Many centuries ago, a man discovered such a stupefying, strong and at the same time so mild alcoholic beverage, like the famous cognac. Ninety people out of a hundred must have tried cognac at least once in their lives. But few people think about what this drink is, so to speak, “from the inside,” what “tricks” masters of cognac work in using to create the most perfect of all alcoholic beverages.
Let’s slightly lift the veil over this mystery. Undoubtedly, the best French cognac masters pay special attention to the distillation process. This is a special process that needs to be carried out as qualitatively as possible, since it is the basis of the entire production. Distillation is carried out strictly within a certain zone, otherwise the brandy will lose the right to appellation (in fact, it is a quality guarantee). The main feature of cognac is that masters carry out distillation two times. The first distillation is immediately followed by the second. There are many legends associated with the invention of double distillation. But, according to experts, they all remain just fictions. In fact, everything is very simple: the alcohol after the first distillation has a fortress of about 30 degrees and a bad taste, it is called “bruy”. After the second distillation, a distillate is obtained with a strength of about 70 degrees, which retains the best aromatic properties in a concentrated form.
The conventional distillation tank is the so-called Charente alambic, with a capacity of not more than 30 hectoliters and made of copper. Copper has two important properties: firstly, it conducts heat evenly, and secondly, it is resistant to oxidation. Alambik consists of a brick cube, where a copper vat with wine is placed. There is also a stove. Above the cube is an onion-shaped helmet, just as vapors accumulate in it and circulate in a circle, turning into liquid and evaporating anew. A pipe called “swan neck” departs from the helmet. According to it, the steam enters the cooling coil and comes out already in liquid form. Often a preheater is used between the refrigerator and the outlet tube used to save fuel. But many cognac houses prefer not to save and not to use it, believing that wine may oxidize in it.
The distillation process is a delicate process. And at the exit, spirits control not only alcohol meters, but also the winemaker’s nose directly.
At the second stage of distillation, some volatile substances are separated from others. First, cut off the “head” (initial shoulder strap), then comes the middle shoulder strap (“heart”), which is intended for aging. This alcohol has a strength of 69 – 72%. The distillation process is completed when a liquid comes out of alambika with an alcohol content of 58-60%. Sometimes the distillation is carried out together with the yeast sediment. In this case, alcohols get special taste and aroma, but this is a rather laborious process that requires special attention of masters of cognac work. According to general estimates, 3,000 alambics are officially registered in Cognac, half of which belong to large cognac houses, the rest are owned by smaller houses and owned by distillers alone. One can guess that the smaller the alambik of the cognac house, the easier it is for the masters to keep track of the distillation process, that is, as a result, the quality of the products obtained will be higher.
So, thanks to the skillfully coordinated process of distillation, thanks to the scrupulousness of the masters, often excessive, people all over the world do not cease to enjoy and be amazed by the unusual, profound, sophisticated, sophisticated and unique drink. The name that “Cognac”!