Learn how a French Cognac Distillery works

On our way to the Périgord from La Rochelle, we passed a city known for its alcohol – we passed by the city of Cognac. You probably know this kind of high percent alcohol, also called brandy. Well let me tell ya, I didn´t. I´m really not that into alcohol. I like to drink a good wine every now and then, but that is it. This time there were no excuses of me not testing a Cognac from Cognac. I was literally dragged to a Distillery.

We didn´t visit one of those huge Cognac Distilleries you find in and all around Cognac. We actually called them to ask if we could get a tour of the place, but since we were only passing through around noon we didn´t have time to wait until 3pm to visit a Distillery and those were the only times they were open to the public.

What we did was we were driving along a road, vineyards left and right stretching until the horizon… and we saw a sign that said Pineau Cognac P.Bossuet. Spontaneously we just turned and drove up a long way leading though these vineyards.

pineau cognac p bossuet parking french distillery

We parked the car and lucky us – the store was open.

We had a Cognac and Pineau dégustation. It was the first time drinking either, or what you can call drinking…I only nipped at it.
The Lady who owns the place together with her brother was really nice. She let us try all different ages of Cognac and Pineau. She explained everything into detail. It was very interesting. I have to say I did taste the differences. Here is what I tasted.

The different ages of Cognac and the effect on the taste:

  • 2 years, also called V.S. (this stands for simply: very special): rough, dry, strong alcoholic taste (for me a little astringent)
  • 4 years, also called V.S.O.P. (very superior old pale): rough, dry, alcoholic taste
  • 10 years X.O. (Extra Old): lighter, less alcoholic taste, more fruity
  • 15 years+, the name depending on the producer, mostly X.O. as well: light, fruity, fine

The taste depends on what you like and how you taste – everyone is different. I recommend you just drive here and give it everything a try. Just don´t go overboard, but I guess you know that;-)

For me I found out that I am more the Pineau type of person…Cognac is not really for me… personal opinion here!

After choosing which ones we were going to buy (Pineau for me!), we asked if we could see the place. She said that the official tour was in two hours, but she was willing to give us our own private tour. So nice!

We got a very detailed tour in French of the whole place. The Distillery, the place where the wine is put to age and just a quick walk around the buildings.

french distillery cognac bossuet 1617 sunshine ave
This is pretty much how everything looks like from the outside.

I learned a lot of things:

  • Distillation is a very complicated process. I only understood half of what she said (so many technical terms!), but that´s okay, I understood the essence of it. If you want to know how Distilleration works look for your high school chemistry book or just click here😉
  • Cognac has to be stored above the ground – in comparison to wine underground, so the temperatures are perfect for the aging, cold in the winter and warmer in the summer.
  • The alcohol is stored in oak vats for the perfect development of the taste. The alcohol is transferred from old oak vats to young oak vats, to small ones and big ones, so the aromas develop perfectly. It´s a science for itself.
  • The walls and ceiling of the Chai (the place where the alcohol is stored to age) are totally black. This is a fungi which “eats” the alcohol which volatilized into the air.
  • In the Chai it smells – being honest here – pretty good. That has a name for itself – the smell, which is alcohol leaving the vats and becoming part of the air, along with the fungi. This smell is called part des anges (meaning part for the angels, as in my title;-) ).
  • A brandy can only be called a Cognac if it was produced in the region of Cognac and has at least 40% alcohol (all these things are controlled)… pfew..
  • A historic aspect: If there was a palm tree in front of the building the French people knew that the people living in the house were catholic and the people were protestant if there was a pine tree in front of the house. That way when there was trouble the people knew where to search for refuge. Even a history professor, also on this trip with me, didn´t know that… now you do, chapeau for that!
palm tree in front of a french home catholic history lesson
Catholic house… 😉

Wow that was a long post… it took me quite a while to get it together so I really..

…hope you enjoyed it and you learned something (if you did like and comment!)! Follow me to keep up with my next adventures, travels, ramblings and recipes I share here on my blog. And comment below:

Have you ever tried a real Cognac? Did you like it? 

XO Little Sunshine

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I am a nature-loving, reading and writing sport-freak with a passion for traveling, foreign countries and history. Besides that I love to listen to music, sing along, paint, sketch, draw, photograph literally anything and everything, talk a lot, laugh more, inspire people and enjoy life one day at a time.

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