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Cognac?

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Re: Cognac?

by Hoke » Sat Nov 23, 2013 1:35 pm

Hello, Timo, and my welcome to these pages as well.

is it really that widespread, and is it so even in the high-end prestige bottlings?


I'll attempt to reply to your question as best I can (while realizing my limitations).

Yes, the practice is widespread, but also distinguished by the differentiation between adding allowable caramel coloring for consistency and allowing both boisee and caramel/sugar flavoring.

If it is written into the regs, you can assume that it is widespread...and it is.

Producers can...and most certainly do...opt out of using any additives in cognac...hence the "pale and dry" designations to signify that.

Most cognacs don't stay in new oak barrels for longer than about a year before being transferred to older and less active barrels, because the cognacaise want to limit the amount of aggressiveness and impact of new oak.

The 'high end' cognacs can have the additives, yes. I would suspect that many of them don't; or that at the higher quality end there is less use of additive than at the bottom end/high volume segment...but I have no way whatsoever of gauging that.

I generally think that most of the VS grade stuff is usually rife with additives (and whenever I see a really dark mahogany-red color or deep browns, I assume that 's the additives) but that the really elevated stuff is more likely to be natural and additive-free. But I don't know.

I do know that some of the select, small houses, such as Leopold Gourmel, make a point of saying they do not use additives. But I'd also say the only time you can assume additives aren't used is when it says so on the label or in the accompanying material.

And of course, if a chemical analysis tells us so. :D

At one time I would have taken this moment to proclaim how precious and pure bourbon whiskey was---but I can't even do that any more, what with the Maker's Mark 46 and such,with the use of toasted oak stave immersion to "flavor" the whiskey. Additives is additves, sez I. The only difference is how you get them into the product. :D

By the way: I can access the English-language version of ALKO. But I can't figure out yet how to find the sugar listings you guys speak of. Can you tell me how to do that?
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Re: Cognac?

by Timo Olavi » Sat Nov 23, 2013 5:54 pm

Hoke wrote:Hello, Timo, and my welcome to these pages as well.

thanks! and thanks for the reply as well!

Hoke wrote:Most cognacs don't stay in new oak barrels for longer than about a year before being transferred to older and less active barrels, because the cognacaise want to limit the amount of aggressiveness and impact of new oak.

that's what i thought. would that also mean that most of the spirit's character comes from the slow oxidation rather than oak?

Hoke wrote:But I'd also say the only time you can assume additives aren't used is when it says so on the label or in the accompanying material.

And of course, if a chemical analysis tells us so. :D

At one time I would have taken this moment to proclaim how precious and pure bourbon whiskey was---but I can't even do that any more, what with the Maker's Mark 46 and such,with the use of toasted oak stave immersion to "flavor" the whiskey. Additives is additves, sez I. The only difference is how you get them into the product. :D

:D

i used to be of the 'deeper colour is older and older is better' mindset but now that i have more knowledge on the matter i find myself preferring the lighter coloured ones. funny how that goes, it's not that i'm inherently biased against additives but they do occasionally give me a feeling of inauthenticity (which is likely then further amplified by the placebo effect). and the sugar issue isn't really an issue, i just prefer the ones with less sugar :lol:

Hoke wrote:By the way: I can access the English-language version of ALKO. But I can't figure out yet how to find the sugar listings you guys speak of. Can you tell me how to do that?

"On alko.fi we only feature products whose maximum alcohol content is 22%.

This is due to Section 33 of the Alcohol Act, which prohibits advertising, indirect advertising or other sales promotion activity of strong alcoholic beverages, such as vodka, cognac, whisky or rum."

the higher abv% products are listed on a printed catalog freely available from any Alko store, which is the one we've been referring to. the lower abv% products are listed on the webpage, and most wines will have listings for total (residual/added) sugars, total acidity and extract (which i guess is dry extract + total sugars) all in g/L, as well as abv% on their individual product page.
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Re: Cognac?

by Hoke » Sat Nov 23, 2013 6:21 pm

Timo: yes, in general, it's one year in new oak, then in older oak, and slow oxidative aging. I wouldn't say "oxidative rather than oak" though; more like a careful balance of the two effects of oxidation and oak. Then, at roughly ten years or more, depending on the way the cognac is developing and what the cellarmaster/blender's expectations are, the cognac can be transferred to demi-johns for more or less "stasis holding" and later blending.

Once the final blend is determined, the cognac is put in larger casks and a process called 'vin faible' is done, where small amounts of water are gently and slowly trickled in to the cask to bring the cognac to preferred proof. Must be done slowly to keep from shocking the spirits and creating distinct soapy characteristics (trust me; it happens).

And additives, of course, if used.

The newest trend is to have both riverside cellars (cool and damp and humid) and hill top cellars (dry and warm and aerated) to provide more variability in the blend from each batch. Also, many cognacs now go through a preliminary "flash micro distillation" process so the cellar masters have a good idea of what the style of the distillation will be prior to full distillation, so they can plan accordingly.

i used to be of the 'deeper colour is older and older is better' mindset but now that i have more knowledge on the matter i find myself preferring the lighter coloured ones.
Yeah, I went through that arc as well. :D I think we all do. That and the "don't confuse age with maturity" thing. :wink:

Agree on the sugar. Extra sugar and boisee/tannin soup can only obscure the delicacies of a really fine eau-de-vie, not enhance it.
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Re: Cognac?

by Timo Olavi » Sat Nov 23, 2013 6:57 pm

Hoke wrote:That and the "don't confuse age with maturity" thing. :wink:

a-ha! :)

all that meticulous work and then using additives. i just can't fathom the disconnect.

still, the next time i look at the price of cognacs, perhaps i won't complain knowing the staggering effort that goes into creating them. if i do end up buying one, i will not promise though that i won't grumble a few words about the additives. :lol:
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Re: Cognac?

by Otto » Sat May 31, 2014 7:33 pm

Thread re-resurrection alert! :D

I'm still occasionally trying beverages other than wine and beer and tea. And I now tried a Cognac after a long break: Raymond Ragnaud Grande Champagne Millésime 1994 (mise en bouteille 3 mars 2014). So c.20yo Cognac if I'm not mistaken. 8 g/l sugar. This is quite nice though still not so nice that I would suddenly start collecting Cognacs. But it smells like a basket of dried fruit. The word after Grande makes sense on another level, too, since it bears a striking resemblance aromatically to an aged nv Krug that I was once lucky to get a taste of. Grand Champagne, indeed. I'm having trouble tasting past the alcohol (41%) - and I guess this is the biggest issue I have with Cognac. Whiskies can be watered so I find them easier to taste. But though on the lower end of the scale when it comes to Cognacs available to us and sugar, it still tastes very sweet. But the aftertaste is again a very nice dried fruit flavours.
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Re: Cognac?

by Hoke » Sat May 31, 2014 8:11 pm

Always room for another cognac, Otto!

And this is one I have not yet tried, so thanks for the notes.

The dried fruits is rancio. It's the slow breakdown of fatty acids under the long aging process. Intense notes of dried fruit is one of the characteristics.

Just about a month now and I'll be in Cognac again. Yay! (And hope to make it to Armagnac this time.)
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