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Published: September 17th 2016
Reputation calls on all within earshot of an utterance of that word ‘Cognac’ to genuflect or at least bow. If I were to offer cognac as an after dinner slurp, then I might be bunging it on a bit, or maybe there is a heavy question coming. After all, I have never tasted the stuff. Well not before now. We might know the big names in cognac like Hennessy and Remy Martin from watching the likes of Roger Moore and Sean Connery.
A few days back, we pulled up in the town of Cognac, expecting something like the ambience of Epernay in the Champagne country. Cognac did present a prominence, albeit muted. There was a feeling of ‘having arrived’ when we drove into the town. But it all fell a bit flat. Epernay has stately homes, interspersed with mansions, in between some expansive mini chateaux, behind stone walls on tree lined boulevards. Cognac has stone houses abutting cobbled streets. So champagne pays better than cognac.
One thing the town of Cognac does better than its haughty northern rival is in providing a place for motorhomes to stay overnight. Cognac provides more space, better shade and not only is it
a relatively short walk to the city action, it’s at a shady park with lawn and all that stuff, right on a river. We had expected to have difficulty getting a camp place in Cognac. We thought we might look around and move on. But as a spare spot was available, we stayed the night.
There is a lot of history to learn in the town of Cognac. So is there a lot to learn about viticultural, agrarian, distillation and degustation matters. But enough of that dry stuff. Let’s get with the wet. We conducted our own tasting. No need to call it degustation – we were not putting on the dog.
Rather than try to compare toploftical examples we tried something to suit a more modest wallet. Also, we sought to put an answer to an argument in this region. The argument is whether armagnac is better than cognac or vice versa.
So what is this stuff, armagnac and cognac? Both are a type of brandy, produced from grapes of their particular region. There are many different brands with an enormous depth of market offering a confusing array of choices. The two regions rival each other
on reputation. Prices for a bottle can range from about ten euros, maybe even less for a local who knows his way around, to tens of thousands. And at those dizzying heights who cares if it's euros or dollars.
So for our test we took a blue singlet and rubber thongs approach to elitist sipping.
We selected a cognac and an armagnac bottles priced at twelve euros. Now to control the test we compared with a whisky that we know well. We normally prefer whisky to brandy and the current whisky on board is a triple distilled Bushmills Irish Whiskey. As we buy it here for twelve euros, it should help us compare at the selected price point. While it’s not a brandy, those who know that whisky from the oldest distillery in the world would know that it’s a pretty good drop. So how will the cognac and armagnac compare?
On the first night, we tried the armagnac. It’s a black and gold brand, with a rich golden colour. First impression – gutsy firewater. Then it grows. The taste lasts as it trickles to the tonsils. It retains a bit of its fruity origin. It's big
robust body knocks down cobwebs the way a liqueur muscat does. This stuff doesn’t take prisoners and is high on testosterone. Splash it on as an aftershave to get the girls.
The next night cognac got a go. Smooth and mellow. Paler in colour like a poorer carat gold. Offers a rich reward with a strong jump out of the starting gate. Some might wax lyrical about it, but not me. Nice clean taste at first, a bit too clean. But it can’t last the distance. Older ladies might splash it behind the ear if they want a pretty boy. Looks fantastic in a glass. Let’s leave it there.
Next night we tried the ‘control’ taste. How did the previous two compare with the spirit we know so well? Unfortunately, old Bushmills seems like a bit of a ponce beside its French cousins. I know it comes from grain, not fruit. But no guts, no glory.
Tot: 3.612s; Tpl: 0.046s; cc: 13; qc: 50; dbt: 0.0394s; 3; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb