Cognac: Cooperage
Cognac Cognac Elaboration: Cooperage
Cognac is kept and aged for many years in oak casks. The making of a Cognac cask follows a traditional and ancestral method that is near perfection. Nothing is left to chance from the selection of the oak to the assembly of the casks, in order for Cognac to acquire the best of the oak for many years.
True Perfection
An eau-de-vie only becomes Cognac following slow ageing in oak casks whose wood has been selected because of its natural properties and its ability to transfer them to the spirit. The contact with the wood will give each eau-de-vie its unique colour and bouquet, without which it could not receive the Cognac appellation.
Selecting the Wood
CooperageCognac ages exclusively in oak casks traditionally from the Tronçais and Limousin forests – Quersus pedunculata and Quersus sessiliflora, respectively – depending on the producer and style.
These two varieties of oak were selected because of their hardness, porosity and extractive characteristics.
The Tronçais forest, in Allier, provides softer, finely grained wood, which is particularly porous to alcohol. The Limousin forest produces medium grained wood, harder and even more porous. The tanins in Tronçais oak are famous for their softness, whereas those in Limousin oak are known for the power and balance they communicate to Cognac. An eau-de-vie will extract more tanins when it is aged in casks made with Limousin oak.
Highly Technical
Making the cask where an eau-de-vie is to become Cognac requires performing a series of highly technical tasks that coopers pass on from one generation to another. In their work, they combine their craft and skills with the use of ancestral tools still in use today.
In The Best Casks

Cooperage - Drying the stavesCask making suffers no improvisation. The “merrains” or boards used to make each cask are culled between the heartwood and sapwood of oak trees that are over 100 years old. Then they must be split in order to respect the wood’s grain, and stacked in the open air for about three years where they can lose their sap and the wood’s bitter flavours.

Cooperage: Making of a caskFollowing this long curing period, the boards are shaped into curved staves. The coopers can now start their work.
They hoop the staves over and around a fire made with wood shavings and oak pieces.

Cooperage: Making of a caskThe wood is repeatedly moistened and heated to bend the staves into shape giving out an unforgettable smell of freshly baked bread. How much the wood is charred in this process called “bousinage” – barrel toasting –will strongly influence the characteristics of the eau-de-vie in the cask.

Cooperage: Making of a caskDuring the heating period, a wire rope placed around the base of the cask is progressively tightened in order to bring the staves closer together, and finally join them without any need for nails or glue

After the finishing touches, the cask must pass several solidity and boiling water tests to detect possible leaks. Some coopers sign their “master pieces” to demonstrate their full commitment to their work.