Regulations of the Cognac Controlled Appellation of Origin
Cognac Cognac Elaboration: Ageing
Cognac is a living thing. During its time in oak casks it is in permanent contact with air. This allows extracting the substances from the wood that give it both its color and final bouquet.
The Work of Time
The ageing of CognacThe long work of maturing Cognac, which may at times last decades, is made possible thanks to the wood’s porosity. It allows indirect contact between the spirit in the casks and the air outside. This way, the substances extracted by the Cognac from the wood, known as “dry extracts”, alter the Cognac’s physical appearance, giving it a colour ranging from golden yellow to fiery brown.
With time, the transfer of the natural characteristics of the oak gradually produces «rancio» aromas and develops the bouquet of Cognac.
The ageing of CognacAgeing is essential for an eau-de-vie to be sold as Cognac. It takes place in casks that hold between 270 to 450 litres of spirit.
The natural humidity of the cellars in which the casks are stored, with its influence on evaporation, is one of the determining factors in the ageing process. When humidity, dryness and temperature are in balance, the spirit becomes mellow and ages harmoniously. This evolution in the ageing process is made up of three basic stages: extraction, hydrolysis, and oxidation.
  • Extraction: The new eau-de-vie is stored in new casks where it dissolves the wood’s extractable substances and acquires a golden yellow colour. Part of the volatile components are eliminated...
    Eaux-de-vie undergo an evolution in terms of colour (they progressively pass from being colourless to a marked yellow colour), flavour and bouquet (aroma of oak with a hint of vanilla).
  • Hydrolysis: This is a transitory stage that precedes an important evolution of the spirit’s organoleptic characteristics. The eau-de-vie is about to “digest the wood”. Its colour tends to darken.
  • Oxidation: The taste softens, the notes of steamed oak disappear and give way to floral aromas with hints of vanilla, the colour deepens. With the years, the eau-de-vie becomes increasingly mellow, the bouquet grows richer, and the “rancio” flavour appears.
  • A Corner of Paradise
    The ageing of Cognac: ParadiseThe oldest Cognacs are usually kept away from the other cellars, in a dark cellar known as “the Paradise”.
    Once they have reached maturity, the Master Blender decides to end their ageing process and places them first into very old casks and then into large glass containers called “demijohns”, where they may rest for many decades with no air contact.
    The Angel's Share

    While Cognac is ageing in casks, absorbing the best of the oak and developing its most exquisite flavours, it is in contact with the air and gradually loses some of its alcohol and some volume, but without excess.

    Cognac: The Angel's ShareThis natural evaporation is poetically referred to as “The Angel’s Share”. It is the equivalent of more than twenty million bottles per year that disappear into the atmosphere: a high price that Cognac producers do not hesitate to pay in their quest for perfection.

    These alcohol vapours feed a microscopic fungus known as “torula compniacensis” that covers and blackens the stone walls of the cellars, giving them their characteristic colour.

    See also
  • Cooperage