Cognac vs Brandy: What’s the Difference

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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The debate between cognac vs brandy has been going on for generations, and there are a few key differences between these two types of alcohol.

Cognac vs Brandy

There is not an apparent difference between brandy and cognac at first glance, and while both maybe forms of brandy, they are far from the same thing.

What are Cognac & Brandy?

  • Brandy is a variety of French wine that has been distilled and aged in oak barrels to improve the flavor.
  • Cognac is a type of brandy, albeit a much more exotic inexpensive variety.
A glass of cognac and a glass of brandy kept next to each other as a way of showing their differentiation.

Cognac vs Brandy. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

How are they made?

  • Cognac and brandy are both made by distilling wine into a concentrated spirit.
  • Cognac, however, takes the production process a step further and is distilled for a second time.
  • Cognac is then aged in oak barrels for 10 to 15 years.
  • Cognac is made in traditional copper pot stills, whereas brandy is often made in industrial, high-efficiency copper stills.

Where Do They Come From?

  • Cognac and brandy are both made from wine, and France is particularly known for these alcohols.
  • Cognac, on the other hand, is exclusively produced with grapes from the Cognac region of France, known for its ancient vineyards and high-quality growing conditions.
  • Brandy can be made from wine from any part of the world.

Taste

  • Brandy is typically sweeter than whiskey and has a floral aroma, often derived from the oak barrels in which it is aged.
  • Depending on the type of juice or wine that brandy is made with, the taste of some brandy may contain notes of apples, pears or other fruits.
  • Cognac has a rich and strong flavor, largely because of the higher alcohol content, which is often up to 70%

Blending & Aging

  • Brandy is blended and aged before being placed in oak barrels.
  • Cognac must be blended and aged for at least two years in oak barrels to have that distinction.
  • Other levels of quality when it comes to cognac include the VSOP (at least 4 years of aging) and XO (at least six years of aging).

How should they be drunk?

  • Brandy can be included in a number of popular cocktails.
  • Cognac, due to both its quality and high cost, should be sipped.

Which is healthier?

  • Given that cognac is prepared in copper stills, it derives more nutrients than brandy and is generally considered a healthier option.
  • All types of brandy, including cognac, have some antioxidant potential.
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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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