All Cognac is brandy, but not every brandy is Cognac. In this article we will examine what are the differences between the two popular types of brandy – Cognac and Armagnac.
Cognac is a type of brandy, produced exactly the same way as all other brandies.
However, there are special French requirements for a true Cognac. A manufacturer of Cognac has to use certain sorts of grapes, then has to distill them twice and age them for a minimum of two years in French oak barrels, using oaks specifically from Limousin or Tronçais forests. Also they have to get a permit from the French Government that allows them to produce Cognac.
Armagnac is similar to Cognac in all ways, but this variety of brandy is produced in the Armagnac region in Gascony, in south-west France. Armagnac was one of the first types of brandy to be produced in France, and the Armagnac region is famous for distilling spirits.
Labels of both Cognac and Armagnac
If you go shopping for a Cognac or Armagnac in the liquor store, you can be bewildered by all the term signs on bottles- VS, VSOP, XO, Napoleon, etc. These labels are distinct for the age of the brandy. The bare minimum for either Cognac or Armagnac is two years and it qualifies for VS, which stands for Very Special label.
VSOP stands for Very Special Old Pale. It is aged a minimum of four years.
XO denotes eXtra Old. This type of brandy must age at least for six years, but in practice XOs are usually aged up to twenty years.
Napoleon denotes the brandy that falls roughly between VSOP and XO varieties.
Hors d’ Age, which translates to ”beyond age“ is reserved for the most expensive and oldest Cognacs and Armagnacs on the market.
All these terms are assigned by the special French agency called Le Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC).
The general rule is – the older the vintage, the better the taste. But this rule doesn’t mean that VS and VSOPs cognacs and Armagnacs are not tasty.
|Is brewed in the province of Cognac, France||Is brewed in the province of Armagnac, France|
|Is distilled in pot stills||Is distilled in column stills|
|Less fragrant||More fragrant|
|The overall volume of production is bigger||The overall volume of production is smaller|
|Is more known worldwide||Is less known outside Europe|
|Cognac production is dominated by big-name brands||Armagnac production is dominated by smaller brands|
|Grapes used in production include Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche and Colombard grapes||Grapes used in production include Baco 22, Colombard, Old Blanche and Ugni Blanc|
- In manufacturing Cognac, the entire process, growing grapes, fermentation, distillation, aging and bottling all takes place in the province of Cognac, France. On the other hand, in the case of Armagnac, all the production processes take place in Armagnac, France.
- The stills used in the distillation process for Cognac and Armagnac are different. Cognac is distilled in pot stills; on the other hand, Armagnac is distilled in column stills.
- Cognac has a less flavored taste than Armagnac and is also less fragrant.
- The Cognac region is bigger than the Armagnac one, and this is the reason for the overall volume of Cognac production being bigger than that of Armagnac.
- Cognac is more known worldwide, while Armagnac is popular almost exclusively in Europe.
- Cognac production is dominated by big brands, such as Hennessy, Remy Martin, Martell, Courvoisier, Camus, La Fontaine de La Pouyade. On the other hand, Armagnac brands are of relatively smaller size. Among the notable Armagnac manufacturers are Castarède, Dupeyron, Clos Martin, Pellehaut, Janneau , Marquis de Montesquiou.
- To set up a distillery in the Cognac region of France, under French law, you have to use at least ninety percent Ugni blanc, Folle blanche and Colombard grapes. The other ten percent of the grapes are supposed to include Folignan, Jurancon blanc, Blanc Rame, Select, Monyils or Semilion. On the other hand, the grapes used in the production of Armagnac include: Baco 22, Colombard, Old blanche and Ugni blanc varieties.
In this video you can see the showcase that explains the differences between Cognac and Armagnac: