It used to be that cognac was made pretty much all the same by big-named négociants—Courvoisier, Hennessy, Martell and Remy Martin—that blended the products of vineyard distilleries all over the French region. Not anymore. While all cognac remains a spirit made by twice-distilling the wine of certain white grapes and then cask-aging and blending the resulting eau de vies, the commonality stops there.
Today, cognac has diversified, as producers large and small experiment with production methods, yielding a multiplicity of fascinating flavors and styles. Single-cru, bourbon-barrel-aged, estate-bottled, made with rare grapes and from unique terroirs, eschewing the traditional additives—you name it. more
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From a large farmstead producer in Cognac’s top growing region—the Grande Champagne cru—this single-estate spirit is aged for six years, three times longer than required for Very Special cognac. That time in the barrel yields a pale-hued yet smooth sip with a touch of spice and ample fruit, especially banana. It makes a great mixer. At Tom Colicchio’s Temple Court in New York, it’s used with Suze, Benedictine and dry vermouth in a John McComb cocktail.
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Dating to 1619, Cognac’s oldest house is still one of the smallest, and their methods are among the most rustic. The 15th-generation distiller Pierre Goursat Gourry stokes the wood-fired still to make this potent spirit, which is bottled unfiltered at a high 55-percent alcohol. It’s got notes of butterscotch, grass and a big bouquet of wildflowers, and at Brooklyn’s Sauvage, they’ve found it works awfully well in a classic Stinger.