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Is There A Difference Between Cognac & Armagnac?

Let’s begin with the basics here to keep things simple.

So, what kind of liquor is Cognac and what about Armagnac?

In a lay language, cognac and Armagnac are like first cousins, they are similar yet different! They both are French brandies distilled from wine, but they differ vastly in terms of variety of grapes used & distillation process.

Moving on to cognac and brandy, it wouldn’t be incorrect to say that all cognacs are brandy but not all brandy is Cognac. To explain it further, brandy is a liquor which is made by distillation of grapes whereas, cognac has to fulfil a certain set of strict parameters for it to be called so. Cognac is a particular form of brandy which is produced specifically in Cognac town of south-western France and it requires to .follow certain stringent legal criterion vis-à-vis naming and production method. In this way, it reminds us to share a similar example of Champagne and sparkling wine, you can read about it here.

Variety of Grapes

Cognac uses 97% of  Ugni Blah grapes which are high in acidity content. Armagnac in addition to Ugni Blah grape variety (55%)also uses three additional varieties of grapes, namely Folle Blanche (5%), of Colombard (5%) and Baco Blanc (35%) grape varieties.

Baco Blanc in Armagnac is a hybrid variety of American Noa & Folle Blanche grape varieties, which is absent in Cognac.

The white wine from which Cognac is made is highly acidic, making it almost undrinkable. However, the produced wine in Armagnac tastes pleasant.

Climate

Climate, temperature & soil variety play a significant role in deciding the grape varieties which grow in a particular region.

The climate in both regions of Cognac and Armagnac differ significantly. By and large, Armagnac experiences moderate-continental climate with dry summers & comparatively harsher winters.

Distillation

The difference in the distillation process significantly affects the end product.

While Armagnac goes through a single distillation in continuous Armagnac pot still (or column still), Cognac goes through double distillation in pot stills (Charentais pot still).

Aging

Following the distillation process, these brandies are then left to age in the barrels. The minimum aging process of Cognac is two years whereas Armagnac can be aged for a minimum period of one year.

As per Cognac regulations, only French oak barrels are permitted for the aging process. Armagnac is left to age in 400-litres oak barrels mostly from the forests of Gascony or Limousin.

To conclude, although the average production of Armagnac is lesser than that of Cognac, the superiority of one brandy over the other cannot be established. While Armagnac is more robust than Cognac, both the brandies are bold spirits with great aromatic richness,  and these are served at room temperature. While Cognac is the vivacious globe-trotting brandy, Armagnac remains low-key!

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