,500 well-cut diamonds and 24-carat gold and contains premium Cognac aged for more than 100 years in barrels to achieve a 41% alcohol content.

Some more facts:

  • Cognac appellation is the most prominent wine-growing spot on the globe.
  • Cognac must possess a minimum of 40% alcohol content. Alcohol plays a critical role in balancing the spirit’s flavor. Too little or too much alcohol will distort the taste.

It would help if you ideally served Cognac at temperatures ranging between 59°F to 64°F. (15°c– 18 °c). If you the drink when it’s too warm, it will evaporate fast and consequently lose its flavor and taste.


Now you know some little-known facts about Cognac’s history, how it’s made, and how you can enjoy the spirit. You can confidently explore the drink and share the knowledge with your friends while at it. Don’t hesitate to follow Distillery Nearby for more alcohol-related fun facts, history, and unique distillery tours near you. 

Share this article:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.