Cognac is not an everyday drink, nor is it one that people associate with West Michigan, but as with every other thing in the world, it has its own day.
June 4 is that day and for that, we celebrate with some of the best cognacs available. Maybe they’re for imbibing today or just a future occasion, but in any case they’re fine sippers indeed.
First, what exactly is cognac?
Cognac is a brandy — distilled wine — made in a region of France, called Cognac, approximately 75 miles north of the famed wine region of Bordeaux. With a deep winemaking tradition dating back to the 13th century, the Dutch introduced distilling to the region in the 16th century and the rest is history.
Cognacs are double distilled and must age on oak at least two years, but often sit much longer.
Cognacs are settled into three designations:
- V.S. — aged at least two years; 50 percent of cognac sold is V.S.
- V.S.O.P. — aged at least four years; 39 percent of cognac sales
- X.O. — at least 10 years old; 11 percent of cognac sold
Cognacs can run from around $20, like the Courvoisier V.S. below, to well over a $1,000. Despite being made in France, the U.S. is the largest market for cognac with more than 82.6 million bottles imported in 2017.
Perhaps the most well-known name in cognac, Courvoisier runs its spirit making process from grape to glass. The Courvoisier V.S. is aged for a minimum of two years, resulting in a young cognac with oaky notes on the nose and tongue, along with fruit.
Distillerie des Moisans is a third-generation distillery in the Cognac region of France and makes this nearly mahogany spirit, aged at least 10 years. The cognac is floral on the nose with walnut and coffee tasting notes.
Dating back to the 18th century, Thomas Hine & Co. is the official supplier of cognac to Queen Elizabeth II. This cognac is aged for a minimum of four years and is loaded with fruit characteristics, like apricot and peach.
One of the last family-owned cognac houses, Delamain hand selects its eau-de-vie, or unaged brandy, from vineyards and growers in the region ensuring specific terroirs and a consistent product. Delamain ages this cognac for a minimum of 10 years, creating floral aromas with a backbone of vanilla before a full flavor of fruit and licorice.
With more than 100 acres of vineyards in Cognac, the Merlet family settled in the area in 1850. Until 2010, it only sold its cognac to other suppliers, but now sells its own brand as well. Merlet V.S.O.P. is aged at least four years and is incredibly peachy.