What happened before – brandy or armagnac?
The very first and, perhaps, the most obvious difference between Armanka and brandy lies in historical factors, that is, in the origin of these two drinks. Today it is for certain that everyone’s favorite brandy, or rather, the first distillate, created in the region of Cognac and in its properties resembling a modern drink, was obtained in the XVI century. Since then, cognac and began its victorious procession in the countries of the whole “drinking” world. However, astute historians and archaeologists literally unearthed irrefutable evidence that the first drink, similar to Armagnac, was made much earlier, namely in the XV century. In Gascony, scientists have found some items similar to the equipment for the distillation of alcohols, as well as a document dated 1411 that told about the first Armagnac distillate obtained by some Gascon Antoine with the help of a special, but rather primitive “equipment” – press, barrels and t By simple mathematical calculations, one can find out that Armagnac cannot be a “younger brother” of brandy, since it is older than him by as much as 100 years with a tail. That’s the first difference from brandy Armanka.
In addition, the difference between cognac and armagnac lies in the fact that fame came to these two drinks at different times, and cognac was ahead of its “brother” in this regard. Today, all the winemakers of France, with a trembling voice, talk about the tragic time when the phylloxera epidemic raged in the vineyards. Moreover, the malicious louse came to Gascony a little later than to Charente, namely in 1890. While Gascons were beating their strength, restoring their vineyards, brandy producers managed to significantly outrun them. By that time, when the production of Armagnac was halved, his Majesty Cognac was already dominating in all of France, and in the world. Of course, he did not intend to concede his royal throne, therefore the Gascon drink had to re-punch itself through first a narrow, and then a wider path to the hearts of consumers. That is why the French say that Armagnac is at the same time the youngest and oldest drink, and very often it is given the title of “younger brother” of brandy, despite its so respectable age.
Now I propose to take a look at what makes cognac different from Armagnac in terms of the production of these two drinks. The production differences of these alcoholic beverages are perhaps the most significant, since it is at the stage of its creation that a particular product receives special, characteristic features only and distinctive features.
The difference between Armagnac and cognac can be seen at each of the stages of production, starting with the extraction of raw materials, that is, grapes, and ending with the aging of alcohols. Without going into a detailed description of the grape varieties, I would say that to create brandy and Armagnac manufacturers use different varieties of this crop. As they say, what’s good for brandy is not very good for Armanka, and vice versa. However, there are some universal varieties of culture, which are equally used by both armagnac and cognac masters. Among these “wagons” Colombar, Ugni Blanc and Fol Blanche, which can give amazing spirits for both brandy and Armagnac.
After the harvest, the stage of the distillation of the grape wine begins, at which one of the main differences between the two considered drinks is also manifested. In the process of preparing cognac spirits, the masters use the traditional Charentaic still cube, known as alambik, in which the liquid undergoes distillation in two stages. Copper alambik has an interesting shape, resembling the shape of a bulb or the shape of an inverted cognac glass. The apparatus for the distillation of Armagnac alcohols is the so-called “Large organ”, which is a continuous cycle column. In this column, which by the principle of operation resembles a narrow-gauge steam locomotive, alcohols are subjected to single continuous distillation. Agree, a significant difference!
Go ahead and again we face a fundamental difference between brandy and Armagnac, which manifests itself at the stage of aging of alcohols. First of all, I will say that in this matter, according to historical data, brandy producers have “surpassed” Armagnac masters. When the ancient cognac masters experienced not the most successful period, and some stagnation was clearly indicated in their affairs, the cognac remained in oak barrels and spent there for quite a long time. When the masters finally decided to try it, the difference was obvious – the drink was strangely transformed and became even more beautiful. But Armagnac manufacturers have already “copied” this method of exposure from their main competitors in order to survive after the collapse – the phylloxera epidemics – and at least somehow restore the authority of their product. However, these are just the assumptions of historians, and unfortunately no one has reliable information. Nevertheless, today both oak and armagnac are kept in oak barrels.