Understanding the complexity of Cognac Blending

by James Stevenson

One of the best things about working as an influencer in the alcohol industry is the ability to travel to amazing destinations and be able to call it work. We previously traveled to Cognac, France and visited with the BNIC who is the governing body looking over all of the companies to make sure they are following regulations.

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It was such an honor to be able to travel to this famous little city in the southwest of France and visit with all of the wonderful people who carry on a powerful legacy, alongside some who are newer to the game but making a big impact. There are companies who have been producing cognacs the same way as their ancestors and then there are companies who are making a name for themselves by being a little different.

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Of course, there are a lot of regulations and strict guidelines that all companies need to follow as cognac has an appellation that is governed and a board comprised of many companies in the region both big and small who come together to make decisions, which can have a huge impact on the future of the category. There are discussions on a very frequent basis about the current regulations as there is always someone who wants to try something new that is not yet recognized in the charter and therefore must be submitted for approval and accepted by a majority vote much like the Congress.

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This is one of the great things that makes cognac today the exemplary product that it is, with these strict guidelines in place you cannot have cheap imitators who are just in it for the money. Every vineyard and distillery we visited, no matter how large was solely focused on producing the best cognac possible and the financial benefits of having such a product are simply a bonus. Of course it is still a huge market with many different companies and finding the cognac that is right for you also should have nothing to do with the financial side of it, some people are accustomed to different flavor profiles so a VS or VSOP cognac may be the perfect tipple but for some whom may have a more refined palate and really chase those rich, round notes from a cognac with a little more time in the cask can find some great bottles containing delicious XO cognac at reasonable (and sometimes exorbitant) prices.

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These “designations” could be considered more of an age statement but in the world of cognac the very best cellar masters know that not 1 cask can produce a perfectly rounded cognac so what they do is find different casks from the cellars where there can be hundreds of different eau de vie at various stages of aging and bringing them together to form one “perfect” cognac. Once they have combined the eau de vie and balanced all the notes to find their signature flavor the next step is to let it all emulsify for a few months in a big blending vat. This process is what takes the eau de vie and changes them into one cognac, with all the best attributes. A great cellar master, or master blender is able to replicate the same profile year after year with astonishing precision so that every time you purchase their product no matter which year it was bottled it will taste the same.

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